Carmel businessman Dan Laikin pleaded guilty this afternoon to participating in a fraudulent scheme to pump up the stock
price of National Lampoon Inc., the Los Angeles-based entertainment company he led.
Laikin, 46, pleaded guilty in federal court in Philadelphia to one felony count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 13. He could face up to five years in prison.
Laikin agreed to admit guilt under a plea agreement negotiated with federal prosecutors. He also had been facing a second felony charge, securities fraud. If convicted on both charges, he could have faced up to 25 years in prison.
Laikin, former co-owner of locally based Biltmore Homes, stepped down as CEO of National Lampoon in December, after prosecutors accused him of conspiring with a Las Vegas-based consultant and two East Coast stock promoters to manipulate Lampoon’s stock price. The other three defendants previously admitted guilt.
Court records say the FBI nabbed the four as part of a sting operation that included a stock promoter who secretly was working for the government. The records quote from conversations investigators say Laikin and other defendants had with the confidential witness.
Investigators say Laikin’s scheme began in March 2008, when he paid a co-defendant to orchestrate a pattern of trading in National Lampoon that would create the false impression of increased market activity and demand for the shares.
At a meeting in April, Laikin told the confidential witness that he needed two things: “revenue for my business” and “a stock that actually trades at a value I am happy with.”
None of the efforts succeeded in kindling interest in the stock, which has been below $2 for more than a year and now fetches only about 40 cents.