"Speedy Willie" tried to pull a fast one on shareholders of a medical device company of which he was once co-CEO, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged Tuesday.
Willie Gault, 51, a former receiver for the revered 1985 Chicago Bears, was named in a complaint that alleged he and Hollywood executive J. Rowland Perkins were simply figureheads of Heart Tronics and failed to question the actions of California-based attorney Mitchell J. Stein.
Stein was controlling most of the company’s business activities, hiring promoters to tout Heart Tronics stock on the Internet, and reaping nearly $8 million from secret trades that he orchestrated unbeknownst to investors, the SEC said.
Stein, 53, of Hidden Hills, Calif., and Boca Raton, Fla., has been arrested, the Department of Justice said Tuesday after a parallel investigation. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, three counts of securities fraud, three counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Heart Tronics was known as “Signalife” during most of the scheme’s time period from December 2005 to December 2008. Heart Tronics common stock was formerly listed on the American Stock Exchange but is now quoted on the OTC Link under the symbol HRTT.PK.
Reached by phone, Gault said he couldn't speak for any actions taken by Perkins and Stein but said he'd done nothing wrong:
"My job as a spokesperson is to help promote goodwill for the company, and that's what I did as an independent contractor. That's what I did," Gault said in a telephone conversation with NBC Chicago. "You have to note that I didn't take one penny from the time I became co-CEO. As a matter of fact, the company owes me money. I didn't get any stock... no options, no money whatsoever from the company. That should prove that I wasn't in it for that gain. I was in it to save lives."
Gault was in the news over the weekend when he was reunited with his Super Bowl XX ring and most of the $100,000 in jewelry that was stolen from his Los Angeles home more than a month ago.