These ought to be the salad days for Steve Pluvia and Anthony Elgindy.
The two self-anointed white knights of the Internet message boards, who purport to root out securities fraud and corporate mismanagement, are basking in far more than the normally prescribed allotment of fame.
Elgindy (his real name) and Pluvia (an Internet alias for someone else who clings to anonymity like a hunted man) are featured in not one, but two books. They loom large in
Scam Dogs and Mo-Mo Mamas: Inside the Wild and Woolly World of Internet Stock Trading , a book released this week that uncovers the misty world of message board posters and daytraders. The two also are featured in
Dumb Money: Adventures of a Day Trader, released in April and recently excerpted in
magazine, which dubbed Elgindy "The Mad Max of Wall Street."
So, are Elgindy and Pluvia celebrating their mutual fame? Hardly. In fact, in recent days the two have launched a series of message board attacks against each other with a ferocity they used to reserve for the stocks they were shorting.
If just half the allegations they're now leveling at each other were true, the two might be spending time (or in Elgindy's case,
more time) behind bars.
Pluvia has posted messages
questioning whether Elgindy raised money for Kosovo refugees over the Internet message board site
, but then pocketed the proceeds.
Elgindy fired back, calling Pluvia a plagiarist and saying he hoped the
tracks him down for unpaid back taxes.
hinted at the real identity of the person behind the alias Pluvia, which, according to court records in a pending lawsuit, is Steven Alan Keyser. A man claiming to be Pluvia
earlier this year that he wasn't Keyser.
Elgindy's written assaults became so intense that the Silicon Investor referees suspended him from the bulletin board for a time a week ago. SI does that when posters resort to "personal attacks, spamming, copyright violations and flame wars," said spokeswoman Jill Munden.
Elgindy, in the meantime, threw Pluvia off his own Web
All of this has provided great entertainment to some of the investors who read the message boards to monitor stocks. "Isn't it nasty?" asked Kimberly King, a Los Angeles interior decorator who posts messages under the Internet alias "Feminvstr," and who has tangled with Pluvia and Elgindy on the message boards in the past. "I'm fascinated by this whole thing."
King said Pluvia and Elgindy deserve scrutiny because, aside from being colorful Internet personalities, their message board postings actually can drive stock prices.
Both Elgindy and Pluvia are avowed short-sellers who profit when stocks in which they hold short positions plummet in value. King cited as one example of this
Terayon Communication Systems
one of the stocks Pluvia targeted for his message board criticism.
"Pluvia and Anthony have some impact," said King, who is long Terayon. "I think they've got this band of rabid dogs that follow them. ... The way that these shorts post is very reckless."
And Pluvia and Elgindy are well read on the boards. In addition to Silicon Investor, they also post on
and Silicon Investor. On the SI boards, which have 300,000 registered users, Pluvia and Elgindy are among the 20 most popular posters, said Munden.
Pluvia and Elgindy are kindred spirits in the world of shorting stocks, and both once posted on Elgindy's Web site. War erupted between them shortly after a federal court judge last month decided Elgindy would be spending the next four months of his life in a federal prison.
Elgindy had pleaded guilty to a felony count of mail fraud after he was charged with receiving disability benefits from an insurance company while he was actually working for securities firms.
Along with the prison time, the judge gave Elgindy four months of house confinement, three years' probation and ordered him to pay a $20,000 fine.
After the sentencing, Pluvia began his campaign to discredit Elgindy on the message boards.
The chief prosecutor in Elgindy's fraud case backs up at least part of what Pluvia's been questioning about Elgindy's handling of some charity contributions.
Elgindy had made an urgent
plea for donations last April for the
Mother Theresa Humanitarian Organization
. The money, he said, was to help refugees of fighting in Kosovo.
But the charity story was full of holes, said David Jarvis, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Elgindy in the fraud case in Texas. "None of that money from the American people was ever given to the Mother Theresa fund in Macedonia," Jarvis said. "He
Elgindy was not the transformed man that they made him out to be."
Elgindy, in an interview, said he never gave the $14,000 he collected to the Mother Theresa organization because he was concerned it might be misspent by the group, and because the organization didn't have a valid tax-exempt status.
He said he returned the money to the 50 or so contributors within the past month, and on Friday,
posted an explanation of the whole matter on SI. He also said he's spent $127,000 of his own money helping Kosovo refugees.
Elgindy has been ordered to check into a federal prison on June 11, and begin serving his sentence. He says he's angered that someone like Pluvia is pelting him with renewed criticism.
The person behind that alias is far from a saint himself, at least according to Elgindy and court records.
A lawsuit filed against Pluvia last year charged the message board poster is actually Steven Alan Keyser, a man with a list of legal difficulties that includes a shoplifting conviction, an IRS lien for back taxes and an outstanding arrest warrant in Las Vegas.
The suit was filed by
, which accused Pluvia of disparaging the company while holding a short position in its stock.
A federal court judge in Manhattan gave the company until May 15 to serve Keyser, or drop him from the suit. The deadline came and went, and no one was served.
Pluvia posted a jubilant
message on Silicon Investor on May 16.
Sabratek's New York lawyer, Stu Jackson, said he can and will add Keyser back to the suit when he's able to serve him. "We keep an eye out for him," he said.
Silicon Investor's Munden said she knows what Elgindy looks like only from a magazine photo. "I haven't met any of these people in person," she said.
But Elgindy, who says he has met the real person behind Pluvia, says it is indeed Keyser.
In interviews, both Elgindy and the man claiming to be Pluvia have complained that questions about their individual legal difficulties and possible criminal backgrounds detract from the core of their message about stocks.
Elgindy, however, said there's a big difference between himself and Pluvia.
"I'm a much better person than he is, even though I have a conviction," Elgindy said. "I care about people."
Pluvia, in an email response to questions from
, said of Elgindy: "I think his behavior is pathetic -- we're talking about money donated for a charity."
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