William Echeverri, 46, was previously charged with insider trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission

Upper Saddle River, NJ– Authorities in Bergen County announced on late Monday the arrest of William Echeverri, of Upper Saddle River, and Brian Cohen, 43, of Scotch Plains. Echeverri was observed engaging in a “in a hand-to-hand drug transaction” with Cohen in South Hackensack. Police later seized 40 lbs of marijuana and $317,000 in cash from various locations including Echeverri’s home.

We previously reported a case where the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office silently quashed charges against high level drug dealers–likely in exchange for bribes–and so we decided to look into Echeverri. As it happens, Echeverri was a former stock broker who was brought down on insider trading charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2011 along with his brother, Victor Echeverri. Why criminal charges were never brought against Echeverri remains unknown.

Echeverri was barred from selling stocks and securities in late 2011 after a judge ruled in favor of the SEC finding that Echeverri had received over $150,000 in illegal profits and that others he had tipped off had made over $190,000.

The Commission’s complaint alleged that on June 5, 2008, Echeverri received material, nonpublic information from an executive at Vital Signs, Inc. concerning an offer by GE Healthcare, a wholly owned subsidiary of the General Electric Co. (GE), to acquire the company. The complaint alleged that the day after receiving the tip, Echeverri began buying shares of Vital Signs in an outside account that he concealed from his employer, eventually making over $150,000 in illicit profits when he sold his holdings after the takeover was announced on July 24, 2008. The complaint further alleged that Echeverri also tipped five others about the GE offer, and that his tippees made approximately $190,000 in ill-gotten gains on their trading in Vital Signs.

Based on the above, the Order bars Echeverri from association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer or transfer agent, and from participating in any offering of a penny stock. Echeverri consented to the issuance of the Order without admitting or denying any of the Commission’s findings, except the court’s December 27, 2011 entry of the final judgment, which Echeverri admitted.

Echeverri’s recent arrest is particularly surprising as Bergen County law enforcement officials routinely accept bribes from individuals like Echeverri to look the other way. In this case, however, the New Jersey State Police were involved and a hand-to-hand sale was made in open view making it much more difficult for Bergen County authorities to quash the case.

We note that Echeverri’s arrest was reported by The Record, however, as usual, The Record simply parroted a press release by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. Much more public scrutiny is needed when it comes to law enforcement in Bergen County.

View PDF of the Securities and Exchange Commission Order Against William Echeverri