A onetime day trader from Monmouth County and a codefendant from California risk up to 20 years in prison at their July sentencings for roles in what federal investigators describe as a multi-million-dollar, cross-country insider trading scheme.

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Steven Constantin, 55, of Farmingdale, and Ronald Chernin, 67, of Oak Park, CA, today pleaded guilty in Trenton to one count each of securities fraud and conspiracy, according to the office of New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.

The securities-fraud charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a fine as high as $5,000,000. The conspiracy count is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

A third defendant, Paul Petrello, 54, of Boca Raton, FL, has a May 25 sentencing date for his guilty plea. Steven Fishoff, 58, of Westlake Village, CA, Constantin's brother-in-law, is under indictment.

Investigators said the group gleaned $3,900,000 by taking advantage of non-public information between May 2010 and August 2013.

According to information filed in the case, Constantin and Chernin worked as day traders for Fishoff. The three, and a trader unidentified in published information, scoured stock offerings by a number of publicly-traded firms.

Investigators said that they improved their chances of attracting investment bankers by fabricating the image of a full-service financial management concern with assets amounting to $150,000,000.

Constantin, Chernin and Fishoff were accused of violating investment bankers' confidentiality agreements by sharing information on stock offerings, short-selling stock in anticipation of public-offering price drops, and covering their short positions once the offerings were disclosed.

Fishoff brought Petrello and a second unidentified individual into the information flow, and divided half the profits with Constantin and Chernoff, investigators said.

According to information from Fishman's office, the case is part of efforts by President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, a coalition of more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorney offices, and state and local partners.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed more than 18,000 finanical fraud cases, involving some 25,000 defendants, since 2009.

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