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ICOA CEO says Google ‘acquisition’ a hoax

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

The chief executive of wireless hot spot provider ICOA Inc. said his company has never had acquisition talks with Google Inc. and is contacting authorities about a "hoax" press release on Monday that said Google bought his company for $400-million (U.S.).

"ICOA never had any discussions with any major company like Google," George Strouthopoulos, the company's chief executive and chairman, said in an e-mail.

"Someone, I guess a stock promoter with a dubious interest, is disseminating wrong, false and misleading info in the PR circles," he said.

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Shares of ICOA, which is traded over-the-counter, jumped from .0001 cents to .0005 cents on Monday after a short, two-paragraph press release was circulated stating Google had bought the company. Shares of ICOA have since fallen back to .0001 cents.

The supposed acquisition was reported by several news outlets including the Associated Press and popular technology blogs such as TechCrunch.

PRWeb, a service for publishing press releases owned by Vocus Inc. and which published the item, said in a statement that it has removed the "fraudulent" release and turned the matter over to authorities.

"Vocus reviews all press releases and follows an internal process designed to maintain the integrity of the releases we send out every day," the company said. "Even with reasonable safeguards identity theft occurs, on occasion, across all of the major wire services."

Google declined to comment.

At $400-million, the deal would have valued ICOA at roughly 470 times its market value of roughly $850,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

"We are investigating the source, so far it originated from Aruba," ICOA's Mr. Strouthopoulos said.

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He said that a staffer at PRWeb told his company that the press release was submitted by someone using a Gmail address that appeared to be affiliated with ICOA, as well as a phone number with the Aruba area code.

Mr. Strouthopoulos said his company planned to report the event to "the proper authorities," including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC and the FBI declined to comment.

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