By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A Wisconsin woman has been charged with theft over accusations she tried to profit from Facebook's much-anticipated plans to go public by selling fake stock in the social media giant, a criminal complaint showed on Thursday.
Prosecutors said Marianne Oleson told acquaintances she obtained $1 million in stock because her daughter was an acquaintance of Facebook's founder, and persuaded several people to buy fictitious Facebook stock over a 4-month period.
Oleson, of Oshkosh, was charged with 31 counts of theft, forgery and making misleading statements.
Facebook unveiled plans on Wednesday for the biggest ever Internet IPO that could raise as much as $10 billion, but made it clear CEO Mark Zuckerberg will exercise almost complete control over the company, leaving investors with little say.
The long-awaited filing kicked off a months-long process that will culminate in Silicon Valley's biggest coming-out party since the heyday of the dotcom boom and bust. Facebook said it was seeking to raise $5 billion, but analysts estimate it could tap investors for $10 billion.
The complaint against Oleson said that one of the people she was accused of selling fake stock to was a contractor who did concrete work at her house in September. Oleson paid the contractor for the work with $13,980 worth of fake Facebook stock.
The contractor, who also paid $10,000 in cash to the woman for additional stock, grew suspicious when he found she lied about her name and various oddities on documents referring to the transaction, the complaint said.
The 46-year-old woman was also accused of scamming a 66-year-old Oshkosh man who was suffering from a vision impairment. According to the district attorney, the man gave Oleson four checks totaling about $43,000 late last year to pay for Facebook stock.
The woman promised him that she would send stock certificates in the mail, the complaint said. It also accused Oleson of selling fake Facebook stock to two other men for a total of $9,900.
During the investigation, police said they found marijuana plants growing Oleson's sun room, leading to additional charges of possession and manufacturing of marijuana. An attorney for Oleson could not immediately be reached for comment.
(Reporting By Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Cynthia Johnston)