“End Of The Silk Road: FBI Says It’s Busted The Web’s Biggest Anonymous Drug Black Market”

October 3, 2013
Ross William Ulbricht
“Ross William Ulbricht, alleged to be the “Dread Pirate Roberts” behind Silk Road’s drug black market.”

Forbes on October 2, 2013 released the following:

By: Andy Greenberg, Forbes Staff

“After two and a half years running the booming anonymous narcotics bazaar known as the Silk Road, the drug kingpin who called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts has allegedly been unmasked.

On Wednesday, the FBI announced that they arrested 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, the Silk Road’s accused administrator, in the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library at 3:15 Pacific time on Tuesday. Ulbricht has been charged with engaging in a money laundering and narcotics trafficking conspiracy as well as computer hacking. The Department of Justice has seized the website of the Silk Road’s as well as somewhere between $3.5 to 4 million in bitcoins, the cryptographic currency used to buy drugs on the Silk Road.

Earlier this summer, the Silk Road’s administrator calling himself by the Dread Pirate Roberts pseudonym gave his first extended interview to Forbes over the same Tor anonymity network that has hosted the Silk Road and its users since the site’s creation in early 2011.

Forbes estimated at the time that the Silk Road was earning between $30 and $45 million in annual revenue. In fact, the number may have been far larger: The criminal complaint against Ulbricht states that the Silk Road turned over $1.2 billion in revenue since its creation, and generated $80 million commissions for its operator or operators.

“This is supposed to be some invisible black market bazaar. We made it visible,” says an FBI spokesperson, who asked not to be named. “When you interviewed [Ulbricht], he said he would never be arrested. But no one is beyond the reach of the FBI. We will find you.”

The FBI hasn’t yet revealed how it managed to track down Ulbricht in spite of his seemingly careful use of encryption and anonymity tools to protect his identity and those of his customers and vendors who visited Silk Road as often as 60,000 times per day. The FBI spokesperson declined to offer details about the investigation, but told me that “basically he made a simple mistake and we were able to identify him.”

One clue mentioned in the criminal complaint against Ulbricht was a package seized from the mail by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol as it crossed the Canadian border, containing nine seemingly counterfeit identification documents, each of which used a different name but featured Ulbricht’s photograph. The address on the package was on 15th street in San Francisco, where police found Ulbricht and matched his face to the one on the fake IDs.

The complaint also mentions security mistakes, including an IP address for a VPN server used by Ulbricht listed in the code on the Silk Road, mentions of time in the Dread Pirate Roberts’ posts on the site that identified his time zone, and postings on the Bitcoin Talk forum under the handle “altoid,” which was tied to Ulbricht’s Gmail address.

In his conversation with me, which took place on July 4th, the Silk Road administrator calling himself the Dread Pirate Roberts espoused Libertarian ideals and claimed that the use of Bitcoin in combination with Tor had stymied law enforcement and “won the State’s War on Drugs.”

He also said he intended to bring his marketplace into mainstream awareness, and had recently launched the first non-Tor website for the Silk Road known as SilkRoadlink, which remains online. “Up until now I’ve done my best to keep Silk Road as low profile as possible … letting people discover [it] through word of mouth,” Roberts says. “At the same time, Silk Road has been around two and a half years. We’ve withstood a lot, and it’s not like our enemies are unaware any longer.”

One remaining mystery in Ulbricht’s criminal complaint is whether he was in fact the only–or the original–Dread Pirate Roberts. In his July interview with me, Roberts said that he had in fact inherited the Dread Pirate title from the site’s creator, who may have also used the same pseudonym.

As of around noon Wednesday, the Silk Road’s forum for users also remained online, and the site’s loyal users were grieving over the Silk Road takedown and mourning the arrest of Ulbricht, whose apparent persona as the Dread Pirate Roberts was a widely respected figure in the online drug community.

“jesus christ this is TERRIBLE!!” wrote one user named danceandsing. Others suggested that users migrate to other, smaller but similar anonymous black markets such as Black Market Reloaded–another popular alternative to the Silk Road known as Atlantis went offline last week, with its administrators saying only that they shut down the business for “security reasons.”

Another user blamed the Dread Pirate Roberts’ carelessness, including his decision to raise his profile by giving an interview to Forbes. “Sorry, but when he gave the fucking Forbes interview I imagined this would be coming,” wrote a user calling himself Dontek. “Should have kept all this shit on the down low rather than publicly bragging about it.”

Ulbricht’s LinkedIn profile describes his background as a graduate researcher in materials science at Pennsylvania State University, as well as an undergrad degree in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

According to Ulbricht’s grandmother, Martha Ulbricht, who was reached by phone, the younger Ulbricht received a full scholarship to UT Dallas. “Ross has always been an upstanding person as far as we know and a rather outstanding person,” she said.

Ulbricht’s half-brother Travis Ulbricht, also reached by phone in Sacramento, described him as an “exceptionally bright, smart kid” who had no criminal history to his knowledge.

Asked what he did for a living before moving to San Francisco, Ulbricht’s grandmother said, “Something on the computer…a little technical for me. He was good with computers.””

Federal Criminal Case 1: New York Federal Criminal Complaint
Northern District of California, Case No.: 3:13-mj-71218-JCS-1 (Proceedings on Out-of-District Criminal Charges Pursuant to Rules 5(c)(2) and (3)) and lists the following case on the docket sheet: Southern District of New York, Case No.: 13-mj-2328

21 U.S.C. 846 – Drug Conspiracy
18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2) – Computer Hacking Conspiracy
18 U.S.C. 1956(a)(1)(A)(i) and (B)(i) – Money Laundering Conspiracy

Ross William Ulbricht New York Criminal Complaint

Federal Criminal Case 2: Maryland Federal Indictment
District of Maryland, Case No.: 1:13-cr-00222-CCB-1

21 U.S.C. 846 – Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance
18 U.S.C. 1512(a)(1)(C) – Attempted Witness Murder; 18 U.S.C. 2 – Aiding and Abetting
18 U.S.C. 1958(a) – Use of Interstate Commerce Facilities in Commission of a Murder-for-hire; 18 U.S.C. 2 – Aiding and Abetting

Ross William Ulbricht Maryland Superseding Indictment

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


US Indicts 14 In Alleged Drug and Money Laundering Scheme Involving Horses

June 13, 2012

The Wall Street Journal on June 12, 2012 released the following:

“By Samuel Rubenfeld

A federal grand jury in Texas voted to return an indictment against 14 defendants in connection with a conspiracy to launder Los Zetas drug money by buying, training, breeding and racing American quarter horses in the U.S.

Among those charged was Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the leader of Los Zetas, along with his brothers, Oscar Omar Trevino Morales and Jose Trevino-Morales, the Justice Department said.

The indictment, unsealed Tuesday, charges the defendants with one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. It accuses the Zetas of directing part of the cash generated from selling drugs to buy, train, breed and race quarter horses in the U.S.

Miguel and Oscar sent their brother Jose and his wife cash to operate Tremor Enterprises LLC, the business they created for the horse training, the indictment said.

“This case is a prime example of the ability of Mexican drug cartels to establish footholds in legitimate U.S. industries and highlights the serious threat money laundering causes to our financial system,” said Rich Weber, chief of the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division, in a statement (pdf).

“This attack on one of the Zeta’s most profitable money laundering schemes is an essential front in the war on drugs and will financially disrupt and help dismantle this violent international criminal organization,” Weber said.

The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of several quarter horses, including Tempting Dash, winner of the Dash for Cash at Lone Star Park race track in Grand Prairie, Texas, on Oct. 24, 2009; Mr. Piloto, $1 million All American Futurity winner at Ruidoso Downs on Labor Day, 2010; Dashin Follies; Coronita Cartel; and Separate Fire.

It also seeks the forfeiture of farm and ranch equipment; horse racing equipment; property in Lexington, Okla. and Bastrop County, Texas; and money contained in bank accounts used in the scheme.

Earlier Tuesday, authorities arrested seven of the 14 defendants, including Jose Trevino-Morales and his wife, Zulema Trevino, in Lexington, Okla. Also arrested were Fernando Solis Garcia in Ruidoso, N.M.; Carlos Miguel Nayen Borbolla, Adrian Farias and Felipe Alejandro Quintero in Los Angeles; and Eusevio Maldonado Huitron in Austin, Texas. They remain in federal custody, the Justice Department said.

None of those arrested could be reached for comment.

The New York Times, in a blockbuster 4,000-word story, reported earlier Tuesday about the scheme. The Times reported that an FBI affidavit said the Zetas channeled about $1 million a month into buying quarter horses in the U.S, and that authorities were tipped off in January 2010, when the cartel paid more than $1 million in a single day for two broodmares.

In its report, the paper said it became aware of Tremor’s activity in December 2011 while reporting about the Zetas and learned of the U.S. government probe last month, but agreed to hold the story until Tuesday morning’s arrests.

Among those charged but not arrested is Francisco Antonio Colorado Cessa of Veracruz, Mexico. Colorado Cessa is accused in the indictment of acting as a straw buyer for various horses. In connection with the indictment, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control slapped Kingpin Act sanctions [OFAC SDN Sanctions] on him that label Colorado Cessa as a narcotics trafficker.

“Our action cuts Colorado Cessa off from the U.S. financial system and it is yet another signal to Miguel and Omar Trevino Morales, and the Zetas, that OFAC will target their financial and business network wherever it is found,” said Adam Szubin, director of OFAC, in the statement.

The Zetas were designated under the Kingpin Act as a narcotics trafficker by the president in 2009. The group is notorious for its violence; officials blamed the Zetas for a dump of 49 headless and handless bodies in May along a Mexican highway. Since 2009, OFAC has designated several of its top leaders and dozens of its lieutenants.”

US v. Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, et al. – Federal Criminal Indictment

18 U.S.C. § 1956

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Jared Mitchell Rothenberger Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury Alleging Charges of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit Bank and Wire Fraud, Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, Monetary Transactions in Criminally Derived Property, and Bank Fraud

May 10, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on May 9, 2012 released the following:

“Minneapolis Man Indicted for Mortgage Fraud in Connection with Burnsville Condo Project

MINNEAPOLIS— Earlier today in federal court in St. Paul, a 43-year-old Minneapolis man was indicted with allegedly defrauding mortgage lenders out of millions of dollars in connection with the sale of condominiums at Chateau Ridge in Burnsville. Jared Mitchell Rothenberger was specifically charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, seven counts of money laundering, two counts of monetary transactions in criminally derived property, and one count of bank fraud. The indictment combines charges related to Chateau Ridge with those Rothenberger also faces in connection to the Cloud 9 Sky Flats development in Minnetonka. Rothenberger was originally charged in the Cloud 9 case on November 8, 2011.

The most recent indictment alleges that from August 24, 2006 through July 15, 2007, Rothenberger and others conspired to defraud mortgage lenders out of money by finding straw buyers to apply for mortgage loans to purchase units at Chateau Ridge. He and others then allegedly made misrepresentations to the lenders regarding the straw buyers’ financial situation, among other things. In some instances, he also reportedly provided straw buyers with funds for down payments, although his actions were never disclosed to the lenders. Furthermore, Rothenberger allegedly participated in the distribution of mortgage loan proceeds outside of actual property closings, again without informing the lenders. Some of the funds—or kickbacks—distributed in that manner amounted to hidden purchase-price discounts and were allegedly provided to the straw buyers. Kickbacks were also purportedly made to Rothenberger and others involved in the scheme in the form of “facilitator” fees or other bogus charges.

Rothenberger is accused of similar criminal activity in connection with the Cloud 9 Sky Flats condominium development in Minnetonka. That case involves more than 40 Cloud 9 units. In excess of $4.2 million was reportedly transferred to accounts for the purpose of paying kickbacks and otherwise sharing in the proceeds of the fraud scheme.

If convicted, Rothenberger faces a potential maximum penalty of 30 years for conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, 30 years for bank fraud, 20 years for each count of money laundering and wire fraud, 10 years for each count of monetary transaction involving criminally derived property, and five years for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. All sentences will be determined by a federal district court judge.

This case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Christian S. Wilson and Robert M. Lewis.

This law enforcement action is in part sponsored by the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. It includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch and, with state and local partners, investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. A defendant, of course, is presumed innocent until he or she pleads guilty or is proven guilty at trial.”

US v. Jared Mitchell Rothenberger – Federal Criminal Indictment

18 U.S.C. § 1343

18 U.S.C. § 1344

18 U.S.C. § 1349

18 U.S.C. § 1956

18 U.S.C. § 1957

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Eric Elegado, Charmagne Elegado, Theodore Cohen, Minh Nguyen, Regidor Pacal, Alexander V. Garcia, Roman Macabulos, Ramin Lotfi, and Roderick Huerto Indicted for Allegedly Committing the Following Federal Crimes: Conspiracy, Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, and Criminal Forfeiture

February 23, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on February 21, 2012 released the following:

“Local Real Estate Agent and Eight Other Industry Professionals Charged in Massive Mortgage Fraud Scheme That Caused at Least $15 Million in Losses

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced the unsealing of an indictment today charging a local real estate agent, Eric Elegado, and eight other mortgage industry professionals—Charmagne Elegado, Theodore Cohen, Minh Nguyen, Regidor Pacal, Alexander V. Garcia, Roman Macabulos, Ramin Lotfi, and Roderick Huerto, with multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, and criminal forfeiture. According to court proceedings, these defendants engaged in a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme that targeted vulnerable, low-income immigrants in San Diego. All of the defendants were arraigned today in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge William McCurine, Jr.

According to the indictment, Eric Elegado owned and operated real estate and mortgage brokerage businesses in San Diego and employed Theodore Cohen, Minh Nguyen, Regidor Pacal, Alexander V. Garcia, Roman Macabulos, Ramin Lotfi, and Roderick Huerto. These defendants conspired together and with others to obtain mortgage loans for unqualified buyers by falsifying and assisting others in falsifying the employment and salary information on the loan documents. According to the indictment, Eric Elegado directed the mortgage loans to be processed through his wife, Charmagne Elegado, who was working at the subprime mortgage lender. In order to further the fraudulent scheme, the defendants allegedly created and caused others to create false financial records for the purpose of verifying income listed on the false loan applications, such as W-2s, bank statements, rental income statements, ownership records, and bank deposit documents. According to court proceedings, the defendants caused these fraudulent loan documents to be submitted to mortgage lenders in order to induce the lenders to loan more than $50 million in mortgage loans. As a result of their scheme to defraud, defendants and others caused the mortgage companies, lending institutions, and financial institutions to lose more than $15 million.

This case is being investigated by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. During today’s court proceedings, the government moved to detain Minh Nguyen without bail. A detention hearing is set for February 24, 2012, at 9:30 a.m., before Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo. A personal appearance bond in the amount of $75,000, secured by the signatures of two financially responsible adults, was set for defendant Charmagne Elegado. A bond in the amount of $100,000, secured by real property, was set for defendant Eric Elegado. A personal appearance bond in the amount of $50,000, secured by the signatures of two financially responsible adults, was set for defendants Alexander V. Garcia and Ramin Lotfi. A personal appearance bond in the amount of $35,000, secured by the signatures of two financially responsible adults, was set for defendants Roman Macabulos and Regidor Pacal. A bond in the amount of $50,000, secured by a corporate surety, was set for defendant Theodore Cohen.

The defendants are next scheduled to be in court before United States District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia for a motion hearing on March 28, 2012, at 2:00 p.m.

Criminal Case No. 12CR0404-AJB

DEFENDANTS

Charmagne Elegado Age: 47 Escondido, CA
Eric Elegado Age: 47 Escondido, CA
Theodore Cohen Age: 54 San Diego, CA
Minh Nguyen Age: 28 San Marcos, CA
Regidor Pacal Age: 51 San Diego, CA
Alexander V. Garcia Age: 38 San Diego, CA
Roman Macabulos Age: 38 San Diego, CA
Ramin Lotfi Age: 36 San Diego, CA
Roderick Huerto Age: 34 San Diego, CA

SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Count 1: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349—Conspiracy to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud
Maximum penalties: 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine or twice the gross pecuniary gain or twice the gross pecuniary loss (whichever is greatest), $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release.

Counts 2-7: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343—Wire Fraud
Maximum penalties per count: 20 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine or twice the gross pecuniary gain or twice the gross pecuniary loss (whichever is greatest), $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release.

Count 8: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h)—Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering
Maximum penalties: 10 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release.

Counts 9-12: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957—Money Laundering
Maximum penalties per count: 10 years’ imprisonment, $250,000 fine, $100 special assessment, three years of supervised release.

INVESTIGATING AGENCY
Federal Bureau of Investigation

An indictment itself is not evidence that the defendants committed the crimes charged. The defendants are presumed innocent until the government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Henry Fecker, III, and Steven Steiner Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in a Fifty-Four Count Federal Indictment

August 25, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Florida on August 24, 2011 released the following:

“TWO FT. LAUDERDALE MEN INDICTED FOR MONEY LAUNDERING AND OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IN CONNECTION WITH MUTUAL BENEFITS CORPORATION FRAUD

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced the unsealing of a fifty-four count indictment against defendants Henry Fecker, III, 57, and Steven Steiner, a/k/a “Steven Steinger,”59, for their participation in a scheme to launder and conceal proceeds in connection with the Mutual Benefits Corporation (“MBC”) fraud. More specifically, Fecker and Steiner are charged with receiving more than $10 million into the account of Camden Consulting, a company they controlled, and then hiding and concealing assets from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the United States District Court. Both defendants were arrested and appeared in court earlier today. A pre-trial detention hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea M. Simonton.

As alleged in the indictment, from approximately 1994 to May 2004, MBC purchased life insurance policies and sold them in fractionalized form to investors. MBC and its employees and agents eventually defrauded approximately 30,000 investors by, among other things, misleading them about the accuracy of life expectancies of the insureds and the expenses required to maintain the insurance policies via premium payments. New investor money was thus used to pay premiums on life insurance policies purchased by earlier investors. As the scheme continued, more investor money was required to prevent the Ponzi-scheme from collapsing. After the MBC business collapsed in 2004, investors eventually suffered more than $830 million in losses.

As charged in the indictment, Steiner was a founder and Vice President of MBC and was paid by MBC using the account of Camden Consulting. Fecker was the owner of Camden Consulting. In this way, the MBC funds were used to support a lavish lifestyle for Steiner and Fecker, who lived together and jointly owned waterfront homes in Ft. Lauderdale and Camden, Maine, and a luxury apartment in New York City.

According to the indictment, in May 2004, MBC was sued by the SEC in the civil action, S.E.C. vs. Mutual Benefits Corp., et al., No. 04-60573-CIV-MORENO (S.D. Fla.) (the “SEC Fraud Action”). The SEC obtained a restraining order to halt the alleged fraud at MBC, and thereafter a receiver was appointed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (the “MBC Receiver”), to identify and trace the assets of MBC. Steiner was a named defendant in the SEC Fraud Action and Fecker was a party due to his control of Camden Consulting.

According to the indictment, after 2004 when MBC was shut down, Fecker and Steiner engaged in a series of transactions to hide assets from the SEC and the MBC Receiver by placing funds attributable to Steiner with third parties or in Fecker’s name alone, and later by causing third parties to make payments of monies due to Steiner, instead to Fecker. In 2006, for example, Fecker obtained a refinance of the Maine property and placed the proceeds of approximately $480,000 into a series of certified checks to conceal their existence from authorities. Fecker began cashing these checks in 2008 and continued this through July 2011, using the funds to support a lavish lifestyle for Fecker and Steiner.

To obtain a favorable settlement of their liability with the SEC, the indictment alleges that in 2006 and early 2007, Fecker and Steiner submitted a series of false and misleading documents to conceal their true financial condition. Based on this documentation, around April 2007, the SEC agreed to settled their liability for $5 million and further agreed to a reduced penalty of $3.95 million, and the court in the SEC Fraud Action thereafter ordered that these sums be paid by order dated April 10, 2007. The indictment alleges that, to date, Steiner and Fecker have paid only $750,000.

The indictment further alleges in late 2009, to further conceal assets from the SEC and the SEC receiver, Steiner sold the luxury New York apartment for $1.3 million, but caused false documents to state that the sales price was $1.1 million and submitted these documents to the SEC and the MBC Receiver. To further thwart the SEC’s efforts to recover assets attributable to MBC, Steiner allegedly provided false and misleading testimony under oath to the MBC Receiver concerning his assets and financial condition.

Previously, in a separate case also in the Southern District of Florida, Steiner was charged in United States v. Joel Steinger, et al. (Case No. 08-CR-21158), with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering, in relation to the MBC fraud scheme. Trial in that matter is scheduled for February 2013 before U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan.

United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Ponzi-schemes, like the MBC investment scheme, defraud unwitting investors out of their lives savings. These defendants compounded their legal troubles by then laundering the proceeds of the fraud and attempting to hide assets. Such abuse will not be tolerated.”

“We will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who obstruct justice by making false statements and concealing assets from an agency of the United States attempting to carry out its mission, such as the SEC’s efforts to protect investors here,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies.

“We will hold accountable those who engage in the laundering of funds derived from fraud, particularly through concealment and spending of funds through sophisticated transactions, like the ones employed here,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge José A. Gonzalez.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the IRS-CID, and the Miami Regional Office of the SEC, which previously brought a civil action against MBC and its principals. The matter is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerrob Duffy.

An indictment is only a charging document, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Members of International Procurement Network Federally Indicted for Allegedly Supplying Iran with U.S. Military Aircraft Components

June 23, 2011

The Department of Justice on June 23, 2011 released the following press release:

Total of 12 Defendants in U.S., France, U.A.E. and Iran Charged

MACON, Ga. – Seven individuals and five corporate entities based in the United States, France, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Iran have been indicted in the Middle District of Georgia for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to illegally export military components for fighter jets and attack helicopters from the United States to Iran. One of the defendants and his company were sentenced yesterday, with the individual receiving nearly five years in prison. Another defendant and his company have admitted their illegal conduct and also pleaded guilty in the investigation.

Federal prosecutors today unsealed a superseding indictment in Macon, Ga., charging eight of the defendants with conspiring to violate and violating the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Iranian Transactions Regulations, as well as conspiracy to defraud the United States, money laundering and false statement violations. Charges against the four other defendants, who have pleaded guilty in the case, are contained in the original indictment in the investigation that was filed previously.

The indictment and other enforcement actions were announced by Todd Hinnen, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Michael J. Moore, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia; Brock Nicholson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) office in Atlanta; Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Division; and Robert Luzzi, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Commerce Department, Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) Miami Field Office.

The Defendants

Thus far, four defendants based in the United States have been charged as part of the investigation. They are The Parts Guys LLC, a company in Port Orange, Fla., that maintains a warehouse at the Middle Georgia Municipal Airport in Macon, as well as the president of The Parts Guys, Michael Edward Todd, who is a U.S. national. In addition, Galaxy Aviation Services, a company in St. Charles, Ill., and its president, Hamid Seifi, also known as Hank Seifi, an Iranian-born U.S. national, have been charged.

Todd was arrested last year in Atlanta based on the original indictment in the case. Todd and his company, The Parts Guys, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the AECA on May 9, 2011, and have yet to be sentenced. Federal agents arrested Seifi in Atlanta earlier this year, also based on the original indictment. Seifi and his company, Galaxy Aviation, pleaded guilty on Feb. 24, 2011, to conspiracy to violate the AECA and violating the IEEPA. Yesterday, Seifi was sentenced to 56 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, a fine of $12,500 and forfeiture of $153,950, while Galaxy Aviation, which is now defunct, received a $400 special assessment.

Three defendants based in France have also been indicted as part of the investigation. They are Aerotechnic, a company in Pinsaguel, France, and its president, Philippe Sanchez, a French national, as well as Luc Teuly, a French national and the sales manager of Aerotechnic. Each of these defendants remains a fugitive.

Two defendants based in the U.A.E. have also been indicted in the case. They are Aletra General Trading, a company in Dubai doing business as “Erman & Sultan Trading Co,” and Syed Amir Ahmed Najfi, an Iranian national and purchaser for Aletra. Najfi remains a fugitive.

Three defendants based in Iran have also been charged in the case. They are Sabanican Company, a company in Tehran, and its president, Hassan Seifi, an Iranian national, as well as Reza Seifi, an Iranian national and the managing director of Sabanican Company. Each of these defendants remains at large.

As part of the U.S. government’s coordinated action against this procurement network, the Commerce Department announced today that it will add the eight defendants in France, Iran and the U.A.E. to its “Entity List.” The Entity List provides notice to the public that certain exports, re-exports and transfers (in-country) to parties identified on the Entity List require a license from the Commerce Department, and that availability of license exceptions in such transactions is limited. All eight parties will be added to the Entity List with a licensing requirement for all items subject to the Commerce Department export regulations and with a presumption of denial.

The Charges

According to the charges, the defendants conspired to export components for attack helicopters and fighter jets to Iran without obtaining the required U.S. export licenses. These components included military parts for the Bell AH-1 attack helicopter, the UH-1 Huey attack helicopter, as well as the F-5 and F-4 fighter jets.

Defendant Najfi and his firm in the U.A.E. are alleged to have placed orders and purchased military aircraft parts, including those for the Bell AH-1 attack helicopter, from Todd and his company, The Parts Guys, in the United States. Todd and other conspirators then attempted to and did cause the export of the aircraft parts to the U.A.E.

Defendant Hank Seifi and his firm in Illinois also allegedly placed orders and purchased U.S. aircraft parts from Todd and his company in Georgia — on behalf of Hassan Seifi, Reza Seifi and their company in Iran. According to the charges, Todd and other conspirators then caused these aircraft parts to be exported to Iran via the defendants in France: Sanchez, Teuly and their company, Aerotechnic.

The charge of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, while violating the AECA carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and violating IEEPA carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Money laundering carries a maximum 20 years in prison, while making false statements carries a maximum of five years in prison.

“The defendants in this case are alleged to have conspired to defraud the United States by illegally acquiring and exporting fighter jet and attack helicopter components. Keeping such advanced weaponry, which is designed to protect the men and women of our Armed Forces and to defend our national interests, from falling into the hands of state sponsors of terror has never been more important,” said Todd Hinnen, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

“Through coordinated law enforcement efforts, we have cut off more than a branch of this illegal supply tree; we have cut off the tree at its trunk. These parts have a military purpose, and I am determined to see that they are not used to harm the United States, its soldiers, citizens or friends. This type of criminal activity should remind each of us that we must be ever vigilant in our efforts to protect our national security. The threat is very real, and comes from even the least suspected places, including middle Georgia,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Moore.

“The illegal export of U.S. weapons and military technology presents a direct threat to our national security,” said Brock Nicholson, Special Agent-in-Charge of ICE-HSI in Atlanta. “This investigation demonstrates the importance of preventing our military equipment from falling into the wrong hands, where it could potentially be used against our military members, our homeland and our allies. Enforcing U.S. export laws is one of our top priorities, and we will continue working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who put our country at risk are discovered and brought forward for prosecution.”

Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent-in-Charge, FBI Atlanta, stated: “The cooperative efforts among the FBI, ICE and U.S. Commerce was critical in bringing this case forward for prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice. The enforcement of U.S. laws that prohibit the acquisition of specified defense related items is paramount to national security and is a daunting task when back dropped against the vast movement of legitimate international trade that occurs every day in the U.S. The FBI is pleased with the role that it has played in this multi-agency enforcement effort.”

“The Commerce Department’s Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) dedicates one hundred percent of its resources to enforcing export laws, and today’s case is the result of ongoing cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI to protect our national security,” said Robert Luzzi, Special Agent-in-Charge of OEE’s Miami Field Office. “Parties who export to embargoed destinations such as Iran will be pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

This case was investigated by ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta, FBI Atlanta Field Division and the Department of Commerce’s OEE.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Kolman and Danial E. Bennett from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia and Trial Attorneys Ryan P. Fayhee and Brandon L. Van Grack from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains mere allegations and that defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

Attached is the Superseding Indictment – Case No. 5:10-CR-58-MTT.

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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