Federal bank fraud cases up in north Alabama

May 14, 2012

Blog.al.com on May 13, 2012 released the following:

By Kent Faulk

“BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Eight men and women have stood before federal judges in Birmingham the past few weeks on bank fraud charges.

Among them:

• A Mountain Brook man sentenced to four years in prison for embezzling nearly $1.2 million from his former employer by writing checks to himself on the company’s bank account.
• A former Union State Bank branch employee in Trussville sentenced to a month in prison for theft of about $25,000 from the teller drawer and bank vault in 2007 and 2008.
• A former Regions Bank telebanking representative who pleaded guilty to taking $190,000 from a customer’s account during a two-year period, and directing money from the account to pay her bills after she had left her job.

The number of cases being prosecuted for bank fraud by the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Northern District of Alabama has steadily increased in recent years. In 2011 federal prosecutors charged bank fraud in 22 cases, up from 16 cases in 2010, 15 cases in 2009 and 11 cases in 2008. So far, eight cases have been charged this year through May 4.

Some cases include more than one defendant and other charges are also included in some cases.

“I guess it’s a sign of the times,” said James Kendrick, a Birmingham attorney who has represented clients charged with bank fraud.

Rod Pittman, director of corporate security for BBVA Compass, stated in a written response to questions from The Birmingham News that recently they have “seen a significant increase in fraud attempts, the majority of which can be attributed to the economy and technology.”

“In this economy many people are unemployed and more likely to be in a desperate financial situation. This sometimes results in attempted fraud,” Pittman wrote.

Some of those charged with bank fraud in the past year have been bank employees working alone or with help from outside the bank.

Bank employees may be thinking they will pay it back, Kendrick said. “Before you know it, you’ve got more than you can pay,” he said.

Bank fraud isn’t always an inside job.

“The crime of bank fraud is broader than a bank employee stealing money from the bank,” said Peggy Sanford, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorneys Office in Birmingham.

“The statute allows that if someone makes misrepresentations to a bank in order to get other people’s money held in that bank, then bank fraud has occurred.”

Some attorneys and bank security officials attribute the increase in people being charged by federal prosecutors to a more aggressive stance by the Justice Department on financial fraud.

In many cases the dollar amount is the difference between whether federal prosecutors or state prosecutors will handle a case, said Larry Meredith, director of corporate security for Birmingham-based Cadence Bank.

The U.S. Attorneys Office has been active when it comes to presentations to the banks on various issues, including the importance of the timely sharing of information on possible criminal activity, said Bill Burch, director of corporate security for Regions Bank. “The communication between prosecutors, federal law enforcement offices (and banks) has been enhanced dramatically,” he said.

Sanford said the push by U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance’s office in north Alabama is consistent with the U.S. Justice Department’s efforts to make financial fraud a top priority and President Barack Obama’s creation of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

Banks don’t generally share how much they lose to fraud schemes, but as an industry it’s in the billions of dollars each year, according to some estimates.

But it’s a lot more than the old fashioned way of illegally taking money from a bank.

“The losses are greater than if you had just walked in an robbed the bank with a note,” Meredith said.

While the money lost in a bank robbery may only be a few thousand dollars, the losses from both internal and external fraud is often tens of thousands of dollars and taken over a period of months and years.

The punishment for bank fraud varies. The range of sentences was one month to four years for those charged and sentenced so far in the 2011 cases on just the bank fraud charges. A few had longer sentences because they also had other charges besides bank fraud.

One person also was acquitted and couple had their bank fraud charge dismissed as part of plea deals at sentencing.

Wellington Monroe Phillips II was sentenced to four years in prison for bank fraud for embezzling nearly $1.2 million from a Birmingham-based natural gas supplier.

Twice a month Phillips issued himself an unauthorized check from the corporate bank account held at First Commercial Bank. He would forge the name of the company’s owner on each check and submit them for payment.

Bank corporate security officers say banks have increased security as new fraud schemes surface to tap into bank accounts.

Dan Bailey, chief executive of the Alabama Bankers Association, said that bank customers should take it upon themselves to help secure their accounts, including checking their accounts daily. “Catch it before it goes too far,” he said.”

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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.


Christopher Tappin Extradition: US Judge Rules Businessman To Remain In Jail

March 5, 2012

The Huffington Post UK on March 5, 2012 released the following:

“A US judge’s decision to remand a retired British businessman in custody while he awaits trial on arms dealing charges was “heartbreaking”, his wife said tonight.

Elaine Tappin said it was an “outrage” that her 65-year-old husband Christopher has been refused bail after he was extradited to the United States two weeks ago.

Judge Robert Castaneda ruled Tappin must remain in custody after US prosecutors told the federal court in El Paso, Texas, he may be a “danger to the community” if released.

Mrs Tappin, 62, of Orpington, Kent, said: “This is an outrage. God only knows how he’ll bear up. It’s heartbreaking.”

Tappin has spent 23 hours a day locked in his cell at the Otero County detention centre in New Mexico since he was extradited to America.

His wife went on: “I am shocked and deeply disappointed.

“He’s a man of his word and is certainly not at risk of fleeing – where would he go?

“He doesn’t have his passport or access to money.

“Why has the British Government allowed him to be incarcerated in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day before he’s even been tried?

“Tony Blair helped the NatWest Three, why can’t David Cameron help Chris?”

Mrs Tappin added: “He’s not a danger to anyone – he’s a 65-year-old granddad.

“How is he supposed to prepare a proper defence when he’s only been allowed to communicate with his lawyers from behind a plastic screen?”

Tappin lost his two-year battle against extradition to America two weeks ago and denies attempting to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles which were to be shipped from the US to Tehran via the Netherlands.

The president of the Kent Golf Union, who faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted, was escorted into the courtroom on Friday wearing an orange-red prison jumpsuit, with his feet and one hand shackled.

US marshals allowed the other hand to remain free so he could use a cane he needs to walk.

Assistant US attorney Greg McDonald asked the judge to keep Tappin in jail for the remainder of the proceedings.

“The risk is not that he’ll punch somebody in the face, but through the use of a computer and the knowledge he has, he might pose a danger to the community,” Mr McDonald said.

Tappin has no ties to the US and failed to disclose to court officials his frequent travels to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, he added.

But Kent Schaffer, representing Tappin, said if released, his client would have complied with any restrictions imposed by the court and his family was ready to post bail of 50,000 dollars (£31,600).

His case fuelled the row over the fairness of the extradition treaty between the UK and the US.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC said Tappin’s extradition highlighted problems with the treaty which were not “readily curable”, warning that many Britons were left uneasy when faced with the seemingly harsh and disproportionate sentences in the American justice system.

Other critics of the 2003 treaty, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, have described it as “one-sided”, but an independent review by retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Scott Baker last year found it was both balanced and fair.

Tappin’s extradition follows an investigation which started in 2005 when US agents asked technology providers about buyers who might have raised red flags.

Those customers were then approached by undercover companies set up by government agencies.

Briton Robert Gibson, an associate of Tappin who agreed to co-operate, was jailed for 24 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to export defence articles.

Gibson provided ICE agents with about 16,000 computer files and emails indicating that he and Tappin had long-standing commercial ties with Iranian customers.

American Robert Caldwell was also found guilty of aiding and abetting the illegal transport of defence articles and served 20 months in prison.”

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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 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.


Devon Man Charged with Alleged Impersonation and Extortion

January 6, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on January 5, 2012 released the following:

“Henry Hamidrez Mohajeri, 47, of Devon, PA, was charged today by indictment with impersonating an employee and officer of the United States, extortion and attempted extortion under pretense of office, and blackmail, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger.

If convicted the defendants face a maximum possible sentence of seven years’ imprisonment, one year supervised release, and a $600,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tomika N. Stevens.”

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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 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.


Feds want full mental exam for alleged White House shooter

November 29, 2011

Politico on November 28, 2011 released the following:

Posted by Josh Gerstein

“Federal prosecutors are seeking a full mental evaluation of the man accused of attempting to assassinate President Barack Obama by opening fire at the White House earlier this month.

The prosecution made the formal request at a brief court hearing Monday even though a preliminary psychiatric assessment of the defendant, Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, found him competent to stand trial.

“The government received this morning the report of Dr. Elisabeth Teegarden concluding that the defendant is competent,” prosecutors George Varghese and John Borchert wrote in a court filing (posted here). “Although the government does not dispute that conclusion, the government notes that it was only based on a 50-minute screening and submits that a full psychiatric or psychological screening…is warranted, given the serious nature of the criminal charges pending against the defendant and the likelihood that mental health issues may arise in the course of these proceedings.”

Ortega-Hernandez was arrested in western Pennsylvania Nov. 16 and subsequently charged with attempted assassination for repeatedly firing a Romanian-made AK-47-type assault weapon at the White House on the night of Nov. 11.

Magistrate Judge Alan Kay ordered the defense to respond the competency exam motion by Dec. 2, accoridng to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Bill Miller. Ortega-Hernandez, who was present at Monday’s hearing, will continue to be held without bond, Miller said.

The FBI said it found a few days after the Nov. 11 shooting incident that several rounds hit the White House and one broke a glass window before lodging against a bulletproof window panel. However, they have not publicly reported any ballistic tests linking the bullets discovered with the assault weapon found the night of the shooting in an abandoned car that belonged to Ortega-Hernandez.

Associates say Ortega-Hernandez considered Obama to be the anti-Christ and made vague comments about taking action. As part of an unsuccessful effort to get on an Oprah Winfrey television show, he also made a rambling video about oil-related wars.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were in California at the time of the shooting.”

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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.


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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