Two Chicago-Area Defendants Charged with Alleged Commodities Fraud in Separate Federal Criminal Cases

October 26, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on October 25, 2012 released the following:

“CHICAGO—Two defendants were charged with commodities fraud in unrelated cases, federal law enforcement officials announced today. In one case, an investment firm officer was charged with defrauding customers of approximately $2.5 million. In the other case, a former clerk for a lean hogs futures trader was arrested today and charged with manipulating trades to generate a profit of more than $225,000 for herself.

Joshua T. J. Russo, 30, of Chicago, a former vice president of alternative investments for Olympus Futures Inc. (previously Peak Trading Group), was charged with a single count of commodities fraud in a criminal information filed today. In a separate case, Nicole M. Graziano, 32, of Roselle, a former trading clerk, was charged with four counts of commodities fraud in an indictment returned yesterday by a federal grand jury.

Graziano was arrested this morning and later released on a $10,000 unsecured bond after pleading not guilty before U.S. District Judge James Zagel. Russo was not arrested and will be arraigned at later date in federal court.

The charges were announced by Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and William C. Monroe, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Each count of commodities fraud carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, and restitution is mandatory. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The government is being represented in both cases by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher McFadden.

The investigation falls under the umbrella of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which 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, to 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. For more information on the task force, visit http://www.stopfraud.gov.

An indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The details of each case follow.

United States. V. Russo, 12 CR 836

Between March 2007 and April 2011, Russo fraudulently obtained approximately $2.5 million from at least six investors and caused losses of more than $1.3 million, including approximately $208,000 in commissions for himself that he spent on gambling, vacations, clothing, theater tickets, meals, and entertainment, the charges allege. Russo obtained the funds by misrepresenting to investors that their funds would be used to purchase various investments, including shares of the Peak Performance Fund, which he knew had never accepted individual investors, and no money was ever invested with the fund. Russo allegedly made false statements about his prior performance investing in commodity futures, the level of risk, the existence and trading performance of the Peak Performance Fund, and the uses of the funds he obtained from investors. He concealed the fraud by creating and distributing false e-mails, spreadsheets, statements, and audit reports, the charges allege.

Instead of investing the funds as he purported, Russo misappropriated the money to make speculative trades—and regularly lost money—in various commodity futures, including energy sources, precious metals, agriculture products, foreign currencies, and stock indices. After providing one investor with false information about positive returns, Russo successfully encouraged that investor to refer friends and relatives to open accounts through him, resulting in additional victims.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the National Futures Association assisted in the investigation.

United States. V. Graziano, 12 CR 834

Between September 2009 and August 2010, Graziano, who was a clerk for a floor trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, now CME Group, secretly inserted trade cards for her own personal orders into the decks of trade cards submitted by public customers that she provided to floor traders to execute during the opening and closing brackets of trading in lean hogs futures contracts, the charges allege. She then fraudulently allocated lower purchase prices to her buy orders, and higher prices to her sell orders, to the detriment of public customers, according to the indictment. Graziano allegedly submitted at least 104 fraudulent trade cards to the appropriate clearing firms, resulting in illegal profits to her of $13,390 during the opening bracket and $213,680 during the closing bracket.

The CME Group assisted in the investigation.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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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.


Chunlai Yang Charged in Chicago by a Criminal Complaint with Theft of Trade Secrets

July 5, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Chicago on July 2, 2011 released the following:

“A 49-year-old Libertyville resident, who was employed as a senior software engineer with the Chicago based CME Group, was arrested yesterday after being charged with theft of trade secrets. The arrest was announced today by Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

CHUNLAI YANG, who is a naturalized United States citizen, was taken into custody yesterday morning at his CME office, located at 550 West Washington Street in Chicago, without incident, by FBI special agents. YANG was charged in a criminal complaint filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago with one count of theft of trade secrets, which is a felony offense.

According to the complaint, YANG has been employed at the CME since 2000, and is responsible for writing computer code. Beginning in May of this year, CME security personnel began monitoring YANG’s computer activity. They discovered that thousands of files had been downloaded to his computer, and some were then copied to removable storage devices, such as thumb drives. Many of the downloaded files were critical to the operation of the CME group and are considered proprietary in nature and contain protected source code.

Subsequent investigation by the FBI determined that YANG had also been in e-mail contact with the assistant director of the Logistics and Trade Bureau for the Zhangiagang Free Trade Zone. One of the e-mails sent by YANG contained an attachment, which was a CME document containing protected source code and proprietary information.

It was also determined that YANG had booked travel to China on a commercial airline flight, scheduled to depart from O’Hare International Airport on July 7th.

YANG appeared before Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason in Chicago, late yesterday, at which time he was formally charged. YANG was ordered held without bond, pending his next court appearance, which is scheduled for Wednesday, July 6th. Until then, YANG will be housed at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago. If convicted of the charge pending against him, YANG faces a possible sentence of up to 10 years’ incarceration, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.

The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt and that all defendants in a criminal case are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”

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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