“Prosecutors Expect More Arrests in Art-Fraud Scheme”

August 19, 2013

The New York Times on August 19, 2013 released the following:

By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM

“Federal prosecutors handling the case against an obscure art dealer charged in one of the most audacious art frauds in recent memory told a judge on Monday that they expected more arrests in the continuing investigation. They also said they expected the case against the art dealer to be resolved soon.

The disclosures came at the arraignment of the dealer, Glafira Rosales, in United States District Court in Manhattan.

Ms. Rosales was arrested on money laundering and tax charges in connection with the scheme in May. She was arraigned Monday before Judge Katherine P. Failla on new charges contained in a superseding indictment that was handed up last week by a grand jury. She pleaded not guilty during the five-minute proceeding.

During the arraignment, Judge Failla asked one of the prosecutors, Jason P. Hernandez, an assistant United States attorney, if more arrests were expected.

“Yes,” he said.

Mr. Hernandez also said that the case against Ms. Rosales, which was the result of a lengthy F.B.I. investigation, was to be resolved in the coming weeks. He did not elaborate.

A lawyer for Ms. Rosales, Steven R. Kartagener, declined to comment on the new charges.

The charges issued last week revealed for the first time that all of the 63 phony art works at the heart of what prosecutors have described as a sweeping fraud scheme stretching over more than a decade were created by a single painter. The indictment identified him only as a painter who lives in Queens and said he had produced the canvases — purported to be by the hands of Modernist masters like Willem de Koonig, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and others — in his house and garage.

People briefed on the matter said he was Pei-Shen Qian, a struggling 73-year-old Chinese artist who came to the United States in 1981.

While he was paid a few thousand dollars for the canvases, they were later sold as works by Modernist masters for more than $80 million.

The indictment and other court papers said the painter who created the fake canvases was discovered selling his own art on the streets of Lower Manhattan in the early 1990s by Ms. Rosales’s boyfriend and business partner, an art dealer named Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, who recruited him to make paintings in the style of celebrated Abstract Expressionists. The indictment does not name Mr. Bergantiños Diaz, but his identity is confirmed by other court records.

It is unclear whether Ms. Rosales has begun cooperating with the federal authorities since her arrest in May. But while the prosecutors handling her case initially argued then that she posed “a substantial flight risk” and that no bail conditions could assure her return to court, convincing a judge to detain her without bail, last week, after the new indictment was handed up, the prosecutors did not oppose her release on a $2.5 million bond.

Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, and an F.B.I. spokesman, James M. Margolin, declined to comment. Mr. Kartagener has refused to characterize his discussions with the prosecutors on the case, Mr. Hernandez and Daniel W. Levy.”

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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.


Man Offers Guilty Plea, Upending Terror Case

June 14, 2012

The New York Times on June 13, 2012 released the following:

“By BENJAMIN WEISER

A terrorism case in Manhattan that raised key questions about government interrogation tactics ended abruptly on Wednesday after the defendant pleaded guilty to conspiring to support a Somali terrorist group.

The defendant, an Eritrean man named Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed, admitted in Federal District Court that he trained in a camp run by the Somali group, Al Shabab, in 2009. The case had been seen as a potential test of the Obama administration’s strategy of interrogating terrorism suspects for both intelligence and law enforcement purposes.

Indeed, the plea came as the judge, P. Kevin Castel, was poised to rule on a motion by Mr. Ahmed’s lawyers seeking suppression of statements he had made to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while he was in custody in Nigeria; his lawyers argued that the statements had not been voluntary and, thus, were inadmissible.

“I have in my hand a 60-page draft of the decision on the motion to suppress,” Judge Castel, holding up a thick document, said in court before accepting Mr. Ahmed’s plea. The judge did not reveal how he would have ruled on the motion, but said that the ruling itself would “now be suppressed.”

Mr. Ahmed, 38, who had lived in Sweden, was scheduled for trial on July 9. He had been accused of providing material support to a terrorist group, receiving training and bomb-making instruction in Shabab military camps in Somalia in 2009 and using a firearm in a crime of violence. The firearm count alone carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. As a result of Mr. Ahmed’s plea — to two conspiracy counts — he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years when he is sentenced on Nov. 2, the judge said in court.

Mr. Ahmed’s lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, said after the proceeding, “I’m sure Mr. Ahmed would have liked to have challenged the actions of the United States.” But, she added, given the difference between a maximum 10-year sentence and what could have resulted from a guilty verdict, it would have been a “humongous risk” to go to trial.

Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said Mr. Ahmed had “traveled a long way from his home in Sweden to Somalia, where he took up the cause of Al Shabab, a deadly terrorist organization and sworn enemy of the United States and its people.”

Mr. Ahmed told the judge that in Somalia, he contributed 2,000 euros to Al Shabab and trained in one of its military camps, knowing that the United States considered it a terrorist organization.

Mr. Ahmed was taken into custody by Nigeria in 2009 under suspicion of being an agent for Al Qaeda. He was later interrogated by separate groups of American officials, known colloquially as “dirty” and “clean” teams.

The first team questioned him for intelligence purposes, without advising him of his rights, prosecutors have said. About a week later, a second team, of F.B.I. agents, read him his rights, which he waived, and he began to make incriminating statements, the government says. An issue before the judge had been how separate the American officials kept the two interrogations.

A prosecutor, Benjamin Naftalis, told Judge Castel that had the case gone to trial, the evidence would have included Mr. Ahmed’s statements and testimony from cooperating witnesses. Prosecutors have said a former Shabab military commander has been cooperating; although he has not been identified, his description resembles that of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali captured by the United States military last year and questioned aboard a naval vessel for about two months.”

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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

————————————————————–

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.


Bo Zhang Pleads Guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to Stealing Software Code From the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

May 29, 2012

Reuters on May 29, 2012 released the following:

“Chinese man pleads guilty to NY Fed cyber theft

By Basil Katz

May 29 (Reuters) – A Chinese computer programmer on Tuesday pleaded guilty to stealing software code from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Bo Zhang, 33, was accused of illegally copying the software code to an external hard drive, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The charge was made public on Jan. 18.

Authorities said the software, owned by the U.S. Treasury Department, cost about $9.5 million to develop.

“I knowingly stole and converted to my use an item owned by the United States government valued at more than $1,000,” Zhang told U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Dolinger on Tuesday.

“Specifically, while working at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, I appropriated proprietary software owned by the United States Department of Treasury for my own personal use,” said Zhang, who is a U.S. permanent resident.

Zhang on Tuesday also pleaded guilty to one charge of immigration fraud. He is currently free on $200,000 bail and is due to be sentenced on Oct. 1.

The code, called the Government-wide Accounting and Reporting Program, was developed to help track the billions of dollars the U.S. government transfers daily. The program provides federal agencies with a statement of their account balance, the court documents said.

Zhang was hired as a contract employee in May 2011 by an unnamed technology consulting company used by the New York Fed to work on its computers, court documents said.

According to an April cooperation agreement with Zhang, Manhattan federal prosecutors recommended he be sentenced to one to 1-1/2 years in prison, much less than the potential 10-year maximum term the theft charge carries.

The case is USA v. Bo Zhang, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 12-0390.”

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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

————————————————————–

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.


Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrests of Two Individuals in Alleged Multi-Million-Dollar Scam Involving Elderly Woman

May 3, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on May 2, 2012 released the following:

“Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State Attorney General; and Janice K. Fedarcyk, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced charges today against IFEANYICHUKWU ERIC ABAKPORO and LATANYA PIERCE for allegedly swindling an elderly woman out of her multi-million-dollar property in Harlem that she had owned for more than 40 years and then deceiving a bank into giving them a $1.8 million mortgage loan secured by the property. ABAKPORO was arrested Monday in Queens, New York, and PIERCE was arrested yesterday after voluntarily surrendering to the FBI.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “As alleged, these two defendants preyed on an elderly woman, using false documents and fraudulent representations to essentially steal her property out from under her. They then allegedly took their brazen scheme one step further, using the property to deceive a bank into lending them more than a million dollars. Sadly, this type of mortgage fraud scheme and exploitation of vulnerable victims have become all too familiar, but as these charges make clear, we are committed to bringing those who perpetrate these types of harmful schemes to justice.”

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stated: “Through lies and deception, these individuals abused the trust of an elderly woman in order to perpetrate a multi-million-dollar fraud. Now that their despicable scheme has been exposed, they will face justice.”

Assistant Director in Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk stated: “These defendants are charged with spinning a web of lies to steal the victim’s property. Cases like this are rightly a priority for the FBI: fraudulent schemes that victimize the vulnerable and enrich the unscrupulous.”

As alleged in the indictment unsealed yesterday in Manhattan federal court:

Beginning in March 2006, ABAKPORO, a lawyer with an office in Brooklyn, New York, and PIERCE, who worked for ABAKPORO, cultivated a relationship with an elderly woman (“the Victim”) who owned a residential apartment building worth millions of dollars located at 1070 St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem (the “Property”). As part of the fraud scheme, ABAKPORO and PIERCE earned the Victim’s trust by, among other things, offering to help her manage the Property. This included collecting rent from its tenants on her behalf. However, instead of providing the Victim with the renters’ money, ABAKPORO and PIERCE pocketed it.

ABAKPORO and PIERCE then convinced the Victim to sell her property to them for $3.1 million. While they contracted to buy the property for that amount, at the closing, they presented the Victim with multiple fake and fraudulent checks to make it appear as if they had paid the contracted sale amount, when in fact they had not. Moreover, after the Victim’s attorney had left the closing, ABAKPORO and PIERCE fraudulently induced her to return all of the checks to them by representing that they would safeguard her money and give her a “private mortgage” in the Property, which they explained would include monthly payments made to her based on the money she had effectively loaned them. As part of the scheme, ABAKPORO and PIERCE signed and provided the Victim with a written agreement representing that she had loaned them approximately $1.9 million and in return held a “private mortgage” in the Property. Unbeknownst to the Victim, ABAKPORO and PIERCE never recorded the private mortgage and subsequently submitted a fraudulent application to Washington Mutual Bank seeking a $1.8 mortgage loan secured by the Property. ABAKPORO and PIERCE never disclosed to the bank that the Victim already held a private mortgage on the Property. Instead, ABAKPORO and PIERCE falsely represented to the bank that they had purchased the Property for $3.1 million and owned it “free and clear.” Based on those, and other, fraudulent representations, ABAKPORO and PIERCE obtained a $1.8 million mortgage loan from the bank, which they failed to repay.

As a result of the alleged fraud, the defendants obtained substantially all of the Victim’s assets, and $1.8 million in fraudulently obtained mortgage proceeds. The Property went into default.

***

ABAKPORO, 52, a Nigerian citizen, is a resident of Queens, and PIERCE, 43, is a resident of Brooklyn. They are each charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, and bank fraud conspiracy. The wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy charges each carry a maximum prison term of 20 years. The bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy charges each carry a maximum prison term of 30 years.

ABAKPORO is currently detained pending his satisfaction of court-ordered bail conditions: a $1 million bond secured by an interest in property and co-signed by three individuals. PIERCE was released on a $500,000 bond to be co-signed by three individuals and secured by two properties.

Mr. Bharara praised the New York State Attorney General’s Office investigative staff and the FBI for their excellent work on the investigation of this matter. He also thanked the New York State Department of Financial Services for its assistance.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Southern District of New York Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan Poscablo and Michael Lockard, along with Assistant Attorney General Meryl Lutsky, who has been designated a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Assistant Attorney General Rhonda Greenstein, are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

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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.