Rothstein Associate Charged with Alleged Conspiracy to Violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, Defraud the United States, and Defraud a Financial Institution

April 10, 2012

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

“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 filing of charges against Steven N. Lippman, 49, of Plantation, for conspiring to commit crimes through the operation of the former Fort Lauderdale law firm of Scott W. Rothstein, called Rothstein, Rosenfeldt, and Adler, P.A. (RRA). The defendant was an attorney admitted to practice law in Florida and, in early 2005, was designated as a shareholder of RRA, but had no equity interest in the firm.

The one-count information, which was filed earlier today, charges Lippman with conspiracy to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, to defraud the United States, and to defraud a financial institution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §371. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum statutory sentence of up to five years in prison.

According to the information, Lippman violated the Federal Election Campaign Act in that he was unlawfully reimbursed by RRA for certain contributions that he made to the presidential campaign of John McCain. More specifically, the information alleges that co-conspirator Rothstein and others, including defendant Lippman, attempted to dramatically increase the stature and political power of RRA on the federal, state, and local levels by making substantial political contributions to political candidates. However, since many of the attorneys and administrative personnel of RRA either had insufficient funds to contribute to the political campaigns and/or lacked the desire to contribute to the various political candidates selected by Rothstein, co-conspirator Rothstein enlisted Lippman and others to contribute to the McCain campaign by agreeing that RRA unlawfully would provide them with the funds to make the political contributions. For example, in one instance, Lippman made a $67,800 contribution to McCain-Palin Victory 2008. Lippman, in turn, received a check from RRA in the amount of $77,500, which constituted reimbursement of the funds he used to make the contribution. The check was fraudulently backdated to reflect that it was issued six days prior to the date of the actual contribution, and the memo section of the check stated “bonus.”

The information also alleges that Lippman engaged in a bank fraud scheme with Rothstein. According to the allegations in the charging document, RRA was experiencing financial difficulties and required a source of funds to maintain the law firm’s operations. Lippman maintained a bank account from a prior law firm where he had been a partner (the LVS account). Around February 2006, co-conspirator Rothstein requested that Lippman use the LVS account to float checks between and among certain bank accounts maintained by RRA, a practice commonly known as “check-kiting.” By simultaneously issuing and depositing checks between the LVS account and the RRA accounts, co-conspirator Rothstein and defendant Lippman would artificially inflate posted balances in each of the checking accounts, which allowed them to unlawfully obtain beneficial financing for RRA from financial institutions during the “float” period, i.e., the time that it took for the checks to clear. For example, the information alleges that from February 2006 through February 2008, Lippman issued checks in amounts ranging from $4,000 to $400,000, totaling approximately $10,311,688, from the LVS account. At the time many of the checks were written, there were insufficient funds in the account of LVS to cover those checks. Defendant Lippman also deposited into the LVS account checks issued from RRA accounts in amounts ranging from $37,500 to $330,000, totaling approximately $10,664,987. Lippman and other co-conspirators engaged in this fraudulent conduct to create the appearance that RRA was an affluent and successful law firm and to gain additional time to meet the financial obligations of RRA.

Lastly, the information alleges that Lippman defrauded the IRS by failing to report as income certain expense reimbursements and other reportable income he received from RRA. Among other things, the information alleges that defendant Lippman and co-conspirator Rothstein agreed that Lippman would be paid a base salary and be given an expense account for which he would be fraudulently reimbursed for personal expenditures disguised as deductible business expenses. This was done so that Lippman and RRA could avoid paying additional federal income and employment taxes. In addition, Lippman was paid from both the operating account and the payroll account of RRA but would only receive an IRS Form W-2 reflecting the money paid to him through the payroll account. Lippman would not report to the Internal Revenue Service the money paid to him by RRA for expenses.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The breadth, scope, and sheer complexity of Rothstein’s $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme is mind-boggling. Its success depended, in no small part, on the complicity of his colleagues and associates, like Steven Lippman. Lippman, an attorney, is now the ninth person to face criminal charges in connection with this scheme. As this investigation continues, I am sure that more will follow.”

“The charges against Steven Lippman show our resolve to unravel all the schemes in this complex financial fraud perpetrated by convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein and his co-conspirators,” said John V. Gillies Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Office. “It is disappointing that the number of people who chose wrong over right and participated with Rothstein in this massive fraud is at nine and rising.”

“With the April 15 tax deadline fast approaching, it is important for people to have confidence that when they file accurate, honest, and timely income tax returns, their neighbors will do the same,” said José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation, Miami Field Office. “Defendant Lippman attempted to skirt his tax obligations but got caught. IRS–CI will continue to aggressively pursue those who attempt to defraud America’s tax system.”

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the IRS-CID. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lawrence D. LaVecchio, Paul F. Schwartz, and Jeffrey N. Kaplan.

An information is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.”

18 U.S.C. § 371

US v. Steven N Lippman – Federal Criminal Information

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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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 C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Christopher S. Godfrey, Dennis Fischer, Vernell Burris Jr, and Brian M. Kelly Indicted by a Boston Federal Grand Jury for Conspiracy, Wire Fraud, Mail Fraud and Misuse of a Government Seal

August 9, 2011

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on August 9, 2011 released the following:

“Four Florida Men Charged in Boston with Defrauding Homeowners in Home Loan Modification Scam

WASHINGTON – Four Florida men were arrested today on charges that they defrauded homeowners in Massachusetts and elsewhere in connection with a home loan modification scam, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz for the District of Massachusetts and Christy Romero, Acting Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).

A 20-count indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Boston, charging Christopher S. Godfrey, 42, of Delray Beach, Fla.; Dennis Fischer, 40, of Highland Beach, Fla.; Vernell Burris Jr, 51, of Boynton Beach, Fla.; and Brian M. Kelly, 34, of Boca Raton, Fla., with conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and misuse of a government seal. The defendants were arrested today by SIGTARP agents and will make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla., tomorrow at 10 a.m. EDT.

According to the indictment, Godfrey was the president and Fischer was the vice president and treasurer of a Florida company called Home Owners Protection Economics Inc. (HOPE). Burris was the manager and primary trainer of HOPE telemarketers, while Kelly was one of the principal telemarketers as well as a trainer for other HOPE telemarketers.

The indictment alleges that from January 2009 through May 2011, the defendants made, and instructed their employees to make, a series of misrepresentations to induce financially distressed homeowners looking for a federally-funded home loan modification to pay HOPE a $400-$900 up-front fee in exchange for HOPE’s home loan modifications, modification services and “software licenses.” According to the indictment, these misrepresentations included claims that homeowners were virtually guaranteed, with HOPE’s assistance, to receive a loan modification under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which is part of TARP and is a federally-funded mortgage assistance program. Additional misrepresentations to homeowners included that HOPE was affiliated with the homeowner’s mortgage lender, that the homeowner had been approved for a home loan modification, that homeowners could stop making mortgage payments while they waited for HOPE to arrange their loan modification and that HOPE would refund the customer’s fee if the modification was not successful. HOPE also claimed that it operated as a non-profit organization.

In exchange for these up-front fees, HOPE allegedly sent its customers, including homeowners in Massachusetts, a do-it-yourself application package that was nearly identical to the application the U.S. government provides free of charge. HOPE instructed customers to fill out the application and submit it to their mortgage lender. According to the indictment, the HOPE customers who did use the provided forms to apply on their own for loan modifications had no advantage in the application process, and, in fact, most of their applications were denied. Through these misrepresentations, HOPE was able to persuade thousands of homeowners collectively to pay more than $3 million in fees to HOPE.

Godfrey and Fischer were charged with one count of conspiracy, nine counts of wire fraud, nine counts of mail fraud and one count of misuse of a government seal. Burris and Kelly were charged with one count of conspiracy, nine counts of wire fraud and nine counts of mail fraud. Each count of conspiracy and misuse of a government seal carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each count of mail and wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. All of the defendants face possible orders of restitution.

An indictment is merely an allegation and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The case was investigated by SIGTARP and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Bookbinder in the Computer Crimes Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Mona Sedky of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.”

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 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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