Klary Arcentales Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury For Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud and Bank Fraud in an Alleged $2 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

May 16, 2013

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on May 15, 2013 released the following:

“Bergen County Woman Indicted in $2 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

NEWARK, NJ— A Bergen County, New Jersey woman was indicted today for her role in a long-running, large-scale mortgage fraud scheme that caused millions of dollars in losses, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Klary Arcentales, 44, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, was charged in a five-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and four counts of bank fraud, all of which caused losses of at least $2 million.

According to the indictment and other documents filed in this case:

As early as 2006, Arcentales engaged in a mortgage fraud conspiracy through a company called Premier Mortgage Services (PMS). Arcentales, a loan officer at PMS, provided fraudulent documents to financial institutions in connection with mortgage loan applications on behalf of “straw buyers” to induce those financial institutions to fund mortgage loans. Relying upon those false documents, financial institutions funded mortgage loans. Arcentales then profited illegally by receiving a commission from PMS for each mortgage loan that she closed and also profited illegally by diverting portions of the fraudulently obtained mortgage proceeds for herself.

Conspirator Lester Soto, 56, previously charged by complaint, was a part-owner of PMS. He also acted as a loan officer on certain PMS mortgage loan applications. Soto took a percentage of PMS’s profits. Soto employed document makers to create fraudulent documents in furtherance of the scheme and put loan officers at PMS, including Arcentales, in contact with these document makers to create other false and fraudulent documents.

Conspirator Linda Cohen, 55, previously charged by Complaint, was a paralegal who closed transactions on behalf of a licensed New Jersey attorney. Cohen served as the settlement agent on mortgage loans brokered by Arcentales for various properties. Cohen convened closings, received funds from lenders, and prepared HUD-1 forms—which itemize services and fees charged to borrowers for mortgage loans—that purported to reflect the sources and destinations of funds for mortgages on subject properties. In fact, the HUD-1s were neither true nor accurate. At or following the closings, Cohen disbursed mortgage loan proceeds directly to PMS, herself, and others, including in amounts not reflected on the HUD-1s. Cohen received a fee for each fraudulent loan in which she participated.

Conspirator Antonio Pimenta, 45, previously charged by complaint, owned and managed Kelmar Construction Co., which built properties that were then sold to straw buyers utilizing fraudulent mortgage loans brokered by Arcentales.

The indictment charges Arcentales with one count of bank fraud conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud, each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford; special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen, for the investigation leading to today’s charges. Fishman also thanked the Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward Ryan, for its participation in the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Agarwal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office General Crimes Unit and Zach Intrater of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit http://www.stopfraud.gov.

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

Federal Bank Fraud Crimes – 18 U.S.C. 1344

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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.


“Madoff Has Met His Match: Mortgage Fraud Crime of the Century”

October 26, 2012

Forbes on October 26, 2012 released the following:

John Wasik, Contributor

“With less than 88 years left in this century, it’s awful tough to say what the crime of this century will be.

Will it be the $60 billion Madoff Ponzi scam? The Dot-Com bubble? My candidate is a slam dunk so far: Mortgage fraud.

Mortgage fraud took place on so many levels for so many years that it eclipses Madoff by a factor of 100. That’s my humble estimate because nobody really knows how pervasive it was. Prosecutors are still issuing indictments more than six years after the real estate market peaked.

The recent $1 billion suit against Bank of America/Countrywide alleging that the bank sold defective loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is but a small piece of this unraveling series of financial flim-flams, which rival most scams because of its pervasive nature and involvement of thousands of financial institutions and intermediaries. The bank says the government’s claims are “simply false.”

Why is mortgage fraud such a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the world of scamdom? Because it combined easy money, greed and securitizing that avarice all over the world. It was based on the myth that home prices don’t decline and quick profits could be had by nearly anyone. You, too, could become an investment banker! More importantly, it may prove to be the mother of all swindles because it nearly took down the world’s largest financial system. And we’re not out of the woods yet.

We have some idea of how many mortgage crimes were out there thanks to the suspicious activity reports supplied to the FBI by banks, starting in the first quarter of 2006. These weren’t necessarily fraud cases that resulted in prosecution. In fact, very few ended up as court cases in which people went to jail, which has been a widespread problem in mortgage fraud.

Starting in 2006, the FBI got wind of some 7,500 suspicious mortgage activities. By 2008, that figure doubled and peaked in the second quarter of last year at nearly 30,000, according to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or FinCen. The number of fraud filings dropped 41 percent from the second quarter of last year through this year’s second quarter.

What do these numbers mean? That bankers suspected foul play in the origination or refinancing of mortgages. And these reports were the proverbial tip of the iceberg, because they only looked at the problem from one step in the process. Here’s what else was going on, although we don’t have any hard numbers:

  • Mortgage Foreclosure “Rescues.” Companies would set up shop to promise defaulting homeowners that they could halt the foreclosure process. They’d fleece the hapless homeowner for a steep fee, then move on.
  • Appraisal Scams. Individuals would hire crooked appraisers to under-appraise a home, obtain a mortgage, then sell it at a much-higher price.
  • Securitization Swindles. This may be the biggest scam of all. Junk mortgages were bundled, given the highest credit ratings, then sold to investors in vehicles like collateralized mortgage obligations. These “sub-prime loans” are still on the books of some of our largest banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • Robo-Signing. Banks eager to sell loans to Wall Street hurried the process along by creating automated, illegitimate pipelines. State attorneys general settled with the banks on this issue, although no one seems to have been prosecuted for these crimes and it’s done little to stem the foreclosure wave.
  • Predatory Lending. Low-income areas were targeted by rapacious brokers and bankers to sell mortgages and home-equity loans with high rates and fees to people who couldn’t afford them.

How much did all of this cost Americans? Again, there’s no reliable estimate, but when this massive house of cards came tumbling down at the end of 2008, trillions were lost. Wall Street and AIG insurance got a $700-billion-plus bailout and American homeowners are still down some $7 trillion in terms of lost equity, according to Robert Reich, an economist and former labor secretary.

While a handful of hedge fund gurus and contrarian investors won big on betting against this mammoth mortgage swindle, “Wall Street’s excesses almost ruined the economy,” Reich said. If the Federal Reserve, U.S. Treasury, Congress, George W. Bush and President Obama hadn’t teamed up to bail out the banks, this year would’ve been worse than 1932, instead of a sluggish 2012.

And the beat goes on as prosecutors dig through layers of the mortgage fraud. Here’s just a typical sampling of some recent activity from the FBI and federal prosecutors:

“A federal indictment charged 17 defendants in Charlotte, North Carolina, and elsewhere with racketeering, investment fraud, mortgage fraud, bank bribery, and money laundering. The government alleges a criminal enterprise engaged in an extensive pattern of racketeering activities, consisting of investment fraud, mortgage fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, and distribution of illegal drugs. Members of the enterprise also bribed bank officials and committed perjury before the grand jury. The co-conspirators stole more than $27 million from more than 50 investor victims. Rather than investing victims’ money as promised, the enterprise diverted victims’ money to finance its mortgage fraud operations and to support its members’ lifestyles.”

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I predicted that there are hundreds more mortgage frauds yet to be discovered and prosecuted. The states are finding them all the time, some four years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The larger problem is that the perpetrators are still at large and the system that allowed huge derivative gambles on mortgages is still in place. The mega-banks behind this devilish casino got larger, and still need to be broken up. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two quasi-public mortgage insurers that bought warehouses of bad mortgages, are still wards of the state. And foreclosures continue to ravage communities from California to Florida.

After what will certainly be one of the closest and contentious elections in decades, Congress needs to get to work to bust up hobbled giants like Bank and America and Citigroup. Then it needs to institute the Volcker rule to isolate speculation from federally insured banking activities or bring back Glass-Steagall, which completely separated trading from regulated lending as part of New Deal reforms.

A tax on speculative trading would also reduce systemic risk. I don’t care if banks gamble on their trading desks, but they shouldn’t do it expecting a big bailout on the taxpayers’ backs.

What can you do? You can report suspicious activity to your state attorney general or the Department of Justice, through its financial crimes site stopfraud.gov. You may not help the government land a big crook — they all seem to be enjoying their fat compensation packages in the Hamptons — but you could give prosecutors a leg up on shutting down an ongoing scam.”

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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.


Chicago Man Indicted for Allegedly Causing 15 Investors to Lose Approximately $600,000 in Ponzi-Type Fraud Scheme

June 6, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on June 6, 2012 released the following:

“CHICAGO— A Chicago man who operated an investment trading pool allegedly fraudulently obtained approximately $1.4 million and caused some 15 individual investors to lose about $600,000, federal law enforcement officials announced today. The defendant, Christopher Varlesi, was charged with six counts of mail and wire fraud in an indictment returned yesterday by a federal grand jury. Varlesi allegedly misappropriated a substantial portion of investor funds for his own benefit, including misusing $99,750 in May 2010 to pay for a year’s rent for an apartment in the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago and to make Ponzi-type payments to other investors.

Varlesi, 53, of Chicago, will be arraigned at a later date in U.S. District Court. He was the sole proprietor of Gold Coast Futures & Forex, which purported to buy and sell securities and commodities and operate a pool of investor money for trading purposes but was not actually registered or licensed to do so. The indictment seeks forfeiture of approximately $600,000.

The charges were announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Illinois Securities Department assisted in the investigation, as did the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which filed a civil enforcement lawsuit against Varlesi in March of this year.

According to the indictment, between July 2008 and January 2012, Varlesi made false representations to clients about using their money to trade gold, commodity futures, and foreign currency, the expected return on their investments, and the security of their money. He fraudulently retained investors’ funds and concealed the scheme by creating and distributing false account statements and making Ponzi-type payments to investors, the charges allege. Varlesi also allegedly told clients that their investments were guaranteed to be profitable, with no risk of losing principal. As part of the scheme, the charges allege that he provided promissory notes to certain investors, falsely promising to return the entire principal amount of their investment, as well as guaranteed interest ranging between five to 7.5 percent per month.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah E. Streicker.

Each count of wire and mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and restitution is mandatory. The court may also impose a fine totaling twice the loss to any victim or twice the gain to the defendant, whichever is greater. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

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 defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden 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 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

————————————————————–

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.


FBI director Robert Mueller tells Miami Chamber: Mortgage fraud and other white-collar crimes rate high priority

April 5, 2012

The Miami Herald on April 5, 2012 released the following:

“FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Chamber of Commerce audience that the agency remains committed to solving major financial crimes prevalent in South Florida

BY MARTHA BRANNIGAN

The FBI has remade itself in the post-9/11 era to focus on counterterrorism, but the agency continues to battle major financial fraud in key areas familiar to South Florida, like mortgages and healthcare as well as corporate and securities violations, FBI director Roberts Mueller told a lunch audience at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001 triggered a new emphasis on cooperation among agencies and the use of intelligence to drive traditional white-collar crime investigations, Mueller told the gathering of 350 business and government officials at the Jungle Island luncheon.

“We have not neglected our criminal responsibilities,’’ he said. “What has changed is that we make greater use of intelligence and partnerships to focus our limited resources.’’

With tighter lending standards in the wake of the housing meltdown, mortgage fraud has morphed into “schemes aimed at distressed homeowners, such as loan modification scams and phony foreclosure rescues,’’ said Mueller, who became the FBI’s top cop on Sept. 4, 2001, the eve of the terror attacks.

Mueller said so-called “rescue services’’ hold out hope of helping homeowners avoid foreclosure, but instead extract big fees and personal information from victims, who sometimes are swayed “to sign away the deeds to their homes.’’

Among other priorities for the new FBI, Mueller said, is targeting rampant healthcare fraud. “Providers bill the government and insurers for excessive or unnecessary services and even for services they never provide,’’ he said, citing the recent case against officials at South Florida-based American Therapeutic Corp., who manipulated patients to receive unneeded treatment and padded bills to Medicare.

Another FBI focus — corporate and securities fraud — is also a familiar phenomenon to South Florida, Mueller said, citing the case of Scott Rothstein, the Fort Lauderdale attorney who led a $1.6 billion Ponzi scheme that hinged on selling interests in the proceeds of judgments from non-existent lawsuits.

In summing up, the FBI director urged chamber guests to take action when they see financial shenanigans. “You can learn to recognize financial fraud and unscrupulous business practices to better protect yourself and your companies. And you can alert us wehn you see these activities take place,’’ he said.

Chamber president Barry Johnson said the FBI and the chamber worked for two years to schedule Mueller’s visit. “He was interested in talking to South Florida, given the level of financial fraud operating in our part of the world. And they were looking for a business venue,’’ Johnson 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 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 C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Alleged Fake Hedge Fund Managers Arrested by the FBI and Charged in Newark, New Jersey Federal Court with Wire Fraud Conspiracy

December 15, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on December 14, 2011 released the following:

“Fake Hedge Fund Managers Charged in New Jersey for Alleged $3.5 Million Fraud Through Foreign Currency Investment Ponzi Scheme

NEWARK, NJ—Two men claiming to run New Jersey-based hedge funds using a secret computer program to invest in foreign currency are charged for allegedly defrauding victims out of more than $3.5 million and spending the investments on high-end vehicles, luxury travel and five-figure bar tabs, U.S. Attorney for the New Jersey Paul J. Fishman announced.

George Sepero, 39, of Glen Rock, N.J., and Carmelo Provenzano, 29, of Garfield, N.J., were arrested today by FBI special agents on a criminal complaint charging them with wire fraud conspiracy. The defendants are scheduled for initial appearances and bail hearings this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Shipp in Newark.

“According to the complaint, Sepero and Provenzano used fake companies and phony reports to steal millions in real money from trusting investors,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman. “With other people’s cash in their pockets, the defendants allegedly went on a spending spree involving luxury vehicles, international travel and extraordinary bar bills. Nobody asks to be defrauded, but those looking to invest should always be skeptical of rates of return that go so far beyond the norm.”

“I cannot stress enough the importance of investors exercising due diligence before trusting others with their money,” said Michael B. Ward, special agent in charge of the Newark, N.J., Division of the FBI. “The old adage ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ remains constant. In this case, Sepero and Provenzano claimed to own a secret computer algorithm which would achieve returns of 170 percent or more at a time when financial markets were in flux. Instead, it was another of the many Ponzi schemes that have been uncovered in New Jersey wherein subjects are diverting money to support lavish lifestyles.”

According to the complaint unsealed today in Newark federal court:

Beginning in 2009, Sepero and Provenzano claimed to run a series of hedge funds in New Jersey, luring investors with the prospect of extraordinary profits in foreign currency trading. The defendants made numerous misrepresentations and omissions to induce their victims to invest in “Pelt Capital,” “Caxton Capital Management,” “SP Investors Inc.” and “CCP Pro Consulting Inc.” Sepero and Provenzano claimed they owned and controlled a proprietary computer algorithm for trading foreign currencies; that they had used the algorithm to achieve returns of more than 170 percent in the prior two years; and that any investment funds would be highly liquid and could be withdrawn on days’ notice.

Relying on these and other misrepresentations, investors sent the defendants a total of more than $3.5 million. Sepero and Provenzano invested little or no money in foreign currency or any other investment vehicle, instead diverting the vast majority of victims’ investments to pay prior victims in Ponzi-scheme style and to finance extravagant personal expenditures.

Sepero and Provenzano spent investor money on credit card bills averaging approximately $25,000 per month; bar tabs of approximately $18,241—including a $4,000 tip—and approximately $14,034 on separate nights at “Drai’s Hollywood” nightclub in Los Angeles; luxury hotel rooms for tens of thousands of dollars, including suites costing more than $4,000 at W Hotels in New York; and flights to Paris, Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere. Sepero also purchased a customized Ford F-350 “Harley-Davidson Edition” pickup truck costing more than $80,000 and Provenzano bought a luxury Range Rover Sport SUV costing more than $71,000, with a down payment of more than $65,000. The pair also spent victims’ money on other personal expenditures, including mortgage payments, home improvements, meals at high-end restaurants, jewelry and limousines.

The defendants furthered the scheme by e-mailing victims fake statements showing their principal had been invested in the foreign currency markets and was achieving substantial results. Many of these e-mails were purportedly sent by an individual named “Mel Tannenbaum,” a fictional character of Provenzano’s invention.

The defendants also e-mailed to several investors “screen shots” of a computer-based trading program, which they claimed represented the investors’ funds being traded in the currency markets. In reality, the shots reflected trading in fictional accounts set up by the coconspirators to dupe investors.

The wire fraud conspiracy count with which Sepero and Provenzano are charged carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ward in Newark, for the investigation. He also thanked the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s New York Regional Office, under the direction of David Meister.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Kelly and Zach Intrater of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit and Evan Weitz of the office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit in Newark.

The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force 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.”

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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 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.


Michael Wilkerson, Joyce Wilkerson, Lee Garell, and Denise Haines Indicted by a Philadelphia Federal Grand Jury in an Alleged Mortgage Fraud Scheme

September 30, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on September 29, 2011 released the following:

“Pennsylvania Pastor Charged in Mortgage Fraud Scheme

PHILADELPHIA— Michael Wilkerson, Joyce Wilkerson, Lee Garell, and Denise Haines were charged today with engaging in a scheme to defraud JP Morgan Chase’s predecessor, Chase Manhattan Bank, by fraudulently obtaining home loans valued at more than $6 million for properties located in Schwenksville and Glenmoore, Montgomery County, Penn., announced U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane David Memeger.

According to the indictment, Michael Wilkerson, pastor of New Life Millennium Life Restoration Fellowship in Montgomery County, recruited several of his congregants and the congregants’ families and friends to participate in a number of real estate transactions. If they had good credit and acted as “straw purchasers”—meaning they would sign loan documents as the purchaser of a house and attend the property settlement—Michael Wilkerson would pay them $15,000. Wilkerson would allegedly pay another $5,000 if they referred other straw purchasers to him. Wilkerson recruited at least five individuals who agreed to be straw purchasers of homes. The indictment alleges that Joyce Wilkerson participated in the fraud scheme by assisting Michael Wilkerson, explaining the transactions to the “straws,” paying the “straws” and also pretending to be a co-purchaser of each of the homes at the time of settlement. The indictment alleges that Garell, a real estate broker with Long & Foster Companies, prepared the sales paperwork for each of the homes that was sold to the “straws” and, along with Michael Wilkerson, dictated the fraudulent terms set out in the settlement sheets.

The indictment alleges that Haines, a mortgage broker with American Group Mortgage Corporation, submitted fraudulent loan applications in the transactions to Chase Manhattan Bank. These fraudulent loan applications falsely represented the appraised value of the homes, the identification of the “straws,” the source of funds, the borrower’s income and assets, and their intent to take possession of the homes as their primary residence. Based on the representations made in the loan documents, Haines knew she could get Chase Manhattan Bank to approve the loans with little verification of the information on the loan applications.

When the loans were funded at the time of settlement, Michael Wilkerson, Joyce Wilkerson, Garell and Haines allegedly manipulated the documents prepared at settlement and, later, forwarded the settlement documents to Chase Manhattan Bank to make it appear to the bank that the “straws” brought considerable cash to the closings, when, in fact, all of the money involved at the settlement actually came from Chase Manhattan Bank. The defendants allegedly shared in the profits from the fraudulent sales.

According to the indictment, after settlement on the homes, Michael Wilkerson took possession of all of the homes, rented four of them and lived in another. He paid the mortgages with rental income for approximately six months then told the “straw” purchasers that they had to pay the mortgages. This last act led to the loans falling into default and then foreclosure, resulting in a loss of approximately $3 million.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 180 years in prison, five years’ supervised release, a fine of up to $6 million, and a $600 special assessment.

The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anita Eve.

An indictment or information is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

President Obama established the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force 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.”

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.

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