“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.


Managing Partner of U.S. Broker-Dealer Charged in Manhattan Federal Court with Allegedly Participating in a Massive International Bribery Scheme

June 12, 2013

The U.S. Department of Justice on June 12, 2013 released the following press release:

Defendant Allegedly Participated in Scheme That Generated Broker-dealer More Than $60 Million in Fees for Business Directed by a Senior Venezuelan Banking Official Who Was Allegedly Paid Over $5 Million in Kickback Payments

A managing partner of a U.S. broker-dealer was arrested today on felony charges arising from a conspiracy to pay bribes to a senior official in Venezuela’s state economic development bank, Banco de Desarrollo Económico y Social de Venezuela (BANDES).

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York, and Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos of the FBI’s New York Office made the announcement.

Ernesto Lujan, 50, among others, allegedly arranged the bribe payments to Maria De Los Angeles Gonzalez De Hernandez at BANDES in exchange for her directing BANDES’s financial trading business to the Broker-Dealer. Lujan was arrested this morning in Wellington, Fla., where he resides, and was presented in federal court in West Palm Beach, Fla.

“The huge bribes Mr. Lujan and others allegedly paid funneled millions to his firm and into his own pockets,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “Bribery corrupts markets, and this arrest – just the latest in the Department’s recent series of anti-corruption charges in various districts – is yet another demonstration that, at the end of the day, the real dividends bribe payers reap are criminal charges.”

“From his perch as managing partner Ernesto Lujan allegedly engaged in a bribery scheme designed to drum up foreign trading business for his firm,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “Along with his alleged cohorts, three of whom were arrested last month, he pocketed millions from the alleged scheme which was executed through kickbacks to a Venezuelan government official and through money laundering.”

“As alleged, Lujan led a conspiracy to bribe a foreign government bank official to steer business to his firm,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos. “As previously alleged, much of this trading activity was conducted solely to generate fees for the firm. Lujan personally reaped millions in profits, and used Swiss bank accounts to conceal both the bribes and his own proceeds of the scheme.”

On May 3, 2013, Gonzalez, along with two employees of the Broker-Dealer, Tomas Alberto Clarke Bethancourt and Jose Alejandro Hurtado, were arrested on separate charges relating to this bribery scheme. On May 6, 2013, the government filed a civil forfeiture action in Manhattan federal court seeking the forfeiture of assets held in a number of bank accounts associated with the scheme, including several bank accounts located in Switzerland, and the forfeiture of several properties in the Miami area related to Hurtado that were purchased with his proceeds from the scheme. That same day, the court also issued seizure warrants for multiple bank accounts and a restraining order relating to those Miami properties.

In a separate action, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced civil charges against Lujan.

According to the allegations in the criminal complaint unsealed today, and other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, Lujan, a managing partner of the Broker-Dealer, which was headquartered in New York City, was the branch manager of its Miami offices. In 2008, the Broker-Dealer established a group called the Global Markets Group, which included Lujan, Clarke and Hurtado, and which offered fixed income trading services to institutional clients. One of the Broker-Dealer’s clients was BANDES, which operated under the direction of the Venezuelan Ministry of Finance. The Venezuelan government had a majority ownership interest in BANDES and provided it with substantial funding. Gonzalez, a BANDES official, oversaw the development bank’s overseas trading activity. At her direction, BANDES conducted substantial trading through the Broker-Dealer. Most of the trades executed by the Broker-Dealer on behalf of BANDES involved fixed income investments for which the Broker-Dealer charged the bank a mark-up on purchases and a mark-down on sales.

From December 2008 through October 2010, Lujan, along with Clarke, Hurtado and Gonzalez, allegedly participated in a bribery scheme in which Gonzalez directed trading business she controlled at BANDES to the Broker-Dealer, and in return, agents and employees of the Broker-Dealer, including Lujan, split the revenue the Broker-Dealer generated from this trading business with Gonzalez. During this time period, the Broker-Dealer generated over $60 million in mark-ups and mark-downs from trades with BANDES. Agents and employees of the Broker-Dealer, including Lujan, Clarke and Hurtado, allegedly devised a split with Gonzalez of the commissions paid by BANDES to the Broker-Dealer.

Court records allege that to further conceal the scheme, the kickbacks to Gonzalez were often paid using intermediary corporations and offshore accounts that she held in Switzerland, among other places. For example, at least $9.5 million was transferred from the Broker-Dealer to a Swiss bank account controlled by Clarke, who in turn transferred at least $6.5 million to a Swiss bank account controlled by Lujan. Lujan then allegedly transferred at least $1.5 million of these proceeds to a Swiss bank account controlled by Gonzalez.

Lujan was charged with one count each of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), violation of the FCPA, conspiracy to violate the Travel Act and violation of the Travel Act, which each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering, which each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the FBI, with assistance from the SEC and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs. Assistant Chief James Koukios and Trial Attorneys Maria Gonzalez Calvet and Aisling O’Shea of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Harry A. Chernoff and Jason H. Cowley of the Southern District of New York’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force are in charge of the prosecution.

Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be
found at http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is 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.


Queens Politician Charged With Alleged Campaign Fraud

October 24, 2012

The Wall Street Journal on October 24, 2012 released the following:

“By Sean Gardiner

A Queens politician was charged Wednesday with fraud in connection with his unsuccessful run for the City Council two years ago and obstruction of justice for allegedly threatening people who cooperated with the investigation.

Albert Baldeo, 52 years old, is accused of using “straw donors” to funnel multiple illegal contributions into his campaign in the fall of 2010 for the City Council’s 28th District, which represents Richmond Hill, South Jamaica and South Ozone Park, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday by Manhattan United States Attorney Preet Bharara.

The purpose of the alleged scheme, Mr. Bharara said in a statement, was to “fraudulently increase the amount of matching funds provided by the New York City Campaign Finance Board” to Mr. Baldeo’s campaign.

Mr. Baldeo is a Democratic district leader in Queens who lost to Ruben Wills in a November 2010 special election to fill the seat vacated by the death of City Councilman Thomas White Jr.

Mr. Bharara said in a statement that Mr. Baldeo “was so focused on securing a position with the New York City Council that he was willing to break the law to increase his chances.”

Mr. Baldeo reported that he received a total of $47,803 in campaign donations and sought matching funds on about $15,000 which, under the city’s complicated calculation system, would have resulted in him receiving about $90,000 in matching public funds. However, the Campaign Finance Board ruled that Mr. Baldeo was ineligible for those matching funds “due to serious, unresolved questions about the validity of various contributions to the campaign,” the complaint states.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation subsequently pursued an investigation in which they discovered that Mr. Baldeo had “straw donors” fill out campaign contribution cards falsely purporting that they donated their personal money to Mr. Baldeo’s campaign.

“These (donations) were nothing more than funds drawn from his own bank account, disguised as donations from others,” Mary Galligan, FBI Acting Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office, said in a statement.

In at least one instance, Mr. Baldeo’s office manager was provided $1,375 in cash allegedly by Mr. Baldeo and told to get two money orders totaling that amount. People purporting to be legitimate donors then signed over the money orders to Mr. Baldeo’s campaign.

Mr. Baldeo is also alleged to have provided clients, whom he had provided legal services to in immigration matters, a money order equal to the money they paid him. He instructed them to fill out the money order to his campaign, the complaint states.

Mr. Bharara contends that after learning that the FBI was investigating his campaign donations, Mr. Baldeo instructed some of the straw donors not to cooperate or to lie to investigators, saying they could get in trouble if they told the agents the truth.

When one straw donor refused to lie, Mr. Baldeo is alleged to have faxed a threatening letter to the straw donor’s lawyer, the complaint states. And a person the complaint describes as “a co-conspirator of Baldeo’s not charged” made false allegations to the city’s Administration for Children’s Services that the man had abused his grandchild.

Mr. Baldeo was elected as Democratic Male District Leader in Queens’ District 38, Part B, in September 2010 and still holds that position. The official duties of the district leaders include electing the chair of the county political party, setting the party’s platform, appointing election workers at poll sites and helping to select nominees for civil court judgeships. It’s an unpaid, two-year term.

Mr. Baldeo surrendered to FBI official Wednesday morning and was awaiting an appearance in Manhattan federal court. His lawyer, Henry Mazurek, released a statement saying that the government’s “crusade” against Mr. Baldeo was “vindictive and discriminatory.”

“Albert Baldeo has devoted himself to public service in his Queens neighborhood as a district leader and has built a career as a lawyer representing the most needy in the Guyanese and other immigrant communities in which he serves,” 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

————————————————————–

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.