Liberty Reserve Accused of Laundering Billions Through Virtual Currencies

May 29, 2013

The Wall Street Journal on May 28, 2013 released the following press release:

U.S. Says Firm Laundered Billions

Digital-Currency Group Is Accused of Moving Illicit Cash for Hackers, Drug Dealers and Others

By REED ALBERGOTTI And JEFFREY SPARSHOTT

The money was virtual, but prosecutors say the crime was real.

Officials brought charges against a group of men who allegedly manufactured an Internet-based currency to launder about $6 billion in ill-gotten gains, a sign of authorities’ rising concern with digital cash.

The charges, in an indictment unsealed Tuesday, describe a complex online system set up by a Costa Rica-based organization called Liberty Reserve. The system allegedly was designed to give criminals a way to move money earned from credit-card fraud, online Ponzi schemes, child pornography and other crimes without being detected by law enforcement.

Liberty Reserve, which was incorporated in 2006, was a “bank of choice for the criminal underworld,” according to the indictment, which said the operation allegedly laundered the money through 55 million transactions before it was shut down earlier this month. The company has about one million users world-wide, including about 200,000 people in the U.S., according to prosecutors. They called the plot one of the largest money-laundering operations ever uncovered.

A spokesman for Liberty Reserve couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Prosecutors said Tuesday that they arrested five of the seven men charged in the indictment Friday in Spain, Costa Rica and Brooklyn, N.Y., and charged them with operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business. The officials said they plan to seek extradition of those arrested abroad, and that the two remaining men are at large.

The indictment against Liberty Reserve comes amid a concerted effort by Washington to police the nascent world of virtual currencies and ensure operators comply with U.S. law.

On Tuesday, in the first use of the 2001 Patriot Act against a virtual currency, the Treasury Department invoked a section of the law to choke off Liberty Reserve from the U.S. financial system. The Treasury’s proposal would prohibit U.S. financial institutions from opening or maintaining accounts for foreign banks that process transactions for Liberty Reserve and require special steps to guard against any transactions involving it.

Virtual currencies, most notably bitcoin, still account for only a tiny fraction of global transactions, but they are being embraced by some Internet merchants and are used in a host of legitimate transactions—for example, Web services and online-dating sites.

Law-enforcement officials are concerned about criminals’ ability to move around money outside the regulated world of banks and traditional money-moving services such as Western Union. Officials recently warned that digital currency exchanges should follow traditional anti-money-laundering rules.

The rise of virtual currencies has been exemplified by bitcoin, which lets Internet users create new money by solving complex math problems. The currency, which launched in 2009 and has gone through some wild spikes in value this spring, has attracted the attention of established companies and venture capitalists alike.

Tuesday’s case doesn’t involve bitcoin, though the virtual-cash community was watching developments closely.

“I think it is just another giant, flashing warning light to bitcoin exchanges: If you’re not compliant, there are some serious risks, both at the federal and state levels,” said Patrick Murck, legal counsel for the Bitcoin Foundation, a trade group that promotes bitcoin software and security standards.

Preet Bharara, the Manhattan U.S. attorney, said at a news conference Tuesday that he believed “virtually all” of Liberty Reserve’s customers used it for criminal purposes, though he said legitimate users can seek to recover funds.

Mr. Bharara didn’t give details on the alleged criminals but said the investigation was continuing. “There’s more to come,” he said Tuesday, adding that the case has so far involved seizing $25 million dollars in 45 bank accounts around the world.

Prosecutors allege Liberty Reserve facilitated a range of criminal activity by allowing alleged criminals to conduct transactions using its digital currency, “LR.” The system is opaque, and Liberty Reserve deliberately kept the users anonymous and untraceable, prosecutors said.

A transaction would start with one person opening a Liberty Reserve account using a false name and address, including what prosecutors said were blatant criminal monikers such as “Russia Hackers” or “Hacker Account.”

That person would wire real currency such as dollars to approved third-party currency exchangers in countries including Russia and Nigeria. The exchangers would convert the dollars into LRs and deposit them into the person’s Liberty Reserve account.

From there, a criminal could buy narcotics, stolen credit-card numbers or other goods by transferring the LRs to another person’s Liberty Reserve account. The recipient of the LRs could go to another unregulated currency exchanger and convert the LRs back into dollars.

Liberty Reserve charged a 1% fee for LR currency transfers and an additional “privacy fee” of 75 cents per transaction to hide Liberty Reserve account numbers, making the transfer virtually untraceable.

Liberty Reserve made an appearance in a criminal case earlier this month. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, N.Y., accused eight people of stealing about $45 million from automated-teller machines throughout New York City using stolen prepaid debit-card numbers. Prosecutors said at least one of the men used an account at the online-currency operator to transfer some of the allegedly stolen funds.

James T. Hayes Jr., special agent-in-charge of the New York field office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, said his agency became aware of possible wrongdoing at Liberty Reserve in 2010 and teamed up with the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the matter.

The indictment described how two of Liberty’s founders, Arthur Budovsky and Vladimir Kats, were convicted in 2006 in New York for operating Gold Age Inc. as an unlicensed money-transmitting business.

Lawyers for Mr. Budovsky and the other defendants named in the indictment couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. A lawyer for Mr. Kats declined to comment.

The indictment said Liberty Reserve also caught the attention of Costa Rican regulators in 2009, forcing the company to allegedly set up a fake compliance system. In late 2011, the Treasury Department warned financial institutions about the risks of doing business with Liberty Reserve.

In an Internet chat-room exchange included in the indictment, one defendant allegedly said he knew the company’s activities were “illegal” and said “everyone,” including the U.S. Department of Justice, knows Liberty Reserve “is a money-laundering operation that hackers use.”

About two weeks after the Treasury’s warning note, Liberty Reserve “went underground,” the indictment says, and continued to operate in Costa Rica using a “stripped-down staff working out of an office space held in the name of shell companies.” The defendants also allegedly tried soon after to drain their bank accounts.”

————————————————————–

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.


Virginia Attorney Charged in Alleged South African Ponzi Scheme

June 7, 2012

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

“NORFOLK, VA— Brian Ray Dinning, 47, of Toronto, Canada, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on wire fraud charges.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, made the announcement after the indictment was returned by the grand jury. Dinning has been charged with 25 counts of wire fraud, which each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, if convicted.

According to the indictment, Dinning was a graduate of Regent University Law School and also obtained an LL.M in tax from the Georgetown University Law Center. From early 2005 until the present, Dinning allegedly recruited approximately 23 individuals to invest in his numerous “for-profit” corporations that he had established. He did this by falsely advising investors that they would accrue significant financial gains from South African projects, such as a luxury Oceanside housing development, a luxury Oceanside hotel and private residence club, as well as diamond and gold mining operations. The indictment alleges that Dinning also used “not-for-profit” corporations to obtain donations purportedly for charitable, environmental, agricultural medical and community projects for the tribal people of South Africa, as well as developing wildlife habitats for native African species.

Regardless of whether his investors made investments for profit or donations for charitable causes to Dinning’s various corporations, upon receipt of these funds from his investors, Dinning is alleged to have immediately used their money for personal and family gain, for payment of his and his family’s expenses, for payment of alimony and child support to his ex-wife, for payment of private school tuition for his children, and to make the down payment and subsequent mortgage payments on his new $975,000 home in Suffolk. As a result, Dinning allegedly obtained more than $2.9 million from his investors, of which he retained more than $2 million for his and his family’s benefit.

This case was investigated by the Norfolk Division of the FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Steve Haynie is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.”

————————————————————–

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.


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.”

————————————————————–

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.


Southern District of Florida Securities and Investment Fraud Initiative Results in Charges Against 15 Individuals in 12 Separate Cases

June 5, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on June 4, 2012 released the following:

“To Date, 85 Defendants Have Been Charged as Part of the Initiative

Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; Eric I. Bustillo, Regional Director, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Southeast Region; and Linda Charity, Interim Commissioner, State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), announced the most recent results of the Southern District of Florida Securities and Investment Fraud Initiative (the Initiative), first announced in December 2010 and designed to combat securities and investment fraud and protect the interests of the investing public.

The Initiative was established to address the increase in securities and investment fraud schemes in the Southern District of Florida. In addition to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, SEC, and OFR, other participating agencies in the Initiative include the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), U.S. Secret Service (USSS), U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Southeast Region. These law enforcement and regulatory agencies have shared intelligence and combined their resources to combat securities and investment fraud, including Ponzi schemes, affinity fraud schemes, prime bank/high-yield investment scams, business opportunity fraud, promoter/micro-cap/“pump and dump” schemes, foreign exchange (FOREX) frauds, false bankruptcy petitions, and other schemes to defraud individual investors. Among the goals of the Initiative are to alert the public about the prevalence of these types of schemes, to educate the public on how to avoid falling prey to these schemes, and to highlight the law enforcement response to the problem.

The Southern District of Florida ranks second in the nation in securities and investment fraud investigations and prosecutions. Using the strike force model successfully developed in the health care and mortgage fraud areas, the Securities and Investment Fraud Initiative has yielded similar success. Since its inception in December 2010, the Initiative has resulted in charges against 85 defendants in the Southern District of Florida, resulting in more than $1.5 billion in restitution ordered. Today, we are announcing charges against 15 individuals in 12 separate cases.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Our primary goal in creating the Securities and Investment Fraud Initiative was to protect investors from fraud and to restore the integrity of the securities market. Too often, we hear from victims who have lost their entire lives’ savings or their retirement nest egg to one of these unscrupulous schemers. Today, we hope to educate the public about the need to be alert and to verify before trusting and investing. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

“The fraud from these stock market manipulation schemes could have defrauded numerous innocent investors out of millions of dollars. Because the FBI and our partners were able to disrupt these schemes early on through our undercover operations, the investing public was protected,” said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office. “The law enforcement efforts announced today also serve to send a message that the FBI and its partners will continue to target those who would chip away at the trust and confidence in the securities markets.”

Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office, said, “This Initiative is a testament to our allegiance to investors and our commitment to prosecute those who seek to defraud them. When we say we’re determined to stamp out microcap fraud, that’s not a slogan. That’s a pledge.”

“I commend the hard work of investigators from the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, as well as other state and federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies,” said Linda Charity, Interim OFR Commissioner. “These partnerships are essential to effectively combat securities fraud and help protect Florida’s investors.”

Below is a summary of the cases being announced today. These cases involve a variety of frauds, including fraudulent Federal Reserve notes, illegal kickback schemes, market manipulation schemes, and more traditional Ponzi schemes.

Fraudulent Federal Reserve Notes:

U.S. vs. Cleland Ayison, 12-80056-CR-DIMITROULEAS

Ayison, 32, of Tampa, was arrested today on charges of possessing a fraudulent $500,000,000 Federal Reserve Note.

Illegal Kickback Schemes:

U.S. vs. Michael Cimino and Joseph Repko, 12-2733-MJ-GARBER

Cimino, 59, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the director and chairman of the board for Sure Trace Security Corporation (SSTY), and Repko, 63, of Hobe Sound, Florida, SSTY’s chief financial officer and president, were arrested today on a criminal complaint charging them with conspiring to commit mail fraud by paying kickbacks to a pension fund fiduciary to induce the fiduciary to misappropriate money from a pension fund in order to buy restricted common stock at inflated prices. SSTY, a Utah corporation, was purportedly involved in the anti-counterfeiting technology business.

U.S. vs. Ryan Coblin, 11-80159-CR-RYSKAMP

Coblin, 41, of Boca Raton, was the president of Delivery Technology Solutions Inc., a domestic and international delivery company catering to corporations. Coblin was charged by information in September 2011 and pled guilty on March 8, 2012 to engaging in a scheme to pay kickbacks to a hedge fund fiduciary to induce the fiduciary to misappropriate money from a hedge fund in order to buy restricted common stock at inflated prices. Sentencing is scheduled for July 13, 2012.

Market Manipulation Schemes:

U.S. vs. Kevin Brennan, Donald Huggins, and Marc Seaver Page, 12-60064-CR-COHN

Today, charges were unsealed against defendants Brennan, 60, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the CEO of Optimized Transportation Management Inc. (OPTZ), a Delaware freight transportation company; Huggins, 64 of St. Petersburg, Florida, an investor in OPTZ; and Marc Seaver Page, 50, of Tiburon, California. The defendants are charged with engaging in a scheme to manipulate the publicly quoted share price and trading volume of OPTZ common stock.

U.S. vs. Douglas Hague, 12-60124-CR-WILLIAMS

Hague, 65, of Boca Raton, was the President of Clean Coal Technologies Inc., a corporation that purportedly converted low-grade coal to high-grade clean-burning coal. He was charged by information on June 1, 2012 with engaging in a scheme to pay kickbacks to a pension fund fiduciary to induce the fiduciary to misappropriate money from a pension fund in order to buy restricted common stock at inflated prices.

U.S. vs. Harold Steven Bonenberger, 12-60125-CR-COHN

Bonenberger, 56, of Carlsbad, California, was CEO of Angel Acquisition Corp. (AGEL), a Nevada corporation that purportedly managed assets. Bonenberger was charged by information on June 1, 2012 with engaging in a scheme to manipulate the publicly quoted share price and trading volume of AGEL common stock.

U.S. vs. Robert Cotton, 12-60126-CR-DIMITROULEAS

Cotton, 61 of Houston, Texas, was the President of Cotton and Western Mining Inc. (CWRN), a Nevada corporation that purportedly exported and mined iron minerals. Cotton was charged by information on June 1, 2012 with engaging in a scheme to manipulate the publicly quoted share price and trading volume of CWRN common stock.

U.S. vs. Matthew A. Connor, 12-2732-MJ-GARBER

Connor, 36, of Amherst, Virginia, a shareholder of and consultant for KCM Holdings Corporation (KCMH) was arrested today on a criminal complaint charging him with engaging in a scheme to manipulate the publicly quoted share price and trading volume of KCMH stock, in violation of the wire fraud statute. KCMH was purportedly in the business of providing strategic consulting services to clients.

U.S. vs. Scott Haire, 12-2734-MJ-GARBER

Haire, 42, of Coral Springs, President of Wound Management Technologies Inc. (WNDM), a Texas corporation that purportedly developed advanced wound care products. Haire was charged by criminal complaint with engaging in a scheme to manipulate the publicly quoted share price and trading volume of WNDM common stock. Haire is expected to surrender on June 6, 2012.

Ponzi Schemes:

U.S. vs. Juan Carlos Rodriguez, 12-20148-CR-DIMITROULEAS

Rodriguez, 49, of Miami, was indicted on March 6, 2012 for committing wire fraud in the execution of a Ponzi scheme. According to the indictment, Rodriguez was the sole officer and director of MDN Financial Group Inc., a Miami company that solicited approximately $5.2 million from investors with promises that the company would invest in stocks, bonds, and precious metals. Rodriguez would recruit colleagues and friends to invest in MDN Financial, promising them 20, 30, 40, and even 50 percent returns. In fact, Rodriguez did not invest the money he was given by investors. Instead, he used more than $1 million of the money to pay for personal expenses like credit card bills. A calendar call is scheduled for July 20, 2012.

U.S. vs. George Elia, 12-60077-CR-WILLIAMS

Elia, 68, formerly of Fort Lauderdale, is scheduled to be arraigned on June 6, 2012 on charges of operating a Ponzi scheme in which he recruited investors by making false claims about the potential returns on investments. Elia was the president of International Consultants & Investment Group LC., a corporation based in Broward County.

U.S. vs. Aner Menendez, 12-20389-CR-SCOLA

Menendez was arrested today on charges of mail and wire fraud. Menendez was the sole member and manager of De Forcade and recruited investors by claiming he was a skilled foreign currencies trader. Through a series of misrepresentations, he exploited social relationships to convince his victims to invest their savings with him. After receiving their money, Menendez made no investments for victims, instead spending their savings on himself and others.

In addition to the 12 criminal cases announced above, the SEC has filed nine separate civil injunctive actions against 12 individuals and eight microcap companies, charging them with violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and seeking, among other relief, permanent injunctions, disgorgement, and financial penalties. These defendants, including several CEOs and their companies and three penny stock promoters, are charged with securities fraud for their roles in various illicit kickback and market manipulation schemes.

Regarding the continued results of the Initiative, other members stated as follows:

IRS Special Agent in Charge José A. Gonzalez stated, “IRS-Criminal Investigation Division is pleased to lend our forensic financial expertise to uncover financial wrongdoings by those who commit investment fraud. Make no mistake, whether on Wall Street or Main Street, swindlers will be thoroughly investigated and swiftly brought to justice.”

U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Henry Gutierrez stated, “The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to working with its law enforcement partners to stop investment fraud. We are particularly focused on fraud committed against often-targeted pension funds, in which victims have deposited their hard-earned money.”

Cindy Liebes, Director of the Federal Trade Commission Southeast Region, stated, “The Federal Trade Commission is also working to stop investment fraud and has filed several actions. Most recently, the FTC has sued Sterling Precious Metals LLC, Matthew Meyer, Francis Ryan Zofay, and Kerry Marshall for operating an investment scheme that allegedly took in almost $10 million by targeting elderly consumers and conning them into buying precious metals on credit without clearly disclosing significant costs and risks. In March, the FTC brought a similar action against Anthony J. Columbo, Premier Precious Metals Inc., Rushmore Consulting Group Inc., and PPM Credit Inc.”

Other Recent Cases Resulting from the Initiative

In addition to the cases announced above, the Initiative boasts a number of other recent cases, a few of which are highlighted below:

U.S. vs. Anthony Zito, 12-20030-CR-WILLIAMS

Zito, 64, of Naples, Florida, was charged in connection with a $7.5 million investment scheme. Zito owned and operated a firm named Gladius Investments (Gladius). Zito founded Gladius in 2004 and acted as the company’s officer, director, and president. Gladius purported to invest in silver on the commodities market on behalf of investors who entrusted Gladius with their money. On June 8, 2010, for example, Gladius’ internal database showed that the company had approximately 130 investors, that Gladius had invested in 1,271,500 ounces of silver on behalf of its investors, and that the total value of that silver was $19,708,250. In fact, however, Gladius’ actual trading account statement showed that Gladius had no more than 50,000 ounces of silver investments that month and that the total value of the trading account was about $672,000. The investors in Gladius lost approximately $7.5 million as a result of Zito’s fraud. On March 30, 2012, Zito was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with the fraudulent investment scheme. In addition, Zito was ordered to pay $7.5 million in restitution to the victims of his crime. The court also ordered the forfeiture of half the value of Zito’s house, as well as his cars and bank accounts.

U.S. vs. Douglas Newton, 11-60150-CR-COOKE

On May 9, 2012, Newton was convicted after trial of two counts of mail fraud, four counts of securities fraud, and one count of conspiring to commit securities fraud. Sentencing is scheduled for August 29, 2012. According to evidence presented during the trial, Newton operated Billy Martin’s USA, a retail company that was delinquent with its lease payments at the Trump Plaza in New York City. In need of funding, Newton turned to a cooperating defendant who arranged a meeting with an undercover FBI agent. Newton attended a meeting in Broward County, Florida, where he agreed on video to bribe a pension fund manager to invest the pension fund investors’ money in Real American Brands. In addition, to hide the illegal bribes, the defendant entered into a fraudulent consulting agreement and sent fictitious e-mails to the undercover FBI agent. Newton also claimed in the recorded meetings to have business relationships with Jeffrey Sebelia, the winner of the “Project Runway TV” contest, and country singer Carrie Underwood. In total, Newton paid $12,000 in bribes to the purported pension fund and received a total of $40,000 from the fund. The defendant used the money to pay for his golf club, home owner fees, and his utilities.

U.S. vs. Yan Skwara, 11-60294-CR-WILLIAMS

Skwara, 47, of San Diego, California, was the president of U.S. Farms, Inc., a Nevada corporation that promoted wellness-based products. Skwara pled guilty on April 20, 2012 to engaging in a scheme to pay kickbacks to a pension fund fiduciary to induce the fiduciary to misappropriate money from a pension fund in order to buy restricted common stock at inflated prices. Sentencing is scheduled for July 3, 2012.

U.S. vs. Gaston E. Cantens, 12-20005-CR-WILLIAMS

On April 4, 2012, Gaston E. Cantens, 73, of Miami, was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with a fraud committed at Royal West Properties Inc. (Royal West). According to documents filed with the court and statements made during the sentencing hearing, Cantens was the president of Royal West Properties Inc. and recruited individuals to invest in Royal West by promising investors a fixed rate of return and that their investments would be guaranteed by properties or mortgages that acted as collateral. Cantens used his extensive ties to the South Florida community, including his ties to Belen Jesuit Preparatory School, to recruit investors to the fraud. Cantens told investors that their money were collateralized by individual properties but failed to inform them that the collateralized properties had previously been assigned to other investors. Cantens received moneys from investors based on these misrepresentations, and used the moneys for his personal benefit and to further the fraud scheme.

An indictment or information is merely an accusation and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

————————————————————–

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.


Ronald W. Shepard Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for Allegedly Operating a $3 Million Ponzi Scheme

February 2, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on February 1, 2012 released the following:

“Former Lee’s Summit Man Indicted for $3 Million Ponzi Scheme

KANSAS CITY, MO— Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a former Lee’s Summit, Mo., man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for defrauding 39 investors in a $3 million Ponzi scheme.

Ronald W. Shepard, 72, formerly of Lee’s Summit, was charged in a 15-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012.

According to the indictment, Shepard’s company, Safety Solutions USA, LLC, in Lee’s Summit, developed and marketed a trailer hitch called Tow-Safe. A patent request for the trailer hitch safety device was filed, but rejected by the U.S. Patent Office. Shepard also operated a company called The Real Estate in Lee’s Summit.

Shepard received approximately $3,188,765 from approximately 39 investors from January 2006 through December 2009. Shepard returned approximately $1,235,853 to the investors, and lost or spent the rest, resulting in a minimum loss to investors of $1,825,883. Shephard is charged with 13 counts of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering related to the scheme.

Shepard, who prepared tax returns for individuals, discussed their investments and pitched his own companies as investments. Shepard allegedly claimed that investors would make anywhere from a 15 percent to 100 percent annual return on their investment. He allegedly failed to inform potential investors that the state had issued a cease and desist order that barred him from offering or selling any unregistered security.

Shepard allegedly told investors that their money was used to purchase property in Kansas City, the Lake of the Ozarks and Hawaii. Except for purchasing his own personal residence at the Lake of the Ozarks, the indictment says, Shepard did not purchase any real estate. Instead, the indictment alleges that Shepard used investor funds for personal living expenses, to pay other investors, to pay relatives, in disbursements of cash to himself and in real estate ventures.

According to the indictment, many investors liquidated their Individual Retirement accounts or 401(k) accounts and transferred the proceeds to Shepard for investment. Shepard allegedly told investors that if they liquidated retirement funds, thereby incurring penalties, he would refund their initial investment, plus the amount of penalty, plus interest.

The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require Shepard to forfeit to the government any property derived from the proceeds of the alleged offenses, including $1,825,883.

Phillips cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Mahoney. It was investigated by the FBI and the Missouri Division of Securities.”

————————————————————–

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 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.


Laurie Schneider Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for Allegedly Operating Ponzi Schemes

February 2, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on February 1, 2012 released the following:

“Oceanside Woman Indicted for Operating Ponzi Schemes

Defendant Allegedly Defrauded Investors of More Than $4 Million

Laurie Schneider, of Oceanside, New York, has been indicted for operating Ponzi schemes that defrauded investors of more than $4 million.[1] The defendant was arraigned earlier today before United States Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson at the United States Courthouse, 100 Federal Plaza, Central Islip, New York.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.

As alleged in the indictment, Schneider began accepting money in September 2006 from individuals seeking a return on their investment. In one scheme, operating a shell company incorporated as Janitorial Close-Out City Corp., Schneider falsely informed potential investors that Janitorial Close-Out invested in industrial equipment and machinery manufactured by companies in China. To induce investments, Schneider, among other things, (1) personally guaranteed specified positive rates of return as high as 60 percent, (2) represented that she had a business contact who had strong relationships with companies in China, and (3) represented that she would be able to buy the industrial equipment and machinery at wholesale prices which Janitorial Close-Out would resell in the United States at a 15 to 60 percent profit over a nine to 18-month period. In fact, the indictment charges that Schneider actually was running a Ponzi scheme, paying returns to Janitorial Close-Out investors not from any profits earned on the purchase and resale of industrial equipment and machinery, but rather from existing investors’ deposits or money paid by new investors. Schneider never produced or earned the rates of return that she promised. Rather, the positive rates of return were simply pre-determined rates made up by Schneider based upon fictitious profits.

The government estimates that Schneider defrauded over 25 investors in Janitorial Close-Out of more than $4 million, and more than $5 million through related schemes.

“In these difficult economic times, it’s all the more troubling that, as alleged in the indictment, someone would take advantage of the trust of investors for personal financial gain,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “As alleged, this defendant falsely represented herself as having international business connections that would benefit her investors, when in reality she was engaged in purely homegrown fraud and deception. This indictment serves as a warning that we will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who, by deceit and false promises, would steal from those who believed they were investing in a legitimate enterprise.” Ms. Lynch added that the government’s investigation is continuing.

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Fedarcyk stated, “Ponzi schemes have been around for so long because, unfortunately, they are such an effective means of swindling people out of their hard-earned money. Investors need to be wary of ‘investment opportunities’ that ‘guarantee’ inordinately high rates of return, and should perform due diligence. But it is the perpetrators of these fraudulent schemes, not their victims, who are to blame. The FBI remains committed to protecting the investing public from them.”

If convicted, Schneider faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment on each of three counts of wire fraud count.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Richard T. Lunger and Lara Treinis Gatz.

The Defendant:

LAURIE SCHNEIDER Age: 37

[1] The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

————————————————————–

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 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.


Henry Fecker, III, and Steven Steiner Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in a Fifty-Four Count Federal Indictment

August 25, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Florida on August 24, 2011 released the following:

“TWO FT. LAUDERDALE MEN INDICTED FOR MONEY LAUNDERING AND OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IN CONNECTION WITH MUTUAL BENEFITS CORPORATION FRAUD

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 unsealing of a fifty-four count indictment against defendants Henry Fecker, III, 57, and Steven Steiner, a/k/a “Steven Steinger,”59, for their participation in a scheme to launder and conceal proceeds in connection with the Mutual Benefits Corporation (“MBC”) fraud. More specifically, Fecker and Steiner are charged with receiving more than $10 million into the account of Camden Consulting, a company they controlled, and then hiding and concealing assets from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the United States District Court. Both defendants were arrested and appeared in court earlier today. A pre-trial detention hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea M. Simonton.

As alleged in the indictment, from approximately 1994 to May 2004, MBC purchased life insurance policies and sold them in fractionalized form to investors. MBC and its employees and agents eventually defrauded approximately 30,000 investors by, among other things, misleading them about the accuracy of life expectancies of the insureds and the expenses required to maintain the insurance policies via premium payments. New investor money was thus used to pay premiums on life insurance policies purchased by earlier investors. As the scheme continued, more investor money was required to prevent the Ponzi-scheme from collapsing. After the MBC business collapsed in 2004, investors eventually suffered more than $830 million in losses.

As charged in the indictment, Steiner was a founder and Vice President of MBC and was paid by MBC using the account of Camden Consulting. Fecker was the owner of Camden Consulting. In this way, the MBC funds were used to support a lavish lifestyle for Steiner and Fecker, who lived together and jointly owned waterfront homes in Ft. Lauderdale and Camden, Maine, and a luxury apartment in New York City.

According to the indictment, in May 2004, MBC was sued by the SEC in the civil action, S.E.C. vs. Mutual Benefits Corp., et al., No. 04-60573-CIV-MORENO (S.D. Fla.) (the “SEC Fraud Action”). The SEC obtained a restraining order to halt the alleged fraud at MBC, and thereafter a receiver was appointed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (the “MBC Receiver”), to identify and trace the assets of MBC. Steiner was a named defendant in the SEC Fraud Action and Fecker was a party due to his control of Camden Consulting.

According to the indictment, after 2004 when MBC was shut down, Fecker and Steiner engaged in a series of transactions to hide assets from the SEC and the MBC Receiver by placing funds attributable to Steiner with third parties or in Fecker’s name alone, and later by causing third parties to make payments of monies due to Steiner, instead to Fecker. In 2006, for example, Fecker obtained a refinance of the Maine property and placed the proceeds of approximately $480,000 into a series of certified checks to conceal their existence from authorities. Fecker began cashing these checks in 2008 and continued this through July 2011, using the funds to support a lavish lifestyle for Fecker and Steiner.

To obtain a favorable settlement of their liability with the SEC, the indictment alleges that in 2006 and early 2007, Fecker and Steiner submitted a series of false and misleading documents to conceal their true financial condition. Based on this documentation, around April 2007, the SEC agreed to settled their liability for $5 million and further agreed to a reduced penalty of $3.95 million, and the court in the SEC Fraud Action thereafter ordered that these sums be paid by order dated April 10, 2007. The indictment alleges that, to date, Steiner and Fecker have paid only $750,000.

The indictment further alleges in late 2009, to further conceal assets from the SEC and the SEC receiver, Steiner sold the luxury New York apartment for $1.3 million, but caused false documents to state that the sales price was $1.1 million and submitted these documents to the SEC and the MBC Receiver. To further thwart the SEC’s efforts to recover assets attributable to MBC, Steiner allegedly provided false and misleading testimony under oath to the MBC Receiver concerning his assets and financial condition.

Previously, in a separate case also in the Southern District of Florida, Steiner was charged in United States v. Joel Steinger, et al. (Case No. 08-CR-21158), with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering, in relation to the MBC fraud scheme. Trial in that matter is scheduled for February 2013 before U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan.

United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Ponzi-schemes, like the MBC investment scheme, defraud unwitting investors out of their lives savings. These defendants compounded their legal troubles by then laundering the proceeds of the fraud and attempting to hide assets. Such abuse will not be tolerated.”

“We will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who obstruct justice by making false statements and concealing assets from an agency of the United States attempting to carry out its mission, such as the SEC’s efforts to protect investors here,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies.

“We will hold accountable those who engage in the laundering of funds derived from fraud, particularly through concealment and spending of funds through sophisticated transactions, like the ones employed here,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge José A. Gonzalez.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the IRS-CID, and the Miami Regional Office of the SEC, which previously brought a civil action against MBC and its principals. The matter is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerrob Duffy.

An indictment is only a charging document, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

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 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.

Bookmark and Share