KY Attorney Bryan Coffman Ordered to Forfeit Millions from Oil-Drilling Scam

Lexington, Kentucky, attorney Bryan Coffman was convicted last year in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky on eight counts of mail fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, two counts of securities fraud, 10 counts of money laundering and one count of money laundering conspiracy. His wife, Megan Coffman, was acquitted of the money laundering charges against her. Coffman was charged with using his alleged oil-drilling business, American Oil & Gas Resources, to defraud investors out of more than $34 million. Another co-defendant, Gary Milby, was also convicted. Coffman has not yet been sentenced.

Coffman and his co-conspirators pocketed the investors' monies and spent lavishly on property, yachts, cars, jewelry. Milby furthermore threw a lavish birthday party for his daughter which was nationally broadcast on MTV's "My Super Sweet 16," in which Milby gave his daughter a new BMW, a helicopter ride and a shopping spree.

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Today, according to the Lexington Herald, the Court ordered Coffman to forfeit $3.1 million in cash; a condominium in Charleston, South Carolina; and a yacht christened "For Your Eyes Only." The Coffmans were permitted to keep their house in Lexington, since the government was unable to trace any proceeds from illegal activity to the residence or any improvements.

7th Circuit Reverses Mail and Wire Fraud Conviction of Contractor for Alleged Bid Rigging

Steven Fenzl was the principal of Urban Services of America, Inc. ("Urban"). Fenzl was charged with alleged mail fraud and wire fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The charges related to alleged bid-rigging under the Sherman Act on a 2005 contract to refurbish the City of Chicago's garbage carts.
Urban had won bids from the City in the past--however it had been subject to investigation on the allegation that Fenzl's partner and co-defendant, Douglas Ritter, had cashed checks from the City written to other contractors. As a result of the investigation, Fenzl and Ritter were afraid that Urban would not be awarded the contract even if it submitted the lowest bid. So Fenzl and Ritter persuaded three other companies to bid on the contract who would not otherwise have done so, with the understanding that if one of the companies were awarded the bid by the City, it would subcontract the fulfillment to Urban. Urban also submitted a bid, which was the lowest. The City awarded Urban the contract. However, the City was unaware of Urban's communications with the other bidders. All bidders, including Urban, had to certify to the City that they had not entered into any agreements with other bidders relating to the price of the bids. Fenzl was indicted in 2009, and was convicted at trial last year.
Last week, the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals reversed Fenzl's convictions, in an opinion authored by Judge Posner, U.S. v. Fenzl, No. 11-2459 (7th Cir. 2012), available here. The Court held that it was difficult to see what was wrongful about Urban's alleged "scheme,"  since it increased, rather than reduced, competition among the bidders. It noted that the theory behind the government's fraud charges against Fenzl was infirm, since "[n]o evidence was presented that the more bidders there
were, the more likely Urban’s bid was to be accepted and that this would result in a higher price to the City for getting its garbage carts spruced up." Even if there were fewer bidders, Urban still would have likely been awarded the contract as the low bidder.
The Court rejected Fenzl's companion argument, that he could not have committed mail or wire fraud since the City did not lose any money as a result of his conduct. It observed that "there is no requirement that the victim have incurred, or the defendant have intended him to incur, a pecuniary loss. [Cit.] If you steal money from a person, it is theft even if you intended to, and did, replace the money before he noticed it was missing." (Citing U.S. v. Joshua, 648 F.3d 547, 553 (7th Cir. 2011)).
Fenzl was also charged with fraud relating to failure to subcontract to a woman or minority-owned business enterprise. However, the trial court ordered him acquitted of this charge. The Court of Appeals ordered Fenzl to be retried on the charge.


Fayetteville Man Indicted on Federal Charges for Defrauding Colleges and Universities

The season for college sports is upon us once again and what better way to honor the occasion than with a bit of news from 7th Space Interactive that Dale Brannan, of Fayetteville, Georgia, has been indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia for defrauding various universities and colleges, including Kansas State University, the University of New Mexico, Oakland University, Stonehill College and Minnesota State University - Mankato. Mr. Brannan was arraigned last week on charges of bank fraud, mail fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and one count of making a false declaration in a bankruptcy filing.

Mr. Brannan is alleged to have operated a company called Transport Athletics in Fayetteville and Savannah, Georgia, which purportedly arranged for overseas travel for collegiate sports teams to countries including China, Italy, Brazil and Finland. However, the government has charged that he used the funds paid by universities and colleges to pay the costs of earlier trips of other schools and to pay his personal expenses.

Mr. Brannan is alleged to have caused Transports Athletics to file for bankruptcy and notified the schools that the trips had been cancelled. He then allegedly started another company, Sports Tours and Tournament Specialists, Inc., or STATS, and re-commenced the scheme. The alleged loss from the activities is over $400,000.

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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Conrad Black's Appeal of His Two Remaining Convictions

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday denied the petition for certiorari by former international media mogul, Canadian citizen and British Lord, Conrad Moffat Black, as reported in the Washington Post.

Mr. Black was the CEO of Hollinger International, Inc., which owned newspapers worldwide. He was indicted (in an indictment made available by FindLaw which may be viewed here) with other officers and employees of Hollinger in the Northern District of Illinois in November of 2005 on 11 counts, in an original indictment which charged mail fraud conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and substantive counts of mail and wire fraud. The counts all referenced the "honest services" fraud statute, 18 United States Code section 1346. Testifying to the vigorousness of his defense, on July of 2007, a jury acquitted Mr. Black on 9 counts but convicted him on three others.

Mr. Black then challenged his convictions on appeal. In June of last year, the Supreme Court handed down its three "honest services" decisions, Skilling v. U.S., Black v. U.S., and Weyrauch v. U.S. In Skilling, the main decision involving former Enron President Jeffrey Skilling, the Court rejected the old "intangible right" to an employee's honest services theory and held that, in order to avoid being unconstitutionally vague, section 1346 applies to bribery or kickback schemes, and not to mere self-dealing by an employee. In Mr. Black's case, the Court unanimously held that the jury had not been properly instructed on honest services fraud at trial, and vacated his convictions and remanded. Then in October of last year, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinion authored by distinguished Judge Richard Posner, struck two of the three remaining counts against Mr. Black, leaving him convicted on a single fraud count and a count for obstruction of justice. Mr. Black again appealed these two remaining convictions to the Seventh Circuit, which upheld them last December, and then to the Supreme Court, which has now declined to review them. Mr. Black is scheduled to be resentenced on June 24.

Source: McLean'

Georgia Minister Receives 5 Years for Burning and Defrauding Church

Donny Ray Horton of Hoschton, Georgia, a minister at Gardendale First Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was sentenced to five years imprisonment yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama on  charges of arson and mail fraud, according to Horton allegedly set two fires at the church last year. He was also charged with defrauding the church of  $78,769 for church pews, which he received in his role as a sales representative for Sauder Manufacturing, which makes seats and pews for churches.

Former Community Bank & Trust Executive Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges

Randy Jones, a former executive vice president with Community Bank & Trust who worked for the bank for 30 years, pled guilty last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia for an alleged multi-million dollar fraud scheme, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Specifically, Jones was alleged to have made loans to a customer, Joseph Penick, Jr., to purchase tracts of land in North Georgia. Penick is alleged to have paid Jones $770,000. Penick has pled guilty to his involvement in the scheme.

Jones was also alleged to have used family members and friends to obtain more than $800,000 in loans from Community Bank & Trust to purchase an interest in six Zaxby's restaurants.


Community Bank & Trust was shut down by regulators in January of 2010. The bank opened in 1900 and had been insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation since 1934. Before it failed, it had 36 branches across the region and $1.1 billion in assets. An FDIC report in September of 2010 found that Community Bank & Trust failed to follow its own loan policy and had made more than $10 million in bad loans. Georgia has had more failed banks than any other state--52 since 2008. 

Investigators say he used the names of family members without their consent to obtain more than $800,000 in loans from the bank, which he used to buy a stake in six Zaxby's restaurants. And they claim he approved more than $2.8 million in loans to fraudulent borrowers so that a customer who was a real estate developer could pay down interest on loans.

The bank failures have also led to a number of prosecutions and suits against former bank executives, employees and others. Five people with ties to Omni National Bank of Atlanta were convicted on bank fraud and other charges after the bank collapsed during a federal mortgage fraud probe. A lawsuit by the FDIC also alleges that former officers of Alpharetta-based Integrity Bank engaged in gross negligence and breach of fiduciary duty relating to making bad loans. One of the defendants is State Senator Jack Murphy, a former bank official and the new Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Sen. Murphy has denied any wrongdoing.


Charges Dismissed Against Executives in Titanic West Titanium Case for Alleged Government Contract Fraud; Prosecution Provides Alleged Favorable Evidence 6 Weeks Into Trial

Two years ago, Western Titanium was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on 19 counts, including mail fraud and conspiracy, for allegedly selling substandard titanium to the government to use in aerospace equipment and engine mounts for military jets and allegedly falsely certifying that the metal met technical specifications, according to an article on San Diego Signon. Also indicted were Western Titanium's CEO, Daniel Schroder, and three other current and former executives. The "titanic" prosecution involved some 900 docket entries, extensive pretrial hearings and finally an 11 week trial.

However, the trial terminated last week with Western Titanium pleading guilty to a single count of mail fraud for causing an alleged loss of $51,350 and the charges against the executives being dismissed under deferred prosecution agreements. The reason for the abrupt end was the defense's accusations that the prosecution had withheld thousands of pages of documents favorable to the defense showing that the titanium was not substandard. Counsel for the defendants claimed that the government did not disclose the materials until approximately six weeks into the trial in an act of intentional prosecutorial misconduct.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has denied that the prosecution acted in bad faith.

Utah Man and Canadian Citizen Indicted In Georgia for Conspiracy, Mail and Wire Fraud, May Have Been Conned by Their European Contacts

As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune, Thomas Repke of Holladay, Nevada, has been indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on 22 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud. The charges are based on allegations that Mr. Repke, through the companies Coadum Capital and Mansell Acquisition Co., allegedly defrauded more than 100 investors of more than $30 million. Mr. Repke and James Jeffrey, a Canadian citizen, are alleged to have promised investors monthly returns of 5 percent on their investments. The indictment charges that Mr. Repke and Mr. Jeffrey promised investors that their money would be kept safe in escrow accounts, but allegedly transferred $20 million in investor funds to accounts in Switzerland and Malta, as well as allegedly diverting substantial funds to themselves, companies which they controlled and investments of family members. The defendants are alleged to have made false statements to investors about their monthly gains and account balances and to have used funds from investors to pay off other investors in what a Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Repke's and Mr. Jeffrey's uses of investor funds do not appear to have been totally selfish, however. Coadum is alleged to have used $425,000 of the funds to commission a 40-foot bronze statue of New York City firefighters for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation for a memorial to September 11, 2001. Furthermore, in a novel twist, comments by Pat Huddleston, a receiver appointed to oversee companies operated by Mr. Repke and Mr. Jeffries, indicates that the two men might have been victims themselves, deceived by individuals in Europe who they dealt with. "My investigation shows they were conned out of that money," Huddleston stated. "They might have believed they were making legitimate investments over there, but the person was essentially conning them."

Mr. Repke pleaded not guilty to the charges yesterday and was released on a $250,000 bond. The U.S.Securities and Exchange Commission has also sued Mr. Repke and Mr. Jeffrey.

Alabama Contractor Roger Taylor Acquitted of Conspiracy, Bribery and Obstruction Charges Following Federal Trial; Avoyelles Parish Sheriff Bill Belt and Family Acquitted

On Tuesday, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in Tuscaloosa found construction contractor Roger Taylor not guilty on one count of conspiracy, five counts of bribery and two counts of obstructing justice, according to Tuscaloosa News. Mr. Taylor was one of numerous individuals investigated in relation to Alabama's Community College System. Mr. Taylor, co-owner of Hall-Taylor Construction, and was alleged to have bribed former two-year college Chancellor Roy Johnson by paying for more than $92,000 in construction costs and appliances at Johnson’s home in Opelika, Alabama, in exchange for awards of construction management work within the system. The government alleged that Mr. Taylor  was awarded $4 million in no-bid state contracts from 2002 to 2006 in exchange for the alleged bribes.

Mr. Taylor's trial began on October 25. He  was originally charged with 17 counts, but the majority of these were dropped after a successful appeal by a co-defendant. At trial, however, the prosecution failed to present any testimony showing that Johnson alleged directed or threatened college presidents to hire Hall Taylor on contracts for a massive makeover of the college system. On the contrary, witnesses testified that another construction management firm received a fair share of the contracts. The witnesses at the trial also praised Hall-Taylor's work. Mr. Taylor's counsel made the trial into a referendum on Johnson's credibility. Johnson pled guilty to 14 charges of conspiracy, bribery, witness tampering and money laundering in January of 2008. He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 18.

17 individuals, including former state legislators, college presidents and the system chancellor, have either pled guilty or been found guilty by a jury as a result of the investigation. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama issued a statement that the prosecution believed it had presented sufficient evidence to find Mr. Taylor guilty of the bribery and obstruction charges, but that it respected the jury's verdict. The government has a companion civil forfeiture case against Hall-Taylor's assets. Mr. Taylor's counsel stated that the prosecution intimidated and threatened witnesses at the grand jury investigating Johnson, and have indicated that Mr. Taylor may seek recourse for the prosecution's actions.

In other positive Federal criminal news, Bill Belt, the former Sheriff of  Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, his wife, Tracy Belt, and his sister, Julie Bernard, were found not guilty of conspiracy, mail fraud and obstruction of justice last week by a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana after a trial which also began on October 25, according to

In 1988, Sheriff Belt allegedly contracted with Michael and Rae Johnson to install pay  telephones  for prisoners in Avoyelles Parish in a venture called Cajun Callers. Under the agreement, Cajun Callers would pay a monthly commission to the Sheriff's Office. The Johnsons made large amounts of money  from the venture, which they failed to pay taxes on. Johnson subsequently became a Louisiana  State Judge, but  was removed from the bench due to ethical violations relating to Cajun Callers. The government alleged that Sheriff Belt was paid kickbacks.

In 1990, Sheriff Belt's future wife began keeping the books for two companies She owned: Southern Louisiana Communications, which operated public pay phones; and Central Louisiana Communications, which operated phones in Louisiana parish jails.

Rae Johnson testified at trial that Tracy Belt would allegedly take money collected from the pay phones and deposit it and then write three checks in identical amounts--one of which was to her husband's tax account from which taxes were never paid. Johnson stated that she would allegedly cash one of the other checks and deliver the money to Mrs. Belt. Sheriff Belt's counsel undermined Johnson's account of the triple-check scheme on cross-examination, however. Counsel argued in closing that Johnson was a liar who escaped prosecution herself by making up stories about the Belts. The government also presented the testimony of a convicted male pedophile who installed the Cajun Callers phones in the jails, and another convicted felon who served time for crimes including insurance fraud.

Conrad Black on the Problems of the U.S. Justice and Prison System: Prisoners are "An Ostracized, Voiceless Legion of the Walking Dead"


Canadian citizen Conrad Black, former head of Hollinger International, Inc., and once the third biggest newspaper magnate in the world, was charged in the Northern District of Illinois with diverting corporate funds for his own use and was convicted in July of 2007for "honest services" mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. s 1846, and obstruction of justice, following a jury trial. On June 24, 2010, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in Black v. U.S., case # 08-876, vacating Black's honest services convictions and remanding his case on the ground that the district court's instruction to the jury on honest services was incorrect. Black was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Center in Coleman, Florida, and was released on bail two weeks ago after spending two years and four months in prison. He remains in the U.S. pending an appeal to return to Canada.

Lord Black's (he was made a member of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair) legal odyssey aside, he has become an observer and critic of the U.S. criminal justice system. Black has kept a diary, which may be viewed here, regarding his experience in prison. Most recently, on July 31, Black published a letter in Canada's National Post entitled "Conrad Black: My Prison Education." Black does pause to criticize his conviction in passing, citing the "fallibility of American justice." However, Black's letter provides a glimpse into life at the end of the tunnel of the federal criminal justice system. Black discusses his daily calls to his wife and his difficulties in getting updates on his application for bail in prison. He recounts the interest of his fellow inmates in the developments and media attention in his case, and rather poignantly describes the lengthy goodbyes from his friends:

"The Mafiosi, the Colombian drug dealers, (including a senator with whom I had a special greeting as a fellow member of a parliamentary upper house), the American drug dealers, high and low, black, white, and Hispanic; the alleged swindlers, hackers, pornographers, credit card fraudsters, bank robbers, and even an accomplished airplane thief; the rehabilitated and unregenerate, the innocent and the guilty, and in almost all cases the grossly over-sentenced, streamed in steadily for hours, to make their farewells."

"Most goodbyes were brief and jovial, some were emotional, and a few were quite heart-rending. Many of the 150 students that my very able fellow tutors and I had helped to graduate from high school, came by, some of them now enrolled in university by cyber-correspondence."


Black goes on to criticize harsh federal sentencing policies, especially for drug offenders, citing in particular the disparities in the crack cocaine sentencing Guidelines and their disproportionate impact on African-Americans. He also takes the public defender system to task for being subservient to the will of prosecutors, and laments the United Sates' massive prison population and prison industry in comparison with other Western democracies. Black concludes that "America’s 2.4 million prisoners, and millions more awaiting trial or on supervised release, are an ostracized, voiceless legion of the walking dead; they are no one’s constituency."


Supreme Court's Skilling Decision Affects Retrial of Abramoff Associate; Georgia Attorney Gets 5 Years for $4.3 Million Fraud Against Clients; Dutch Company Enters $240 Million Settlement of Foreign Bribery Allegations in Texas

On June 24, the United States Supreme Court rendered its decision in the case of former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling. The majority in U.S. v. Skilling, No. 08-2349, in an opinion authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (which may be read in its 114 page entirety here), held that the "honest services" mail fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. §1346, applies to bribery and kickback schemes, and not to mere "undisclosed self-dealing by a public official or private employee," alone. The majority held that Skilling did not violate §1346 since, although the Government charged Skilling with conspiring to de-fraud Enron’s shareholders by misrepresenting the company’s financial health and therefore profiting, the government never alleged that Skilling solicited or accepted any payments from third parties in exchange for making the misrepresentations.

The recent Skilling decision is already having an impact on federal prosecutions. As reported by, this week, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia told the parties in the prosecution of Kevin Ring, a former associate of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, that the Court would grant Ring more time to file a motion for judgment of acquittal in light of Skilling. Ring was charged with bribery and tried last year, however the trial ended in a hung jury. The Court intentionally delayed Ring's retrial to await the Supreme Court's decision in Skilling and the cases of Black v. U.S. and Weyhrauch v. U.S. The prosecution has announced its intent to push forward with a second trial of Ring.

In Georgia news, attorney M. Dewey Bain, of Sugar Hill, Georgia, was sentenced to 5 years and 3 months imprisonment today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia for defrauding clients--including a 97 year-old woman--out of $4.3 million, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Bain entered into trust agreements with clients in which Bain falsely promised he would invest their monies in safe accounts, but instead fraudulently diverted the monies to his own personal use.

In Southeastern news, Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V.--yes, that Snamprogetti Netherlands B.V.--has agreed to pay $240 million in penalties to the government for alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for allegedly bribing officials in Nigeria to obtain engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, according to an FBI press release. Snamprogetti is a Dutch corporation and a wholly owned subsidiary of Snamprogetti S.p.A., an Italian corporation. Snamprogetti was alleged, along with Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. (KBR), Technip S.A. (Technip), and a Japanese engineering and construction company to have engaged in a joint venture that was awarded four EPC contracts by Nigeria LNG Ltd. (NLNG), between 1995 and 2004 to build LNG facilities on Bonny Island. Snamprogetti allegedly caused the venture to hire two agents, Jeffrey Tesler and a Japanese trading company, to pay approximately $172 million in bribes to Nigerian officials. The deferred prosecution agreement was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Snamprogetti also reached a settlement of a related civil action by the SEC.

Sarah Palin E-mail Hacking Case Goes to Jury has been intensively covering here, here, here and elsewhere the trial of David C. Kernell, son of Tennessee State Representative Mike Kernell of Memphis and former University of Tennessee student, who was charged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee with hacking into the electronic mail account of former Governor of Alaska and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2008. The jury received the case today, and is still deliberating. The trial began last week.

Kernell, 22, is charged with guessing the answers to various security questions to gain access to Palin's Yahoo! e-mail account shortly after she was chosen to be Arizona Senator John McCain's running mate during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign. Screenshots, pictures and a new password for the e-mail account were then posted on the website 4Chan. Ten other individuals in the U.S. and abroad proceeded to access the account more than 70 times.

Kernell, who was a 20 year-old economics major at the time, was charged with identity theft and other offenses. Palin herself testified on Friday, and her daughter, Bristol Palin, testified last week. Kernell did not testify.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Weddle argued to the jury yesterday that Kernell intended to do something malicious from the beginning. Authorities seizing Kernell's computer found a New York Times article questioning whether Palin was using private e-mail accounts for government business. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Krotoski quoted Kernell's message on the 4Chan discussion board: "'I'm not going to ruin someone's life' but I'll give you the key, the pass(word)." Weddle cited Kernell's statement to persons who posted the information for him on the website 4Chan "make me proud."

Kernell's attorneys defended that Kernell did not believe that such a high-profile public figure could use such a poorly protected e-mail account. They argued to the jury that Kernell only used information available in newspaper articles and from the official state of Alaska website, and that what Kernell did was stupid and closer to a prank than a crime.

Tom Petters, The "Minnesota Madoff," Gets 50 Years Out of Potential 335 Years for $3.7 Billion Ponzi Scheme

Former Minnesota billionaire and former owner of Polaroid and Sun Country Airlines Tom Petters was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment yesterday by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, according to the Associated Press. Petters, 52, was charged with a $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme--the largest in Minnesota history-- which had over 500 victims and defrauded hedge funds, pastors, missionaries and retirees, among others. His company, PCI, was alleged to have used false purchase orders and bank records to convince investors to finance alleged purchases of electronics which PCI would allegedly resell to retailers such as Sam's Club and Costco. The government contended that the alleged merchandise never existed. Petters was alleged to have taken $400 million of the investments to support his companies and a lavish personal lifestyle. 

Petters was convicted on 20 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in December. Petters told the Court that he was "filled with pain" for the lives which had been destroyed as a result of the conduct, but did not admit guilt. Petters had claimed at trial that he was unaware of the fraud in his organization, Petters Group Worldwide, and that his business associates were responsible. The prosecution had urged that Petters receive the statutory maximum sentence of 335 years; the defense had argued that 4 years would constitute sufficient punishment. He has cooperated with a court-appointed attorney in attempting to recover monies lost by the scheme.

New York Defendant Indicted for $50 Million in Fraud from ATM, Armored Car and Other Businesses

As reflected in an FBI press release, an indictment was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Robert Egan, President of Mount Vernon Money Center (MVMC) on Wednesday charging Egan with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud and six counts of bank fraud for allegedly defrauding banks and other financial institutions of approximately $50 million.

MVMC operated various cash management businesses, including replenishing cash for over 5,300 automated teller machines (ATMs), payroll services for businesses, and an armored car service, Armored Money Services (AMS). MVMC's clients included banks and financial institutions, businesses and universities. MVMC also had several cash vaults to store and process cash from its businesses.

The government alleges that, from 2005 through 2010, Egan and MVMC's Chief Operating Officer, Barnard McGarry, allegedly collected hundreds of millions of dollars from MVMC clients based on false representations that they would not commingle clients' funds or use the funds for purposes other than those specified in MVMC's agreements with the clients. However, Egan and McGarry are alleged to have engaged in a practice known as "playing the float," in which they misappropriated funds from the substantial cash flow into MVMC to their own uses, to pay prior client obligations or to cover operating expenses of MVMC's businesses. Egan and McGarry are also alleged to have commingled its clients' monies in its accounts and cash vaults, and instructed employees to use whatever monies were available to replenish ATM machines. McGarry is alleged to have transferred clients' monies among MVMC's accounts. In addition, both defendants are alleged to have made false representations in reports to ATM clients regarding the amount of funds MVMC allegedly held in its vaults for the clients. MVMC was entrusted with approximately $70 to $75 million by its clients, but allegedly only kept approximately $20 to $25 million in its accounts and vaults.

Egan was arrested last month. A receiver has been appointed to administer MVMC. The press release stated that the case was brought in coordination with the White House's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. Among the officials who addressed the media in conjunction with the press release was the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) Neil Barofsky.

Appeal of Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling to Test Constitutionality of Federal Honest Services Fraud Statute

As noted by Ashby Jones at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of U.S. v. Skilling on Monday at 1 p.m., Eastern Time. The central issue to be argued to the Court is whether the federal honest services fraud statute, 18 United States Code 1346, is "unconstitutionally vague." Mr. Jones rounds up commentary from around the blogosphere on the case.

As noted by Mr. Jones, the honest services fraud statute, Section 846, criminalizes the deprivation of another of the "intangible right to honest services." Congress enacted Section 846 22 years ago following the Supreme Court's decision in McNally v. U.S, which had ended prosecution for honest services as a part of mail or wire fraud. The problem is that Section 846 does not define "honest services." The honest services provision is a favorite of prosecutors, especially in cases where deprivation of money or property, as required in traditional mail or wire fraud cases, may be difficult to establish.

Jeff Skilling is the former Chief Executive Officer of Enron Corporation, which crashed into sudden bankruptcy in 2001. Skilling, former CEO Kenneth Lay and others were charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, making false statements to auditors and insider trading. In May of 2006, Skilling was tried in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and the jury found him guilty on 19 counts. The District Court sentenced him to 292 months imprisonment and ordered him to pay $45 million in restitution.

Skilling appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, arguing that the government used an invalid theory of "honest services" fraud to convict him. The indictment alleged that Skilling conspired with others to, among other things, deprive Enron and its shareholders of the right to the honest services owed by its employees. The Fifth Circuit affirmed Skilling's honest services fraud conviction, noting that it had created an exception to the honest services fraud statute in the related Enron case of U.S. v. Brown, 459 F.3d 509 (5th Cir.2006) where an employer creates a goal, aligns employees' interests to achieve the goal and higher-level management sanction improper conduct to reach the goal. However, the Fifth Circuit held that Skilling's conduct had not been sanctioned by the corporation.

Skilling has appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that lower rulings on the honest services fraud statute have been “a hodgepodge of oft-conflicting holdings, statements, and dicta” that “only the most discriminating lawyer or judge” could understand. Attorney Sri Srinivasan of O’Melveny & Myers will argue on Skilling's behalf before the Court.

Another case calling into question the constitutionality of Section 1346 is the case of newspaper magnate Conrad Black. The Court heard oral arguments in Black's case last December.

Forensic Accountant Lewis Freeman Indicted for Alleged Misappropriation of $6 Million in Funds from Fiduciary Accounts

As reported in the South Florida Business Journal, Lewis B. Freeman, one of the best-known forensic accountants in South Florida was indicted yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Freeman is alleged to have misappropriated funds from fiduciary accounts from 2000 through 2009 by writing checks to himself and his firm, Lewis B. Freeman & Partners, and depositing the funds into the firm's operating account. Freeman is alleged to have misappropriated some $6 million in funds by writing approximately 162 unauthorized checks and using the proceeds to support a lavish lifestyle.

Freeman put his firm into receivership last fall during the federal criminal investigation. The firm previously did millions of dollars in business. The government alleges that out of the $6 million misappropriated, some $2.6 million of clients' monies were lost. Freeman, oddly, worked routinely as an expert for the court in liquidating the assets of companies. According to Freeman's counsel, he turned himself in and is cooperating with authorities. His counsel have stated that he made "serious mistakes," and will "accept the consequences for his actions.” 

Former Head of SK Foods Indicted for Food Fraud and Mislabeling

Frederick Scott Salyer, 54, former owner of  California-based SK Foods, which grows, processes and distributes tomatoes, was indicted on Friday on charges of racketeering, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. Tomatoes from SK Foods are widely used in tomato-based products including sauces, ketchups and juices.

Salyer is alleged to have manipulated the industry through price fixing, bribery and mislabeling. Specifically, he is alleged to have bribed purchasing managers at food companies to guarantee that the companies purchased SK Foods' products over its competitors and for its competitors' pricing information. Salyer is also alleged to have ordered the mislabeling of products  As a result, consumers received dated and moldy products, and products mislabeled as organic at higher prices. In some cases, products as much as three years old with a shelf life of one year, or containing mold levels beyond limits set by the Food and Drug Administration, were alleged to have been placed on the market.

Salyer was arrested earlier this month at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York upon arriving on a flight from Switzerland. He had allegedly fled the U.S. last fall to relocate to a country where he could not be extradited after some of his subordinates pled guilty to charges in relation to the investigation, a joint effort by the FBI, IRS, FDA and Department of Justice Anti-trust Divison, nicknamed Operation Rotten Tomatoes. Salyer is alleged to have arranged for the transfer of millions of dollars to overseas accounts, and to have placed a $7 million home in Pebble Beach on the market. Salyer was denied bail.

SK Foods declared bankruptcy last May and has been acquired by another company.

The 00s:The Decade Technology Transformed the Practice of Law; Chinese Cyber-Attack on L.A. Firm

The Fulton County Daily Report's "The Snark" has illustrated, in a tounge-in-cheek manner, what has indisputably been the biggest change in the practice of law--including criminal law--over the decade just passed--technology. We have noted on this blog before that the technology boom of the last ten and more years has also presented inventive new avenues for crime and has created unusual challenges to the impartiality and sanctity of jury trials.

To be sure, e-mail had become widespread in the legal community by the late 1990s. However, as the comment notes, during the 2000s attorneys truly came into the full realization of the potential for e-mail as a more reliable and permanent way to document interactions between parties. The other edge of the sword is, of course, e-mail's evidentiary potential which can come back to haunt clients in various unpleasant ways. Few indeed are the defense attorneys who have not had at least one case where a client's computer was seized and imaged by the government, only to have e-mails alleged to be incriminating returned as highlights in government reciprocal discovery. While the positive side of e-mail is that it has made communication easy and easily preserved, the negative side of e-mail is... that it has made communication easy and easily preserved. E-mail is forever, and savvy 21st century lawyers would do well to counsel clients to be mindful not only of what they say, but of what they type and (increasingly in the decade ahead) of what they "text."

The comment also notes the changes in practice wrought by two other trends which began in the 90s: the continued spread of computer-assisted legal research and the growth of electronic filing. The need to page through compendious reporter volumes and indexes, or to spend hours at the local law library, has become an increasing rarity. Likewise, attorneys are increasingly relieved of the pressure to race to the courthouse before the clerk's office closes in order to file with the adoption of electronic case filing by more and more courts. The Blog notes that Case Management/Electronic Case Filing "CM/ECF," "PACER", a veritable blessing to both Federal courts and attorneys practicing in them, was first implemented by the Northern District of Ohio in 1996, and today is used by all Federal courts, a development which has heroically saved numerous acres of trees, millions in postage and reliance on the vagaries of the mails for reciept of notice of filings.

We close, fittingly, with a reminder of the challenges that the growth of technology will continue to pose for law and criminal enforcement. Ashby Jones at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports that the Los Angeles firm of Gibson Hoffman & Pancione has alleged that a cyber-attack originating in the People's Republic of China. The firm has alleged that its software code has been stolen by malicious e-mails which appeared to be sent by other members of the firm, and which contained a "Trojan" code enabling the takeover of the firm's computers. The firm coincidentally represents the California-based company CYBERsitter in a $2.2 billion lawsuit against China, alleging that filtering programs used by China contain over 3,000 lines of code illegally taken from content filtering software produced by CYBERsitter. The FBI is investigating the attack.

Comverse Technologies Enters Into $255 Million Settlement Over Backdating of Stock Option Awards; Convicted Former General Counsel Fights On

As reported by, New York-based Comverse Technology, Inc., the worlds largest manufacturer of voice mail software, has entered into a $225 million settlement in a class action brought against it stemming from a backdating scandal. William Sorin, Comverse's former general counsel, and Comverse's former CEO, Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, were charged by the SEC and Federal prosecutors in 2006 with fraudulenty changing the grant dates of stock option awards from 1998 to 2000. In all, Sorin realized $14 million in profits from stock options, approximately $1 million of which was due to backdating. Sorin pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud in 2006, and has already served his sentence of a year and a day in prison. Alexander an Israeli citizen, fled to Namibia to avoid prosecution.

Plaintiffs brought a derivative actions against Comverse in New York Federal and State courts based on the backdating. Alexander has agreed to pay $60 million and Sorin has agreed to pay $1 million to fund the settlement. In exchange, Comverse will drop its lawsuit against the former executives, who will also drop their counterclaims against the company.  The company earlier settled claims relating to the improper backdating and other accounting problems with federal regulators.

Sorin had previously entered into a settlement with the SEC, agreeing to pay $3 million in fines. However, his attorneys have asked the Court to vacate the SEC settlement and judgment, claiming that Federal prosecutors violated promises they made as part of his plea deal. Sorin claims that prosectors agreed not to object to his request to avoid jail time when he agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay the SEC $3 million to settle civil charges, however he alleges that the government reneged on its promise and opposed his request at sentencing.

"J4guar17" a/k/a "Soupnazi" a/k/a Super Hacker Albert Gonzalez Pleads Guilty to One of the Largest Data Thefts in U.S. History

Once again demonstrating the massive potential for crime created by our digital age, 28 year-old Albert Gonzalez pled guilty to two counts of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to payment card networks last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey according to a DOJ press release. Gonzalez was charged with hacking into the computer networks of major financial and retail organizations and stealing data on tens of millions of credit cards and debit cards, in one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history. He gained unauthorized access to the payment card networks of New Jersey-based, Heartland Payment Systems; Texas-based convenience store chain 7-Eleven; and Hannaford Brothers Co. Inc., a Maine-based supermarket chain. He was indicted in New Jersey in August 2009. In September 2009, Gonzalez also pled guilty in the U.S. Distric Court for the District of Massachusetts to 19 counts of conspiracy, computer fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft for hacking into retailers including TJX Companies, BJ’s Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble and Sports Authority. In the same month, he pled guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for hacking into the system of Dave and Buster's, a restaurant chain, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Gonzalez had several servers, or "hacking platforms," and would give access to the servers to other hackers. Gonzalez and others would use the platforms to store malicious software, or "malware," in launching attacks on their victims. Gonzalez's plea agreement states that it was forseeable that Gonzalez and his co-conspirators would have used the malware to steal tens of millions of credit and debit card numbers, affecting more than 250 financial institutions.

Gonzalez tested malware by running multiple anti-virus programs in an attempt to ascertain if the programs detected the malware. According to information in the plea agreement, it was foreseeable to Gonzalez that his co-conspirators would use malware to Gonzalez was indicted in New Jersey in August 2009 for this criminal conduct. His plea agreement provides for a sentence of imprisonment between 17 and 25 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced in the Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey cases in March.

The charges against Gonzalez are staggering in their scope. They also demonstrate that would-be cybercriminals should consider their online aliases carefully, as they may resurface in a Federal indictment, as in the case of Albert Gonzalez a/k/a "j4guar17" a/k/a "soupnazi," etc.

Georgia's Bank Failures Lead to Prosecutions; Atlanta Man Indicted in Relation to Omni National Bank

Georgia leads the nation in bank failures this decade, with 32 failed banks since 2002, 25 of those in 2009 alone, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Fraud has undoubtedly played a substantial role in the failure of many of these banks, and the FDIC and other agencies are especially vigilant in detecting and prosecuting fraud in the wake of bank failures.

Brent Merriel of Atlanta, Georgia, was indicted last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on four counts of aggravated identity theft and two counts of making false statements to the FDIC as announced by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia. Merriel is alleged to have obtained several million worth of loans on properties in his name and the names of family and friends from Omni National Bank (Omni). Omni failed on March 27, 2009, and was taken over by the FDIC. Merriel then asked the FDIC to forgive $2.2 million in loans and to allow him to make a "short sale" of two properties to purchasers. A short sale is a sale of a property for less than the full amount due or owed, which serves to reduce a lender's losses or assist the property owner. However, in Merriel's case, the alleged purchasers were allegedly persons whose identities had been stolen. Merriel is also alleged to have forged sales contracts and loan commitment letters which he submitted to the FDIC.

The release notes that other individuals have been prosecuted relating to Omni, including Mark Anthony McBride, who fraudulently obtained millions in mortgage loans from Omni and other lenders and who pled guilty last April, and Delroy Oliver Davy, who similarly obtained millions in fraudulent loans from Omni and others. It quotes FDIC Office of Inspector General, Southeast Region Special Agent In Charge C. Ed Slagle as stating that FDIC will aggressively investigate and prosecute fraudulent acts uncovered in the FDIC's process of liquidating assets of failed banks in order maximize recoveries. The release also quotes Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) Neil Barofski, Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General Kenneth M. Donohue and U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge, Atlanta Division Martin D. Phanco on fraud and enforcement.

Rothstein Investigation Widens to Include Attorneys, Police Chief; Pols Return Donations

The fallout from Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein's alleged fraudulent scheme to bilk investors out of hundreds of millions continues to fall.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist has told the media that he will return campaign contributions received from Rothstein and employees of his law firm, a total of $76,250. The announcement by Crist follows a pledge by Florida Republican Senate President Jeff Atwater to return donations by Rothstein. On the same day, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat, announced that she would return at least $7,025 in contributions from Rothstein and members of his firm. Crist is running for U.S. Senate, Sink is running for Governor and Atwater is running for Chief Financial Officer. Rothstein is alleged to have made contributions to numerous politicians using ill-gotten gains, and to have illegally reimbursed members of his firm for making contributions. Rothstein and his wife, Kimberly, also held fundraisers for Senator McCain and Governor Crist in one of their waterfront homes.

The campaign contributions have also created potential criminal exposure for lawyers at Rothstein's firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler. Approximately 30 lawyers in the firm, along with 15 employees, spouses and relatives, made approximately $2.2 million in Federal and State campaign contributions, with the largest recipient being the 2008 Presidential campaign of Arizona Senator John McCain. One attorney, Steven Lippman, and his wife contributed approximately $247,000 to Governor Crist,  Senator McCain and other politicians over a span of four years. Federal investigators are looking into the contributions. Several partners in the firm have retained counsel in response to the investigation. Experts have stated that the attorneys should have been aware that they were violating campaign finance laws when Rothstein required the attorneys to make campaign donations as a condition to receiving bonuses.

The fallout has extended further to Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderly. Two Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners have asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Adderly regarding his relationship with Rothstein. Rothstein is alleged to have flown Adderly to New York in December 2008 for a football game, and Adderly personally intervened in an automobile collision involving a friend of Rothstein.

Fisher Auction will auction property of Rothstein's law firm on January 23, at the direction of the firm's trustee, including fountain pens used by Rothstein and the massage chair in the firm's lounge. Rothstein's attorney has opposed the auctioning of photographs of Rothstein withvarious politicians.

Paul Minor's Conviction Affirmed

Back to blogging after taking a several month hiatus in the run up to the successful defense of a criminal defense lawyer in Columbus, Georgia.

As predicted in this post in April, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the convictions of Paul Minor, a former Mississippi plaintiff’s lawyer, and two Mississippi state court judges, Wes Teel and John Whitfield, except for the “devil statute” charges, 18 U.S.C. § 666 (actually, federal program bribery).  The opinion is here.


The tortured history of the case began with an indictment in 2003 centering around campaign loans that Minor made to judges Teel and Whitfield ostensibly in return for favorable treatment in Minor’s cases before their courts. The first trial in 2005 ended in the acquittal of one judge, Oliver Diaz, not guilty verdicts on several counts as to Minor, one not guilty verdict as to Teel, and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining counts, including honest services mail fraud, program bribery and RICO.


A second trial began in 2007 and the defendants were convicted of honest services mail fraud, federal program bribery and Minor was convicted of RICO.


In reversing the federal program bribery convictions, the Court found that although the Mississippi State Court Judges were agents of the Mississippi Administrative Office of the Courts, “[a]s a fundamental matter, Whitfield and Teel’s role in presiding over Marks and Peoples Bank involved the judicial business of the Mississippi courts,” but had no connection with their roles as presiding judges in the cases before them. See pages, 20-22.


Now, an interesting issue as this case moves forward, will be whether Minor and his co-defendants properly preserved any error related to the constitutionality of the honest services counts. (As an aside, the RICO predicates were the 666 charges (now out) and the honest services charges (still viable)). As I see it, the only issue Minor raised regarding the honest services charges relates to whether the district court was required to charge the jury that it needed to find a quid pro quo. See pages, 22-23.


Therefore, Minor may not be able to take advantage of the fact that I see the Supreme Court holding within the near future that 1346 honest services mail and wire fraud law is unconstitutionally vague.

Florida Executive Sentenced in $10.5 Million Embezzlement Scheme

Although it may be considered small change when compared with the fraud of fellow Floridian Scott Rothstein, according to an FBI press release, Gary Ernest Williams, former Chief Financial Officer for Marian Gardens Tree Farm (MGTF) in Groveland, Florida, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment on Monday in the U.S. District Corut for the Middle District of Florida. Williams was charged with embezzling approximately 10.5 million from MGTF since 2000 through falsified checks, use of a credit card in the company's name and making large cash withdrawals which he told bank officials were to be used to pay “employee bonuses.” Willams spent the money on lavish homes, luxury cars, jewelry, drugs, and vacations by private jet. He also failed to failed to pay federal income taxes in the amount of $3,675,000 on the illegally obtained funds.

Williams entered a guilty plea in July. The District Court ordered Williams to pay more than 14 million in restitution to MGFT and to forfeit homes in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and the Bahamas.

Fort Lauderdale Attorney Scott Rothstein Pleads Not Guilty to Information Alleging $1.2 Billion Dollar Ponzi Scheme


In response to allegations uncomfortably similar to those against former New York celebrity lawyer and arch Ponzi-schemer Marc Dreier, Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein, head of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A., appeared in response to a criminal information in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Tuesday. The information charges Rothstein with one count of Racketeering Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); one count of Money Laundering Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h); one count of Mail and Wire Fraud Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; and two counts of Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, as well as criminal forfeiture, U.S. v. Rothstein, 0:09-cr-60331-JIC.

According to the criminal information, available here, from about 2005 through November 2009, Rothstein, and other “known and unknown” unnamed co-conspirators, allegedly unlawfully obtained approximately $1.2 billion from investors through a Ponzi scheme (outdoing even Dreier’s scheme). The Government alleges that Rothstein used false statements, documents and computer records to induce investors to loan money to alleged borrowers based upon fraudulent and fictitious promissory notes and bridge loans. Rothstein allegedly falsely informed investors that his law firm, Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A.’s, clients requested short-term financing for undisclosed business deals and that the clients were willing to pay high rates of return for loans negotiated by Rothstein.

Rothstein also allegedly told investors that they could purchase at a discount confidential settlement agreements in sexual harassment and whistleblower cases in amounts ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. Rothstein allegedly falsely represented that the settlement agreements would be repaid to the investors at face value over time. Rothstein allegedly represented to investors that the settlements were highly confidential in order to protect the reputations of the companies and executives involved; that the plaintiffs preferred to settle the claims rather than purse them in a public forum; that Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A., would disburse the investors’ funds to the plaintiffs; that the firm would make payments to the investors pursuant to the payment schedules in the alleged settlement agreements; that the funds were maintained in designated trust accounts for the investors in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Florida Bar and were verified by independent sources, as well as numerous other alleged false statements regarding the settlement agreements, investment funds and the firm.

To effect the fraud, Rothstein allegedly established numerous trust accounts in Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A.’s name; falsified statements from financial institutions and manufactured online banking information allegedly showing investors’ monies; created false and fictitious settlement agreements and other documents. Among the alleged false and fictitious documents was a court order in a case, purportedly signed by a Federal District Judge, which falsely alleged that Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A.’s clients had prevailed in a lawsuit and were owed $23 million, when in fact the firm had settled the case without the clients’ knowledge and had obligated them to pay $500,000 to the defendant.

The information also alleges that Rothstein allegedly falsely told clients that, in order to recover funds, they had to post bonds to be held in Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A.’s trust account. Over several years, clients wired approximately $57 million to a trust account controlled by Rothstein. Rothstein allegedly created another false Federal court order to conceal the scheme, providing that the funds were to be returned to the clients by a later date.

Rothstein used the funds acquired through the alleged scheme to fund the operations of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A., and to expand the firm. The firm grew to employ approximately 70 attorneys. Rothstein is alleged to have laundered the funds from the scheme through corporations, contributions and large bonuses and gifts to employees. The information alleges that Rothstein used the funds to make contributions to Federal, State and local political candidates in a manner designed to conceal the source of the funds and to circumvent Federal and State limits on campaign contributions; for charitable donations; to purchase controlling interests in restaurants in South Florida; and to hire members of local law enforcement to provide security for Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A., and for Rothstein personally.

The enormous wealth amassed by Rothstein through the alleged scheme is apparent in the Governement’s forfeiture allegations, which seek forfeiture not only of a sum of $1.2 billion, but also of 24 properties in Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale by the Sea, Boca Raton, Hollywood and Plantation, Florida; New York City and Narragansett, Rhode Island, including Rothstein’s 10% ownership in the Miami Beach mansion of late fashion mogul Gianni Versace, “Casa Casuarina.” Forfeiture is also sought of numerous business interests, bank accounts and jewelry, as well as 24 vessels and vehicles purchased by Rothstein, including a 55 foot yacht.

The Government also lists millions in political and charitable contributions by Rothstein which it seeks forfeiture of, including contributions to the Republican Party of Florida; Florida Governor Charlie Crist; Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who is running for governor; and two hospitals.

As reported in the Miami Herald here, and here, Rothstein started Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A., in 2002 as an obscure attorney practicing employment law. Over the next six years, his net worth grew from about $160,000 to tens of millions. Rothstein used flashy wealth and connections in the Broward County social and business communities to lure wealthy persons to invest in his schemes. He befriended the rich and famous, including NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino

George G. Levin, a wealthy Fort Lauderdale resident and hedge fund manager, gave $656 million to Rothstein to invest in settlements purportedly worth $1.1 billion. Levin helped Rothstein market investments in employment and sexual harassment lawsuits to investors, although he is not alleged to have been complicit in Rothstein’s crimes. Another of Rothstein’s clients, car-dealership mogul Ed Morse, claims that Rothstein defrauded him of $57 million, arising from the settlement of a contract dispute with an interior decorator.

Rothstein would allegedly give large bonuses to employees of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A. on the condition that they make campaign contributions to political candidates who Rothstein would specify. The Government has stated that the recipients of the political contributions have returned the contributions. The Florida Democratic Party has returned $200,000 and the Florida Republican Party has given back $150,000. After Crist won the Governor’s race in 2006, he appointed Rothstein to a panel which nominates Broward County judicial candidates. The Florida Democratic Party has called for an investigation of Crist. Rothstein also allegedly paid gratuities to local law enforcement officers to avoid scrutiny.

Rothstein’s scheme began to unravel over Halloween weekend, when investors began calling the firm for overdue payments and discovered the fraud. Rothstein fled to Morocco in October, taking $400,000 to $500,000 in cash with him and wiring $16 million to Casablanca. Rothstein reportedly sent e-mails to members of his firm that he was contemplating suicide, but he returned to the U.S. on a private jet in early November. He met with Federal authorities and provided details regarding his Ponzi scheme. FBI and IRS agents raided Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A.’s law offices, and seized Rothstein’s real and personal property. Rothstein agreed to waive indictment, an indication that he is cooperating with the Government, although Rothstein’s counsel has denied that he has any deal with the Government.

The Government’s information does not name Rothstein’s alleged co-conspirators, however news reports suggest members of Rothstein's inner circle at the law firm, and officers at Toronto Dominion Bank, where the investor trust accounts were held.

Rothstein’s alleged Ponzi scheme has been called the largest in the history of South Florida by Federal officials. The Florida Bar has disbarred Rothstein for stealing from the firm’s trust account. Rothstein, Levin and TD Bank are also being sued by a group of investors for more than $100 million.

Rothstein appeared in court on Tuesday in casual attire with a confident demeanor and pled not guilty to the information. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Rosenbaum ordered Rothstein jailed pending trial based on Rothstein’s flight to Morocco. Rothstein is represented by attorney Marc Nurik, oddly of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A. He faces up to 100 imprisonment if convicted.


Jury Begins Deliberating Rep. William Jefferson's Fate Following Over 2 & 1/2 Hours of Jury Instructions

As reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Judge T.S. Ellis, III, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia read instructions to the jury yesterday which lasted over 2 & 1/2 hours, and the jury retired for its deliberations in the case against former U.S. Representative William Jefferson. The jury deliberated for about four hours and will re-convene to continue deliberations this morning.

The jury weighing the evidence in the six week long trial of Jefferson on 16 criminal counts, including racketeering, honest services fraud and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, consists of two white males, six white females, two black males and two black females. Jefferson's case is the first time the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has been applied to a public official. The Court sent three alternate jurors home yesterday, instructing them to remain "pristine" with regard to their exposure to information regarding the case.Jefferson's lead attorney, Robert Trout, told reporters that Jefferson intends to be present at Court each morning when the jury arrives.

Closing arguments were heard earlier in the week, with numerous media outlets and journalists from Louisiana in attendance.

Trial Ends in Case of Former Representative William Jefferson; Jury Deliberations to Begin Today

The trial of former Representative William Jefferson, which has gone on for six weeks in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, will come to an end today. As reported by Ashby Jones at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and UPI, both sides gave their closing arguments yesterday. Judge T.S. Ellis will give jury instructions and likely send the case to the jury this morning.

The case is best known for the infamous discovery of $90,000 in cash stuffed in boxes for burgers and pie crusts in the freezer at Jefferson's home by federal agents. Jefferson was indicted in 2007 on 16 counts of bribery, racketeering, and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The government charged Jefferson with using his position to promote business ventures in West Africa in exchange for cash payments for his family.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Bellows argued during the govenrment's closing that Jefferson allegedly schemed to give at least $100,000 in cash (the "freezer money") to the Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, as a bribe in exchange for granting rights to a telecommunications company with ties to Jefferson's family. The government also played video and audio tapes of meetings between Jefferson and Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody, who was working for the government as an informant. In one video, Jefferson supposedly informed Mody that the cash would be "doled out" to "make sure the hook is in there," and on another tape Jefferson allegedly referred to the bribe as "a goodwill present."

The defense maintained during trial that Jefferson's conduct was stupid or unethical, but not criminal. Defense attorney Robert Trout told the jury during his closing arguments that the government wanted to make Jefferson's actions a crime when it was really a "gray area." He told the jury that Jefferson only agreed to give the money to Abubaker in order to please Ms. Mody.

Prior to closing arguments, Judge Ellis refused to dismiss an obstruction of justice count against Jefferson. Jefferson faces a lengthy prison sentence if convicted.


DeKalb County Man Arrested in Multimillion Dollar Ponzi Scheme; Victims Included Parents


As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB Radio, Anthony Ray, a DeKalb County resident, solicited money from investors by promising them large returns from real estate investments by his company, Key Funding Group. He would frequent local churches to locate victims, making presentations to the congregations. Ray lulled his victims by giving them back portions of their investment and falsely referring to them as returns. Ray hosted his victims at several locations around the Atlanta area, including his condominium in Buckhead as well as a $680,000 home in Decatur, Georgia, which belonged to one of his victims and in which he ran his office. In all, Ray stole at least $5 million from over 30 investors.

Ray stole $160,000 from his own parents. He started Key Funding Group with his father, Calvin Ray, 70, and took out large loans using his father’s identity and his parents’ home as collateral. His parents subsequently turned him in. Ray’s twin brother, Antonio, told reporters that Ray took everything his parents had, and that their father, decided that they had to prosecute.

Ray previously served five years in prison for stealing his brother's identity.



Sir Robert Allen Stanford's Continuing Pretrial Detention Blues

Sir Robert Stanford has filed a Motion for Relief from Oppressive Jail Conditions. Stanford is currently being held at the Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas. The Motion alleges that temperatures have reached 100 degrees and that the cell in which Stanford is being housed in a cell with 8 to 10 other men and with no windows or air conditioning. Stanford requests transfer to the Federal Detention Center in downtown Houston. The Motion also asserts, as a ground for transfer, the fact that the government has provided discovery in electronic form and the Joe Corley Facility does not permit the use of electronic devices. Stanford's counsel, Dick DeGuerin, claims that he has tried to work these issues out with the U.S. Marshals Service and the staff of the Joe Corley Detention Facility, but to no avail.

A status conference has been set in Stanford's case for September 10, which the defendants moved to continue from August 17. Meanwhile, Stanford's appeal of the District Court's denial of pretrial release is listed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, U.S. v. Stanford, Case No. 09-20444.

While in no way meaning to detract from the charges against Stanford and his codenfendants, which are extremely serious in magnitude, this Blog notes that arch-Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff and celebrity attorney-turned-crook Marc Dreier were both granted pretrial release and were confined to their residences with electronic monitoring devices. Given that the government has frozen all of Stanford's assets effectively starving his defense of funding, and that the defense has alleged deliberate misrepresentations by the prosecution in arguing for pretrial detention, pretrial release appears to be appropriate in Stanford's case. We will await the hopefully speedy resolution of the bail issue by the Fifth Circuit.

FBI Operation "Bid Rig" Nabs 44 Suspects in New Jersey Public Corruption, Illegal Organ Transplant and Designer Merchandise Schemes


The 44 public officials and other persons arrested in the massive sweep on Thursday by the FBI, the result of efforts by the convicted son of a rabbi, include:

Daniel Van Pelt, State Assemblyman;

Peter Cammarano III, Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey;

Dennis Elwell, Mayor of Secaucus, New Jersey;

Anthony Suarez, Mayor of Ridgefield, New Jersey;

Leona Beldini, Deputy Mayor of Jersey City;

Mariano Vega, President of the Jersey City Council, Commissioner with the Jersey City Housing Authority and Director of Parks, Engineering and Planning for Hudson County, New Jersey;

L. Harvey Smith, President of the Jersey City Council and former State Assemblyman;

Lou Manzo former State Assemblyman;

Edward Cheatam, Jersey City Housing Authority Commissioner and Hudson County Affirmative Action officer;

Michael Schaffer an employee of the North Hudson Sewerage Authority and former Hoboken Councilman;

John Guarini, city taxi inspector and former 13th District Congressional candidate

Denis Jaslow, former 32nd District State Senate candidate;

Guy Catrillo, Michael J. Manzo and LaVern Webb Washington, former Jersey City City Council candidates;

Richard Greene, former aide to L. Harvey Smith;

Joseph Cardwell, Jack Shaw, political operatives;

Also Moshe Altman, Charles Amon, Joseph Castagna, Schmulik Cohen, Levi Deutsch, Yeshayahu Ehrental, Mordchai Fish, Yolie Gertner, David S. Goldhirsh, Shimon Haber, Eliahu Ben Haim, Itzak Friedlander, Saul Kassin, Maher A. Khalil, Ron Manzo, Edmond Nahum, Abraham Pollack, Levi Izhak Rosenbaum, Lori Serrano, Jack Shaw, Vincent Tabbachino, Jeffrey Williamson, Lavel Schwartz, Binyomin Spira, Naftoly Weber and Arye Weiss.

As reported by various sources here, here and here, the arrests were part of a 10-year, two-track investigation by the FBI, code named “Bid Rig” which uncovered three criminal schemes: bribery of public officials; an international money laundering ring operating between Deal, New Jersey, and Israel; and trafficking in illegal kidneys and Gucci bags. The schemes were uncovered by a confidential informant had been charged with bank fraud in 2006 and agreed to work with the FBI. Five rabbis from New Jersey and New York were among those arrested. Hundreds of federal agents raided the suspects’ homes in New Jersey and New York. There were so many arrestees that they had to be brought to FBI headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, by bus. One religious leader arrived in a Mercedes-Benz. Bail was set as high as $3 million for some of the suspects.

FBI Special Agent Ed Kahrer stated to reporters that New Jersey has one of the worst, if not the worst, public corruption problems in the nation, and that corruption has become “engrained” in New Jersey’s “political cult.” Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr., announced that the conspiracy, which was headed by rabbis cloaked their criminal activity in a “facade of rectitute.”

Investigators stated that they have hundreds of hundreds of hours of video and audio recordings containing evidence of money laundering and bribery.

The Public Corruption and Bribery Cases

A criminal complaint filed against Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, 32, alleges that Cammarano accepted a bribe in exchange for giving priority to an FBI informant posing as a real estate developer wanting to develop property in Hoboken. Hoboken’s waterfront contains prime real estate across from Manhattan. The informant is believed to have been Solomon Dwek, who was arrested in 2007 and charged with bank fraud for bouncing a $25 million check. Dwek is the son of Rabbi Isaac Dwek of the Deal Synagogue in Deal, New Jersey, which was raided by the FBI on Thursday. Dwek told the conspirators that he was in bankruptcy and was interested in hiding his assets.

The informant met Cammarano while he was running for Mayor and told Cammarano that he would give him $10,000. The complaint alleges that Cammarano promised the informant that he would sponsor the plans and treat the informant like a “friend.” Michael Schaffer, a North Hudson Utilities Authority commissioner and former Hoboken Councilman, allegedly acted as a middle man for the bribe.

Cammarano has only been in office for three weeks. He allegedly told the informant that those who oppose him get “ground into powder.” When the discussion turned to a possible runoff election with Cammarano’s challenger Dawn Zimmer, who lost the election by only 161 votes, Cammarano allegedly told the informant “I could be indicted and still get 85 to 95 percent of the vote.” Cammarano’s attorney, Joseph Hayden, has made a statement that Cammarano intends to fight the charges.

Cammarano is charged with allegedly accepting a total of $25,000 in cash bribes. Dennis Elwell, 64, Mayor of Secaucus is charged with allegedly accepting a $10,000 cash bribe and Anthony Suarez, 42, Mayor of Ridgefield, is also charged with allegedly accepting a $10,000 cash payment—for his legal defense fund.

L. Harvey Smith, Jersey City Council President, and several other current and former Jersey City public officials also are accused of allegedly accepting money to help the fake developer gain permits and approvals. Deputy Mayor of Jersey City Leona Beldini is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion for allegedly accepting $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

FBI agents raided the home and office of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner and former State Senator Joe Doria as part of the investigation. Doria resigned on Thursday afternoon. Officials have not stated whether he will face charges.

The Money Laundering and Black Market Organ and Designer Goods Cases

Five rabbis from Deal and Brooklyn were charged with alleged money laundering and sale of fake designer bags. The rabbis were approached by Dwek and dealt with him, despite the fact that it was well known that he had been charged by the government. Dwek’s dealings with the rabbis eventually uncovered the public corruption case when a Jersey City building inspector accepted a $20,000 bribe. Rabbi Saul Kassin of Deal is charged with allegedly laundering more than $200,000. Mordchai Fish, a rabbi at Congregation Sheves Achim, and his brother, Lavel Schwartz, laundered nearly $600,000 for Dwek, giving him cash and taking a 15% cut.

Agents raided “cash houses” run by associates of the rabbis, including a charity called Bnoth Jerusalem and a beeper store.

Levy Rosenbaum, a Brooklyn resident, was charged in a criminal complaint with allegedly conspiring to broker a sale of a human kidney for transplant for $160,000. The complaint further alleged that Rosenbaum had been selling kidneys from vulnerable persons in Israel for 10 years, which he would purchase for $10,000 and sell in the U.S. for $160,000.

The public corruption scandals will undoubtedly figure into the current U.S. Senate contest between Senator Jon Corzine and former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who claims to have obtained 130 convictions of elected and appointed officials on corruption charges.


Attorney General Holder's Remarks on the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program

On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces and Asset Forfeiture Program's National Leadership Conference. Mr. Holder spoke regarding the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program, an inter-agency program established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard in cooperation with the Department of Justice Criminal Division, Tax Division and its U.S. Attorney’s Offices, as well as state and local law enforcement. Its mission is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.

Mr. Holder praised the track record of OCDETF and the Asset Forfeiture Program. He mentioned that, since the inception of the Attorney General's Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) List in 2002, OCDETF has dismantled or disrupted over 1,2000 CPOT and CPOT-linked organizations.

The Attorney General discussed the innovation of OCDETF in establishing the OCDETF Fusion Center to gather intelligence on drug trafficking and money laundering organizations from human and electronic sources in its "Compass" database. Mr. Holder also stated that the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center -- or "IOC-2"--has recently entered into a partnership with the OCDETF Fusion Center to add data to the Compass database in order to "broaden our capability to attack organized crime in all its forms."

Mr. Holder also remarked on the success of permanent OCDETF Strike Forces in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Tampa, San Juan, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, with an additional Strike Force planned for El Paso. He mentioned that OCDETF has begun placing Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) Teams in the Atlanta and Houston Strike Forces, which permit agents to rapidly capture and exploit evidence and permit prosecutors to quickly develop trial exhibits.

The Attorney General cited the national security threat of the Mexican drug cartels. Mr. Holder furthermore discussed the success of the Asset Forfeiture Program and noted that, since 1984, more than $13 billion in net federal forfeiture proceeds have been deposited into the Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund and more than $4.5 billion has been equitably shared with more than 8,000 state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide, thereby supplementing their constrained resources without further taxing the public. The Attorney General stated that, in fiscal year 2008 alone, approximately $500 million was paid to more 39,000 victims.

Mr. Holder also praised Operation Honor Student, which involved a task force led by the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and resulted in the forfeiture of $2.7 million from the accounts of GeneScience, one of the largest biopharmaceutical companies in China which had been involved in the illegal distribution of Human Growth Hormone into the United States. He noted that the task force employed a new statutory vehicle-- 18 U.S.C. § 981(k) --enacted as part of the Patriot Act and used for the first time, which permitted the Government to seize the funds, physically located in China, from the corresponding accounts of Chinese banks in New York. Task force agents estimate that at the time of the investigation, GeneScience manufactured approximately 90% of the hGH being illegally sold and distributed in the United States.

Cap and Trade/H.R. 2454 New Criminal Provision: "Fraud and false statements in connection with regulated allowances" (Proposed Amendment to 18 U.S.C. § 1041)

New legislation typically means new criminal laws, and the White House's and Congress' recent ‘‘American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,’’ H.R. 2454, better known as the "Waxman-Markey Bill" or "Cap and Trade Bill," is certainly no exception. The bill is over 1,000 pages long and, for those with copious amounts of time, may be viewed in its entirety here. H.R. 2454 was introduced on May 15, 2009, and narrowly passed in the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009, by a vote of 219 to 212. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill sometime this Fall.

FCDB seeks to keep readers and practitioners alike abreast of changes in criminal law posed by such new legislation. Somewhat surprisingly, a search of H.R. 2454 reveals just one criminal provision, Section 1041, page 1045, in Part IV of the bill entitled "Carbon Market Assurance," which provides:

§ 1041. Fraud and false statements in connection with regulated allowances
        Whoever in connection with a transaction involving a regulated allowance (as defined in section 401(a) of the Federal Power Act, as added by section 341 of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009), knowingly—
        (1) makes or uses a materially false or misleading statement, writing, representation, scheme,
or device; or
        (2) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device any material fact, shall be fined not more than $5,000,000 (or $25,000,000 in the case of an organization) or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.
        (2) The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 47 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:
‘‘1041. Fraud and false statements in connection with regulated allowances.’’

A "regulated allowance" is defined in Section 401 of H.R. 2454 as "any emission allowance, compensatory allowance, offset credit, or Federal renewable electricity credit established or issued under the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009." The proposed changes would be to 18 U.S.C. § 1041, which currently prohibits fraud in connection with a major disaster or emergency benefits.

The Waxman-Markey/Cap and Trade legislation amends the Federal Power Act to require corporations which emit pollutants such as carbon to hold the allowances, which represent the right to emit a certain amount of pollutant. It also would create “regulated allowance derivatives,” which are financial instruments derived from the allowances. The derivative instruments would be purchased and traded by corporations, financial institutions and funds. The proposed change to 18 U.S.C. § 1041 represents a typical fraud/false statement criminal provision for new legislation, albeit with stiff penalties.

Sir Allen Stanford Remains in Custody Pending Appeal

As we have noted, the prosecution of wealthy, international financier Sir Robert Allen Stanford has been characterized from the outset by vigorous disputes over bond for Stanford. The prosecution has argued that Stanford poses a risk of flight given his international connections and the potential that he possesses resources hidden overseas. The defense, led by attorney Dick DeGuerin, has hit back, arguing that Stanford possesses considerable ties to the U.S. and voluntarily surrendered himself, and further charging that the prosecution has made numerous knowing misrepresentations in arguing against bond for Stanford.

The U.S. magistrate judge had ordered Stanford to be released on $500,000 bond, however the District Court Judge reversed the order and ordered Stanford to remain in custody. Last Friday, Stanford's attorneys appealed the Court's bond determination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The government is certainly pulling out all the stops in putting pressure on Stanford, who is charged in an alleged Ponzi scheme which allegedly lost investors $7 billion. Not only has it managed to deny him bond, but it has frozen his assets and those of his companies. Yesterday, the defense was granted permission by the Court to file a motion regarding attorney's fees ex parte and under seal.


"Nuwaubian" Leader and Mass Child Molestor Dwight York Seeks to Vacate 135 Year Sentence Based on Alleged Prosecutorial Misconduct

As reported in the Macon Telegraph, Dwight "Malachi" York, former leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors who was indicted and convicted on over 100 counts of child molestation in April 2004 and setenced to 135 years, has filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia to vacate his sentence. York, who has been a minister and a musician, is best know as the founder of "Nuwaubianism," an unorthodox religious sect established in the 1970s. In 1993, York moved the Nuwaubians from upstate New York to a compound in Putnam County, Georgia, near Eatonton. York was arrested for sexually molesting dozens of children in 2002. The charges against York were truly astounding and hideous in their magnitude--author Bill Osinsky, in the fact sheet for his book Ungodly, reveals that state prosecutors literally had to cut back the number of counts listed in the indictment from well over 1,000 to slightly more than 200 because "they feared that a jury simply would not believe the magnitude of York's evil."

York has now filed a motion alleging that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents threatened witnesses to give perjured testimony against him, as well as alleging that the prosecution used unauthenticated tapes of York having sex with minors to taint the jury. The motion attached affidavits from witnesses in York's trial, including one by a witness who alleges that FBI agents took him from his family and transported him to a home in Milledgeville and pointed guns at him until he agreed to give information against York. York is currently incarcerated at the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.


Dreier Sentencing Next Monday: Defense Wants 10 to 13 Years/Government Wants 145 Years or Life

As reported by, the sentencing of celebrity attorney and Ponzi schemer Marc Dreier is scheduled for next Monday, July 13. Dreier was arrested last December for defrauding investors and clients of more than $740 million through a series of schemes. A full history of the Dreier saga is set forth here. He pled guilty on May 11 to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, one count of money laundering, one count of securities fraud and five counts of wire fraud and has remained under house arrest in his luxury apartment in Manhattan.

Dreier's attorney, Gerald L. Shargel, filed a sentencing memorandum on Tuesday requesting a sentence for Dreier of between 10 years and 12 years and 7 months. Shargal asserted that Dreier has already started to be punished through his public disgrace, the loss of his law firm and possession, and "the shame and suffering that his actions have brought upon his family."

However, the prosecution, headed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan R. Streeter, has filed a sentencing memorandum aiming for a higher sentence for Dreier--145 years in prison, or, in the alternative, "a term of years that would both assure that Dreier will remain in prison for life and emphatically promote general deterrence."

The government's recommended sentence for Dreier is a mere 5 years less than the 150 year sentence imposed two weeks ago on the largest Ponzi scheme fraudster in history, Bernard Madoff (as massive as Dreier's crimes were, Madoff defrauded investors of exponentially more money). Dreier is currently 59. The proposed 145 years aside (and 145 years before his sentencing date--June 13, 1864--Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee had just concluded one of the bloodiest battles in American history at Cold Harbor, Virginia) any sentence imposed by the Court is all but guaranteed to ensure that Dreier spends the rest of his life behind bars. Although Drier's fraud, as massive as it is, is only a small fraction of the damage caused by Madoff, the record for a white collar criminal sentence is actually 845 years, imposed on Shalom Weiss in 2000 for a $450 million mortgage and insurance scheme against Florida pensioners (to be eligible for release today, even counting "good time," Weiss would have had to have started his sentence in 1290--the year Edward I of England passed the statute of Quia Emptores, which reformed the feudal land system). You can enjoy Money Central's list of the ten longest white-collar criminal sentences here.

Indictment in the Sir Robert Allen Stanford Case/Stanford to Be Arraigned in Houston Today

Sir Robert Allen Stanford is scheduled to be arraigned today on conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction charges in Houston in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Stanford is represented by attorneys Dick DeGuerin and Sean Ryan Buckley, of the Houston firm of DeGuerin and Dickson.

According to the docket for the case, the Government obtained its 21-count indictment, which can be viewed here, last Thursday and promptly moved to seal (i.e. prevent public access to) it, and then unsealed it on Friday shortly before Stanford’s arrest.

The Court will likely revisit the issue of whether Stanford is entitled to release before trial. On Friday, the Court ordered co-defendants Mark Kuhrt and Gilberto Lopez released on a $100,000 unsecured bond. However, given Stanford’s considerable wealth and ties abroad, any amount of bond imposed in his case will undoubtedly be far higher, if Stanford is granted pre-trial release at all, that is. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia determined that Stanford posed a high risk of flight, and denied bond.

The case will be tried before U.S. District Judge David Hitter, a brief description of whom can be found here.

Sir Robert Allen Stanford Indicted in Alleged Second Largest Ponzi Scheme in U.S. History

The writers of Federal Criminal Defense Blog have been busy writing on other matter and apologize for the brief hiatus. Much has happened in the sphere of white collar crime even during our short absence, most notably developments in the two largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history, and we have some catching up to do.

We’ll start with the second largest—an indictment indictment against billionaire Texas financier Sir Robert Allen Stanford, 59, was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Friday according to the Associated Press  and the BBC. The 50-page indictment alleges that Stanford and six other defendants with allegedly perpetrated a $7 billion Ponzi-style fraud. It charges Stanford and the other defendants with 21 counts, including 7 counts of wire fraud, 10 counts of mail fraud, conspiracy to obstruct an investigation for the Securities and Exchange Commission, obstruction of an investigation by the SEC and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Defendants Laura Pendergest-Holt, Gilberto Lopez and Mark Kuhrt are executives of Stanford Financial Group. Defendant Leroy King, a former bank regulator for the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, allegedly accepted more than $100,000 in bribes from the other defendants in order to allow the alleged scheme to continue.

The indictment alleges that the defendants sold certificates of deposit issued by Stanford International Bank, based in Antigua, to investors, promising large returns. The defendants allegedly made false claims to investors regarding the growth of Stanford Financial Group’s assets.

The scheme had approximately 30,000 investors. Stanford is alleged to have diverted more than $1.6 billion in investment funds in personal loans to himself. More than $1 billion in investment money is allegedly unaccounted for. Stanford is also charged in the indictment with allegedly conspiring to obstruct an SEC proceeding. Stanford Financial Group’s finance chief, James M. Davis, is cooperating with investigators. Davis has been charged with fraud and obstruction in a separate indictment.

Stanford was the owner of a newspaper, two restaurants, and a development company in Antigua, and was a cricket enthusiast and owner of the Stanford cricket grounds in Antigua. In 2008, Stanford staged a $20 million, winner-takes-all, match between a West Indian XI and England at the grounds. In 2006, Stanford became the first American to be knighted by Antigua and Barbuda.

Stanford is represented by attorney Dick DeGuerin, who has issued a statement to the press that Stanford is innocent of the charges. Stanford has made repeated statements as to his innocence and has alleged that no money was lost.

Stanford surrendered to the FBI on Thursday and had his initial appearance on Friday. U.S. Magistrate Judge Hannah Lauck determined that Stanford posed a flight risk and ordered him to remain in custody pending a future detention hearing in Houston. Several governments have frozen his assets. Stanford faces as much as 250 years in prison if convicted.

Syed Haris Ahmed Trial: Allegations


By way of background, the Government originally charged Syed Haris Ahmed in a sealed indictment filed on March 23, 2006. The Government obtained a Superseding Indictment on July 19, 2006. It has charged Ahmed and his co-defendant, Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, in violation of Title 18 United States Code Sections 956 and 2332b; one count of providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, in violation of Title 18, Sections 956, 2332b and 2339A; one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, in violation of Title 18, Section 2339B; and one count of attempting to provide material support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, in violation of Title 18, Section 2339B.

The Government’s Superseding Indictment contains the following facts and allegations:

Ahmed was born in Pakistan in 1984 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Sadequee, who is allegedly nicknamed “Shifa,” was born in Virginia in 1986, and is of Bangladeshi descent.

In or around late 2004, Ahmed and Sadequee and another person engaged in alleged paramilitary training, including with paintball guns, in Northwest Georgia.

On or about February 26, 2005, Ahmed and Sadequee traveled to Toronto, Canada, by bus. While in Toronto, Ahmed and Sadequee allegedly met in person with “supporters of violent jihad” and “discussed strategic locations in the United States that were suitable for terrorist attack, including military bases and oil storage facilities and refineries.” Ahmed, Sadequee and the others allegedly also “explored how they might disrupt the world-wide Global Positioning System (GPS)” and “a plan for members of the group to travel to Pakistan to seek and receive paramilitary training that they would then use to engage in violent jihad.”

After returning to Atlanta, in or about March or April 2005, Ahmed and Sadequee further discussed these plans, and also the possibility of attacking Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia.

At or around this time, Sadequee was allegedly in communication with Younis Tsouli, an unindicted co-conspirator in the United Kingdom.

On or about April 10 and 11, 2005, Ahmed and Sadequee traveled to Washington, D.C., in Ahmed’s pickup truck. On April 11, Ahmed and Sadequee allegedly “made short digital video recordings… of symbolic and infrastructure targets of potential terrorist attacks in the Washington, D.C., area, including the United States Capitol; the headquarters building of the World Bank…; the Masonic Temple in Alexandria, Virginia; and a group of large fuel storage tanks near I-95 in northern Virginia.”

On returning to Atlanta, Ahmed allegedly gave the video clips to Sadequee so that he could send the clips to supporters of violent jihad abroad. Sadequee allegedly sent the video clips to Tsouli in the United Kingdom and Tsouli stored the clips on his computer along with other materials relating to violent jihad.

Between March and July 2005, Sadequee allegedly provided Ahmed with the contact information for Abu Umar, an unindicted co-conspirator, and told Ahmed that Abu Umar could assist Ahmed with obtaining paramilitary training in Pakistan. On or about July 17, 2005, Ahmed traveled from Atlanta to Pakistan for the alleged purpose of studying in a madrassa and then obtaining paramilitary training to engage in violent jihad in Kashmir or other locations, including the U.S. Ahmed is alleged to have intended to join Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (“Army of the Righteous”). Ahmed was allegedly unsuccessful in his attempts to enter a madrassa or to obtain paramilitary training, and returned to Atlanta.

On or about August 18, 2005, Sadequee traveled from Atlanta to Bangladesh to allegedly get married and to pursue violent jihad. Sadequee was stopped as he traveled through John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and was discovered to allegedly have two compact discs concealed in the lining of his suitcase which contained a Fairfax County, Virginia, Visitor’s Center map of the Washington area, including the sites of four potential terrorist targets which Sadequee and Ahmed had videotaped in April 2005. Sadequee was interviewed by federal agents and allegedly falsely stated that he had traveled to Toronto alone.

On or about August 19, 2005, Ahmed returned to Atlanta from Pakistan and was interviewed by federal agents at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. Ahmed allegedly made false and misleading statements about his travel to Canada and Pakistan, allegedly stating that he had made the trips to visit friends and family and to attend a religious school.

In the Fall of 2005, Ahmed allegedly researched shaped explosive charges and methods to defeat surveillance by government authorities. He also allegedly cautioned an individual to avoid discussing certain topics over the telephone.

On or about November 27, 2005, Ahmed allegedly told a supporter of violent jihad of his intent to go abroad again to train for, and engage in, violent jihad, and told the individual to read the indictment against Jose Padilla. At or around this time, Ahmed allegedly reviewed a periodical for gun enthusiasts.

In early 2006, Ahmed allegedly engaged in efforts to detect and evade suspected government surveillance. In March of 2006, agents from the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force engaged in a series of interviews with Ahmed, in which Ahmed allegedly attempted to conceal the true nature of his, Sadequee’s and their alleged co-conspirators’ discussions, activities and plans. After the interviews began, Ahmed communicated with Sadequee in Bangladesh and warned him about the FBI’s interest in their activities.


Syed Haris Ahmed Trial: Day 1


The trial of Syed Haris Ahmed is Georgia’s most significant terrorism case and we will collect for readers daily information on the trial and additional information. Today’s information on the Ahmed/Sadequee Trial comes from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSBTV and CNN.

Ahmed is 24, an Atlanta area native and a former student at Georgia Tech. Ahmed waived his right to jury trial, and his case is being tried before District Court Judge William S. Duffey in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia without a jury. Jack Martin, of Martin Brothers, P.C., is representing Ahmed. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney is representing the United States. Ahmed’s co-defendant, Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, will be tried in August. Stephanie Kearns of the Federal Defender Program is representing Sadequee.

On Monday, Mr. Martin gave his opening statements to the Court, describing Ahmed as a confused, frustrated and immature young man who “fell prey” to websites espousing extremist views. Mr. Martin characterized the alleged plans for terrorist acts as “passing random thoughts, momentary ideas, childish fantasies, unformed, inchoate notions.” Mr. Martin argued that Ahmed had the ability to commit the alleged acts but said “No.” He stated that Ahmed’s idea of paramilitary training was shooting paintball guns with a friend in the North Georgia woods.

Mr. McBurney argued that Ahmed “one step removed from the bomb throwers” and intended to wage violent jihad. Mr. McBurney argued that Ahmed was a would-be terrorist who went to Pakistan to join the Taliban. He said that the videos made by Ahmed while allegedly “casing” locations in Washington, D.C., including the Capitol and the Pentagon, were intended to prove to terrorists overseas that Ahmed had access to Washington’s “backyard” and could get in close to targets. McBurney said the government’s case is about supporting terrorism and not actually “pulling the trigger or dropping the bomb.”

FBI Special Agent Mark Richards testified for the government. During Agent Richard’s testimony, the government showed some of the videos. In one video of the World Bank Building, Ahmed bobbed up and down so much that Mr. Martin asked Special Agent Richards “If a terrorist was attacking on a pogo stick, this might be useful, right?” However, another video shows Ahmed and Sadequee driving past the Pentagon with Sadequee stating “This is where our brothers attacked.”


Madoff Pleads, Describes Fraudulent Scheme, Is "Deeply Sorry and Ashamed"

Bernard Madoff pled guilty this morning to all charges in the criminal complaint against him in the Southern District of Georgia and United States District Judge Denny Chin accepted the plea, as reported at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and elsewhere. Judge Chin also revoked Madoff's bond and remanded him to custody. Madoff's sentencing is scheduled for June 16.

In his allocution, the full text of which is available at the WSJ, Madoff admitted that he operated a Ponzi scheme through his business, Bernard L. Madoff Securities LLC. He admitted that he would receive funds from clients for investment which he never invested but instead deposited in a bank account at Chase Manhattan Bank. Madoff stated that when his clients wanted to cash out their gains or principal, he would pay them with other clients' monies from the account. Madoff admitted that he induced investors through a purported “split strike conversion strategy,” in which the client's money would allegedly be invested in a number of common stocks within the Standard & Poor’s 100 Index, and intermittently in Government-issued securities, allegedly selling option contracts on the stocks to limit his clients' liability caused by stock losses.

Madoff admitted to lying to clients and sending false trade confirmations and account statements. He also admitted to making false  certified audit reports and financial statements to the SEC and giving false testimony during an SEC hearing in 2006. Later, he concealed his fraud by wiring money from the U.S. to a United Kingdom corporation, Madoff Securities International Ltd., in order to create an appearance of actual securities transactions.

Madoff expressed remorse and shame for his actions, and asserted that he believed the scheme would end and that he would be able to extricate himself and his clients from the scheme. He also sought to protect his family to some degree, by stating that the other activities of his business, which were managed by his brother and his sons, were legitimate.

Commentators have remarked on the strange absence of any conspiracy allegation in the criminal complaint against Madoff, however this would not prevent the prosecution from bringing subsequent charges against others, including Madoff's family members. The docket sheet for the case reveals that Madoff entered into an agreement to forfeit property to the government back in December 2008.

Gillen Withers & Lake LLC is headed by former federal prosecutors who vigorously defend and represent their clients at every stage of the process, with an outstanding track record. Contact us at (404) 842-9700 (Atlanta) or (912) 447-8400 (Savannah).

CEO Convicted in $150 Million Hedge Fund Scheme

     Kirk Wright founded and was Chief Executive Officer of Atlanta-based International Management Associates (IMA), which managed several hedge funds, as reported by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. By 2006, IMA had thousands of clients, had received more than $150 million in investments and also had offices in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. However, IMA actually lost almost all the money invested, yet Wright falsely reported monthly gains to investors. At the same time, Wright diverted millions to his personal use, spending the money on a half million dollar wedding, multiple properties in Atlanta and California, luxury vehicles, jewelry and on relatives.

     When several investors requested distributions early in 2006, IMA collapsed and the investors, including several National Football League players, received bad checks and filed suit against IMA. Wright proceeded to take $500,000 in cash from the company and fled. The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a nationwide manhunt and arrested Wright in May of 2006 at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, finding him in possession of numerous pieces of false identification and equipment for making false identifications.

     Wright was charged with mail fraud, securities fraud and money laundering and was convicted following a two week trial in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. He faces up to 710 years in prison and $16 million in fines.

Georgia Tech Employee Pleads Guilty in P-Card Scheme

   Donna Rene Gamble was an employee of the Georgia Institute of Technology. As a Tech employee, Gamble had access to one or more Procurement Cards, or "P-Cards," which employees could use for official business purchases, but not personal purchases. However, over the course of five years, Gamble purchased more than 3,800 personal items with her P-Cards, totalling more than $316,000. Gamble then concealed her purchases by creating false receipts and making false entries in accounting records. The money spent by Gamble was grant money to Georgia Tech by the National Science Foundation.
   Gamble plead guilty on May 13 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia to 22 counts of mail fraud and theft from and organization receiving federal funds. She will be sentenced in July.

United States v. Svete: Fraud Requires Scheme Calculated to Deceive "Reasonable Person"

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling which confirms one more element which the government must prove, and which the jury must be instructed on, in order to convict a defendant of fraud. In United States v. Brown, 79 F.3d 1550, 1557 (11th Cir. 1996), the Eleventh Circuit held (or re-confirmed) that, in order to prove the crime of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, “the government must show the defendant intended to create a scheme ‘reasonably calculated to deceive persons of ordinary prudence and comprehension.”’ (Quoting Pelletier v. Zweifel, 921 F.2d 1465, 1498-99 (11th Cir.1991)). Last week, in United States v. Svete, NO. 05-13809, 2008 WL 788407, *7 (11th Cir. March 26, 2008), the holding of Brown was finally applied to Eleventh Circuit Pattern Jury Instruction (Criminal Cases) 50.1, which, as the Court noted, “does not include the reasonable person standard as articulated in Brown…” id.

In Svete, the defendants were convicted of conspiracy, money laundering and mail fraud for allegedly defrauding investors in “viaticals,” in which persons (“viators”) sell the right to receive benefits under their life insurance policies to purchasers in exchange for tax-free cash. Id. at *1-2. The government alleged that the defendants defrauded purchasers of viaticals by misrepresenting the life expectancies of the viators, the status of the life insurance policies and the risks associated with purchasing certain viatical contracts. Id. at *2. The defendants appealed, arguing that the district court erred in failing to instruct the jury consistent with the language of Brown, and the Eleventh Circuit reversed, stating that:

The inaccuracy of the definition of “scheme to defraud” in the jury instruction seriously impaired defendants' ability to conduct their defense on the substantive counts of mail fraud. Defendants did not have the opportunity to argue in connection with charged law that the contracts, signed by the investors, made it unreasonable for any prudent investor to have relied upon contrary statements by sales agents or [the Defendants’] promotional literature. Defendants did not have the opportunity to argue in connection with charged law that investors should have sought independent advice on investing in viaticals. Such arguments are clearly contemplated by controlling law in this Circuit. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion when it did not include the Brown, [cit.]., language in the jury instruction. [Defendants] are entitled to a new trial on the substantive counts of mail fraud.

 Id. at *7 (citing Brown at 1557).