Liberty Reserve Exec Gets 20 Years For Laundering

 

Arthur Budovsky, 42, was sentenced today in the Southern District of New York to 20 years imprisonment for running a massive money laundering enterprise through his company Liberty Reserve S.A. (“Liberty Reserve”), a virtual currency once used by cybercriminals around the world to launder the proceeds of their illegal activity.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York made the announcement.

In January, Budovsky pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit money laundering.  In imposing sentence, the court noted that Budovsky ran an “extraordinarily successful” and “large-scale international money laundering operation.”  U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote also ordered Budovsky to pay a $500,000 fine.

“The significant sentence handed down today shows that money laundering through the use of virtual currencies is still money laundering, and that online crime is still crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “Together with our American and international law enforcement partners, we will protect the public even when criminals use modern technology to break the law.”

“Liberty Reserve founder Arthur Budovsky ran a digital currency empire built expressly to facilitate money laundering on a massive scale for criminals around the globe,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara.  “Despite all his efforts to evade prosecution, including taking his operations offshore and renouncing his citizenship, Budovsky has now been held to account for his brazen violations of U.S. criminal laws.”

According to the indictment, Liberty Reserve billed itself as the Internet’s “largest payment processor and money transfer system” and allowed people all over the world to send and receive payments using virtual currency.  At all relevant times, Budovsky directed and supervised Liberty Reserve’s operations, finances, and business strategy and was aware that digital currencies were used by other online criminals, such as credit card traffickers and identity thieves.

Liberty Reserve grew into a financial hub for cybercriminals around the world, trafficking the criminal proceeds of Ponzi schemes, credit card trafficking, stolen identity information and computer hacking.  By May 2013, when the government shut it down, Liberty Reserve had more than 5.5 million user accounts worldwide and had processed more than 78 million financial transactions with a combined value of more than $8 billion.  United States users accounted for the largest segment of Liberty Reserve’s total transactional volume – between $1 billion and $1.8 billion – and the largest number of user accounts – over 600,000.

Four co-defendants, Vladimir Kats, Azzeddine El Amine, Mark Marmilev and Maxim Chukharev, have already pleaded guilty.  Marmilev and Chukharev were sentenced to five years and three years in prison, respectively.  Judge Cote is expected to sentence Kats and El Amine May 13. Charges remain pending against Liberty Reserve and two individual defendants who are fugitives.

The U.S. Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations investigated this case as part of the Global Illicit Financial Team.  The U.S. Secret Service’s New York Electronic Crimes Task Force assisted with the investigation.  The Judicial Investigation Organization in Costa Rica, Interpol, the National High Tech Crime Unit in the Netherlands, the Spanish National Police’s Financial and Economic Crime Unit, the Cyber Crime Unit at the Swedish National Bureau of Investigation and the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office also provided assistance.

Trial Attorney Kevin Mosley of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christian Everdell, Christine Magdo and Andrew Goldstein of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section provided substantial assistance.

Virginia-Based Move Management Company Pays More Than $500,000 to Settle Overbilling Claims in Connection with Transportation of Personal Property in Relocating Federal Employees

Virginia-Based Move Management Company Pays More Than $500,000 to Settle Overbilling Claims in Connection with Transportation of Personal Property in Relocating Federal Employees

RE/MAX Allegiance Relocation Services, a Virginia-based move management company, has agreed to pay the government $509,807 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by overbilling for transportation services, the Department of Justice announced today.

“Today’s settlement demonstrates our continuing vigilance to ensure that those doing business with the government do so legally and honestly and that taxpayer funds are not misused,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of taxpayers will be held accountable.”

 

The settlement relates to allegations involving contracts to transport personal property of federal employees relocating duty stations within the United States and between the United States and Canada.  The government alleged that the defendant charged for move management services that were not provided and overbilled agencies on other moves by charging inapplicable tariff rates.

 

“We encourage whistleblowers to provide us with useful information to help us combat all manners of fraud on the U.S. Government,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana J. Boente.

“We will continue to investigate allegations of federal contractors fraudulently maximizing their profits at the expense of American taxpayers,” said U.S. General Services Administration Acting Inspector General Robert C. Erickson.

The settlement resolves allegations filed in a lawsuit by Michael Angel, a former employee of RE/MAX Allegiance Relocation Services, in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.  The lawsuit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery.  The act also allows the government to intervene and take over the action, as it did in this case.  Angel will receive $86,667.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General and NASA Office of Inspector General.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Michael Angel v. Franconia Real Estate Services, Inc., d/b/a RE/MAX Allegiance Relocation Services; No. 1:12cv764 (E.D.Va.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

FORMER OWNER OF AIRLINE FUEL SUPPLY COMPANY SENTENCED TO

WASHINGTON — A former owner and operator of a Florida-based airline fuel supply service company was sentenced today to serve 50 months in prison for participating in a scheme to defraud Illinois-based Ryan International Airlines, the Department of Justice announced.

Sean E. Wagner, the former owner and operator of Aviation Fuel International Inc. (AFI), was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach to serve 50 months in prison and to pay $202, 856 in restitution.  On Aug. 13, 2013, a grand jury returned an indictment against Wagner and AFI, charging them for their roles in a conspiracy to defraud Ryan. On March 6, 2014, Wagner pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.  According to court documents, from at least as early as December 2005 through at least August 2009, Wagner and others at AFI made kickback payments to Wayne Kepple, a former vice president of ground operations for Ryan, totaling more than $200,000 in the form of checks, wire transfers, cash and gift cards in exchange for awarding business to AFI.  The charges against AFI were dismissed on Feb. 21, 2014.

Ryan provided air passenger and cargo services for corporations, private individuals and the U.S. government – including the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Awarding government contracts in exchange for payoffs is a crime the Antitrust Division takes seriously,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “Today’s sentence reaffirms the division’s commitment to vigorously prosecute individuals who engage in this behavior.”

“This sentencing highlights the continuing commitment of the DCIS to thoroughly investigate and bring to justice any companies or individuals who engage in fraudulent and corrupt practices that undermine the integrity of Department of Defense procurement programs,” said John F. Khin, Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service Southeast Field Office.

As a result of the ongoing investigation, five individuals, including Wagner, have pleaded guilty and have been ordered to serve sentences ranging from 16 to 87 months in prison and to pay more than $780,000 in restitution.  An additional individual has pleaded guilty to obstructing the investigation and is currently awaiting sentencing.

The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I office and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  Anyone with information concerning anticompetitive conduct in the airline charter services industry is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I office at 202-307-6694 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm

Former Owner of Florida Airline Fuel Supply Company Pleads Guilty in Scheme to Defraud Illinois-Based Ryan International Airlines

A former owner and operator of a Florida-based airline fuel supply service company pleaded guilty today to participating in a kickback scheme to defraud Illinois-based Ryan International Airlines, a charter airline company located in Rockford, Ill., the Department of Justice announced.

  Sean E. Wagner, the former owner and operator of Aviation Fuel International Inc. (AFI), pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.  On Aug. 13, 2013, a grand jury returned an indictment against Wagner and AFI, charging them for their roles in a conspiracy to defraud Ryan International Airlines.  According to the indictment, Wagner and AFI made kickback payments to Wayne Kepple, a former vice president of ground operations for Ryan, in exchange for awarding business to AFI.  According to court documents, from at least as early as December 2005 through at least August 2009, Wagner and others at AFI made kickback payments to Kepple totaling more than $200,000 in the form of checks, wire transfers, cash and gift cards.  The charges against AFI were dismissed on Feb. 21, 2014.

Ryan provided air passenger and cargo services for corporations, private individuals and the U.S. government – including the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“These types of kickback schemes subvert the competitive process and increase costs to American consumers,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The Antitrust Division will vigorously prosecute individuals who defraud American taxpayers and businesses.”

Wagner pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.  The count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 criminal fine for individuals.  The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

As a result of the ongoing investigation, four other individuals have pleaded guilty and have been ordered to serve sentences ranging from 16 to 87 months in prison and to pay more than $580,000 in restitution.
The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Southeast Field Office, headed by Special Agent in Charge John F. Khin, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  Anyone with information concerning anticompetitive conduct in the airline charter services industry is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section at 202-307-6694 or visit  www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.

Former Employee of Florida Airline Fuel Supply Company Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Federal Investigation

A former employee of a Florida-based airline fuel supply service company pleaded guilty today to obstructing an investigation into fraud and anticompetitive conduct in the airline charter services industry, the Department of Justice announced.

Craig Perez, a former employee of Aviation Fuel International Inc. (AFI), pleaded guilty to a felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City.  The charge against Perez stems from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS)’s investigation into kickback payments made by AFI and its employees to Wayne Kepple, the former vice president of ground operations for Ryan International Airlines.

Ryan provided air passenger and cargo services for corporations, private individuals and the U.S. government, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service.

According to court documents, Perez worked for AFI from June 2007 until March 2008 and was vice president of services.  During that time, Kepple received kickback payments from AFI on aviation fuel, services and equipment sold by AFI to Ryan.  In November 2011, a federal agent with DCIS contacted Perez to interview him in relation to its investigation of AFI.  After speaking with the federal agent, and with full knowledge of the purpose of the interview, Perez knowingly destroyed relevant files from his laptop computer relating to his employment at AFI with the intent to impede, obstruct and influence the investigation of AFI and his involvement in that conduct.

“The Antitrust Division will hold accountable those who attempt to conceal their illegal actions and obstruct a government investigation ,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “Destroying evidence in an attempt to undermine a federal investigation is a crime the division takes very seriously.”

Perez is charged with obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 criminal fine for individuals.  He has agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.

Today’s plea is the fifth to arise out of the Antitrust Division’s ongoing investigation into fraud and anticompetitive conduct in the airline charter services industry.  The other four individuals have been ordered to serve sentences ranging from 16 to 87 months in prison and to pay more than $580,000 in restitution.  A sixth individual, Sean Wagner, the owner and operator of AFI, and AFI itself were indicted on Aug. 13, 2013.

The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service, headed by Special Agent in Charge John F. Khin.  Anyone with information concerning anticompetitive conduct in the airline charter services industry is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section at 202-307-6694 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.

Iraqi-Based Construction Company Pays $2.7 Million to U.s. for Alleged False Claims in Bribery Scheme

Iraqi Consultants and Construction Bureau (ICCB) has paid the U.S. $2.7 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by bribing a U.S. government official to obtain U.S. government contracts in Iraq, the Department of Justice announced today.  ICCB is a privately owned construction company headquartered in Baghdad, Iraq.

“Bribery will not be tolerated in government contracting,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “We will ensure that government contracts are awarded based on merit and pursue allegations of fraudulently procured contracts wherever they occur.”

The government alleged that, from 2007 to 2008, ICCB paid bribes to Army Corps of Engineers procurement official John Salama Markus, 41, of Nazareth, Pa., to obtain information that gave it an advantage in bidding on several construction contracts with the Department of Defense in Iraq.  The contracts supported reconstruction efforts involving the Iraq war, including infrastructure and security projects and the building of medical facilities and schools.  ICCB then knowingly overcharged the U.S. for services provided under the contracts, according to the government’s allegation.

“It is offensive that anyone would see projects to promote stability, health and education in a rebuilding country as a way to make illegal cash on the side,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman.  “We will not abide companies paying to play in such a system.”

“The Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) is committed to protecting the integrity of the Defense acquisition process from personal and corporate avarice,” said Special Agent in Charge, DCIS Northeast Field Office Craig Rupert.  “Ensuring the proper use of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars and preventing contract fraud is in our nation’s interest and remains a priority.”

The settlement is part of a larger investigation initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.  As part of that investigation, Markus pleaded guilty on Sept. 7, 2012, to wire fraud, money laundering and failure to report a foreign bank account in connection with more than $50 million in contracts awarded to foreign companies in Gulf Region North, Iraq.  Markus was sentenced to 13 years in prison on March 12, 2013, in Newark, N.J., federal court.

The investigation is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, in cooperation with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Major Procurement Fraud Unit of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, the Criminal Investigative Division of the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security.  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

Former Airline Executive Sentenced to Prison for Schemes to Defraud Illinois-Based Ryan International Airlines

A former executive of Ryan International Airlines, a charter airline company located in Rockford, Ill., was sentenced today to serve 87 months in prison and to pay restitution for participating in kickback schemes to defraud Ryan, the Department of Justice announced.

Wayne E. Kepple, the former vice president of ground operations for Ryan, was sentenced to serve 87 months in prison and to pay $529,998 in restitution.  On Nov. 4, 2011, Kepple pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, Fla., to three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services fraud and three counts of wire fraud.  The charges against Kepple stem from a kickback scheme involving Robert A. Riddell, the former owner and operator of an airline security and ground service company, as well as separate kickback schemes involving David A. Chaisson, the former owner and operator of an Indiana flight management services company, James E. Murphy, the former owner and operator of a Florida aviation fuel supply company, and others.

Ryan provided air passenger and cargo services for corporations, private individuals and the U.S. government – including the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Today’s sentence should serve as a stiff deterrent to executives who might be tempted to solicit a kickback from their supplies in exchange for their honest services,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division. “The Antitrust Division is committed to ensuring that contracts are won based on competition and not collusion.”

According to court documents, Kepple was in charge of contracting with providers of goods and services on behalf of Ryan and approving the invoices submitted by the providers to Ryan for payment. From October 2005 through at least August 2009, Kepple participated in three separate conspiracies in which he received kickback payments of more than $520,000 from Riddell, Murphy, Chaisson and others in exchange for Kepple awarding them Ryan airline services and fuel contracts.  According to court documents, the payments from Chaisson and Riddell included the proceeds of fabricated invoices submitted by their companies to Ryan.

As a result of the ongoing investigation, four individuals, including Kepple, have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison.  On Oct. 28, 2011, Murphy was sentenced to serve 23 months in prison and to pay $42,500 in restitution and Chaisson was sentenced to serve 16 months in prison and to pay $50,742 in restitution.  On Jan. 27, 2012, Riddell was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison and to pay $131,540 in restitution. Kepple’s 87-month sentence reflects his central role in multiple kickback schemes.

On Aug. 13, 2013, a fifth individual, Sean E. Wagner, and his company, Aviation Fuel International Inc. (AFI), a Florida-based airline fuel supply company, were indicted for participating in a conspiracy to defraud Ryan by making kickback payments to Kepple in exchange for awarding business to AFI.  That case is ongoing.

The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  Anyone with information concerning anticompetitive conduct in the airline charter services industry is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section at 202-307-6694 or visit