Birmingham CPA Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison, Must Repay $11 Million Embezzled

Friday, June 16, 2017

BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge today sentenced a Birmingham man to eight years in prison and ordered him to repay $10.9 million he embezzled from the Shelby County scrap metal brokerage where he was chief financial officer, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey and FBI Special Agent in Charge Roger Stanton.

U.S. District Court Judge Abdul K. Kallon sentenced THOMAS L HINSON JR., 70, on five counts of wire fraud for depositing checks stolen from Strickland Trading Inc. into the account of Strickland Trading Company, LLC, a company Hinson formed to carry out his embezzlement. Hinson pleaded guilty to the charges in March. He must report to prison July 31.

Along with the millions in restitution that Hinson must pay, he also must forfeit his interest in properties in Huntsville, Birmingham, Virginia Beach, Va., Lutz, Fla., and Sevierville, Tenn.

Hinson “abused his position as Chief Financial Officer of Strickland Trading, Inc., and violated his long-running friendships with Strickland Trading’s principals, to perpetuate a nine years long scheme to defraud,” the government states in its sentencing memorandum.

The company’s principals and employees suffered substantial financial hardship because of Hinson’s long-term crime, the memorandum says.

The five wire fraud counts Hinson pleaded guilty to represent five of the more than 225 checks totaling more than $11.2 million that were intended for Strickland Trading Inc., but which Hinson deposited into his Strickland Trading Company, LLC, account, between April 2007 and April 2016. He used the money he embezzled over the years to pay expenses and purchase real estate, automobiles, and other assets for himself, his family, and friends.

According to the court documents, Hinson conducted his scheme as follows:

Hinson was a certified public accountant in private practice who worked for Strickland Trading Inc. from 1991 to April 2016. In 2000, he began working as Strickland Trading Inc.’s CFO. In April 2007, Hinson filed documents with the State of Alabama creating Strickland Trading Company, LLC, and provided the name and address of a friend in Madison County as its organizer so he could conceal his own association with the new company.

Using the similarity in the names of the two companies, Hinson took checks mailed to Strickland Trading Inc. by its customers and deposited the checks into his Strickland Trading Company, LLC, account for his personal use. He made false entries in the financial records of Strickland Trading Inc., prepared false financial statements and made other false representations to Strickland Trading Inc. corporate officers to conceal his embezzlement.

The FBI investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney George Martin prosecuted.

US Seeks Approximately $540 Million From Conspiracy Involving Malaysian Sovereign Wealth Fund

Thursday, June 15, 2017

LOS ANGELES – The Justice Department today filed civil forfeiture complaints seeking the forfeiture and recovery of approximately $540 million in assets associated with an international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

Combined with civil forfeiture complaints filed in July 2016 that seek more than $1 billion, and civil forfeiture complaints filed last week that seek approximately $100 million in assets, this case represents the largest action brought under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. Assets now subject to forfeiture in this case total almost $1.7 billion.

The complaints filed today seek the forfeiture of Red Granite Pictures’ interest in the movies “Dumb and Dumber To” and “Daddy’s Home,” a condominium in New York City worth nearly $5 million, diamond jewelry, artworks by Picasso and Basquiat, and a $260 million megayacht called The Equanimity.

According to the complaints, from 2009 through 2015, more than $4.5 billion in funds belonging to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was allegedly misappropriated by high-level officials of 1MDB and their associates. 1MDB was created by the government of Malaysia to promote economic development in Malaysia through global partnerships and foreign direct investment, and its funds were intended to be used for improving the well-being of the Malaysian people.

“These cases involve billions of dollars that should have been used to help the people of Malaysia, but instead was used by a small number of individuals to fuel their astonishing greed,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “The misappropriation of 1MDB funds was accomplished with an extravagant web of lies and bogus transactions that were brought to light by the dedicated attorneys and law enforcement agents who continue to work on this matter. We simply will not allow the United States to be a place where corrupt individuals can expect to hide assets and lavishly spend money that should be used for the benefit of citizens of other nations.”

“The Criminal Division is steadfast in our efforts to protect the security, safety, and integrity of the American financial system from all manner of abuse, including by kleptocrats seeking to hide their ill-gotten or stolen wealth,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco. “Today’s complaints reveal another chapter of this multi-year, multi-billion-dollar fraud scheme, bringing the total identified stolen proceeds to $4.5 billion. This money financed the lavish lifestyles of the alleged co-conspirators at the expense and detriment of the Malaysian people. We are unwavering in our commitment to ensure the United States is not a safe haven for corrupt individuals and kleptocrats to hide their ill-gotten wealth or money, and that recovered assets be returned to the victims from which they were taken.”

As alleged in the complaints, the members of the conspiracy – which included officials at 1MDB, their relatives and other associates – diverted more than $4.5 billion in 1MDB funds. Using fraudulent documents and representations, the co-conspirators allegedly laundered the funds through a series of complex transactions and shell companies with bank accounts located in the United States and abroad. These transactions allegedly served to conceal the origin, source and ownership of the funds, and ultimately passed through U.S. financial institutions to then be used to acquire and invest in assets located in the United States and overseas.

The complaints filed today allege that in 2014, the co-conspirators misappropriated approximately $850 million in 1MDB funds under the guise of repurchasing certain options that had been given in connection with a guarantee of 2012 bonds. As the complaints allege, 1MDB had borrowed a total of $1.225 billion from a syndicate of banks to fund the buy-back of the options. The complaints allege that approximately $850 million was instead diverted to several offshore shell entities. From there, the complaints allege, the funds stolen in 2014, in addition to money stolen in prior years, were used, among other things, to purchase the 300-foot luxury yacht valued at over $260 million, certain movie rights, high-end properties, tens of millions of dollars of jewelry and artwork. A portion of the diverted loan proceeds were also allegedly used in an elaborate, Ponzi-like scheme to create the false appearance that an earlier 1MDB investment had been profitable.

“Today’s filing serves as a reminder of the important role that the FBI plays in rooting out international corruption. When corrupt foreign officials launder funds through the United States in furtherance of their criminal activity, the FBI works tirelessly to help hold those officials accountable, and recover the misappropriated funds,” said Assistant Director Stephen E. Richardson of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “I applaud all my colleagues and our international partners who have worked to help recover an immense amount of funds taken from the Malaysian people, who are the victims of this abhorrent case of kleptocracy.”

“Today’s announcement is the result of untangling a global labyrinth of multi-layered financial transactions allegedly used to divert billions of dollars from the people of Malaysia and fund the co-conspirators’ lavish lifestyles,” said Deputy Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation. “The IRS is proud to partner with other law enforcement agencies and share its world-renowned financial investigative expertise in this complex financial investigation. It’s important for the world to see, that when people use the American financial system for corruption, the IRS will take notice.”

As alleged in the earlier complaints, in 2009, 1MDB officials and their associates embezzled approximately $1 billion that was supposed to be invested to exploit energy concessions purportedly owned by a foreign partner. Instead, the funds allegedly were transferred through shell companies and were used to acquire a number of assets. The complaints also allege that the co-conspirators misappropriated close to $1.4 billion in funds raised through the bond offerings in 2012, and more than $1.2 billion following another bond offering in 2013.

The FBI’s International Corruption Squads in New York City and Los Angeles, and IRS Criminal Investigation are investigating the case.

Assistant United States Attorneys John Kucera and Christen Sproule of the Asset Forfeiture Section, along with Deputy Chief Woo S. Lee and Trial Attorneys Kyle R. Freeny and Jonathan Baum of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs is providing substantial assistance.

The Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative is led by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies and U.S. Attorney’s Offices, to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, to use those recovered asset to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office. In 2015, the FBI formed International Corruption Squads across the country to address national and international implications of foreign corruption. Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through the United States should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to kleptocracy@usdoj.gov(link sends e-mail) or https://tips.fbi.gov/.

A civil forfeiture complaint is merely an allegation that money or property was involved in or represents the proceeds of a crime. These allegations are not proven until a court awards judgment in favor of the United States.

Illinois Real Estate Developer Pleads Guilty to Investment Fraud Scheme

Thursday, May 25, 2017

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – A Rock Island, Ill., businessman, Todd B. Raufeisen, waived indictment and pled guilty to an information that charged him with defrauding investors in his land development and management projects of approximately $1.7 million. Raufeisen, 56, entered his guilty pleas to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering today before U.S. District Judge Sara Darrow. Sentencing is scheduled on Sept. 14, 2017.

In court documents and statements, Raufeisen admitted that from 2010 to August 2016, he engaged in a scheme that defrauded approximately 22 investors in his development projects and resulted in a loss of approximately $1.7 million. Raufeisen engaged in business under various business names, including RDC Hotel Solutions.

As part of the scheme, Raufeisen promised prospective investors a higher rate of interest than conventional, insured investments and short turnarounds on return of the principle and interest. In exchange for the money invested, Raufeisen promised certain investors that the money would be placed in escrow until needed, would only be used for specific development or management projects, and, if unused, the money would be returned to the investor. In fact, Raufeisen used the investors’ money for personal expenses and to pay previous investors to whom he was indebted.

Further, Raufeisen provided certain investors with promissory notes that promised repayment of invested principle and interest. The notes were purportedly signed and guaranteed by persons who knew nothing of the promissory notes and had not guaranteed repayment to the investors. In fact, Raufeisen admitted that he forged the signatures on the promissory notes.

The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division; Federal Bureau of Investigation; and, the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Allegro is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government.

The maximum statutory penalties for the offenses – 20 years in prison for wire fraud; 10 years for money laundering – are provided here for informational purposes, as final sentencing is determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The court may also order the defendant to pay restitution to victims of the offenses.

Canadian Man Sentenced to 97 months in Prison for Investment Scheme

 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

FORT WORTH — Ryan Steve Magee, a citizen of Canada, was sentenced this morning by Senior U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means to 97 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $2,372,573 in restitution, following his guilty plea in February 2017 to one count of wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.

Magee, 34, was indicted in July 2016 on five counts of wire fraud. Magee was arrested in December 2016, and has remained in custody since his arrest.

According to plea documents filed in his case, Magee was a business man and an active day trader in the U.S. stock market. Beginning in 2011, and continuing until the end of 2013, Magee devised and operated a scheme to obtain money by means of false and fraudulent material pretense and representations. Magee solicited and obtained money from victim investors by making false representations about how their money would be invested, how much of their money would be invested, how much their investment was earning, how much money they had in their account, and by making other false statements.

Specifically, J.C. and D.C. decided to invest some of their savings with him. At Magee’s direction, D.C. wired $35,000 to Magee’s account on August 12, 2011. After Magee received the money from D.C., he immediately diverted $25,000 for his own personal expenditures. Magee then deposited the remaining $10,000 into his day-trading account located at Interactive Brokers (IB). Magee sent weekly emails to J.C. and D.C. entitled “Trading Update,” which falsely showed the beginning account principal of $35,000 and the daily gains, even though Magee had diverted $25,000 of the investors’ money to his own personal use.

In November 2011, J.C. and D.C. cashed in J.C.’s 401(k) and wired $240,000 to Magee’s account. After Magee received the $240,000, he immediately diverted approximately $160,000 to his personal accounts, transferring only $80,000 into his IB trading account. Magee again sent weekly “Trading Update” emails claiming to have deposited the entire $240,000 in the IB account. Though he lost approximately $75,000 by the end of the month and his trades for November 2011, were a negative 70 percent, Magee listed 200 percent gains in the weekly “Trading Update” emails he sent to J.C. and D.C, between November 16 2011, and November 30, 2011.

On April 10, 2013, in the final “Trading Updates” email Magee sent to J.C. and D.C., Magee claimed their account balance was over $1.3 million. However, Magee’s IB account statement for the time period ending March 31, 2013, showed that Magee’s IB account had a negative cash balance of $9,578. J.C. and D.C. suffered a total loss of approximately $275,000. Between May 2010 and September 2013, other victims of the fraudulent scheme in the United States and Canada suffered a total loss of approximately $2,097,573.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Larson prosecuted.

Doctor And Son Admit Defrauding Medicare, Agree To $1.78 Million Settlement

 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

CAMDEN, N.J. – A doctor and his chiropractor son today admitted conspiring to defraud Medicare by using unqualified people to give physical therapy to Medicare recipients, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Robert Claude McGrath D.O., 65, and his son Robert Christopher McGrath, 47, both of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler in Camden federal court to separate informations charging them each with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

The McGraths, together with their practice, the Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute, have also agreed to pay $1.78 million as part of a civil settlement to resolve allegations that they illegally billed Medicare for those treatments.

“Elderly patients who need physical therapy deserve properly licensed and supervised caregivers,” Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick said. “Instead, the McGraths for years used unqualified and unsupervised employees to treat their patients, all while fraudulently billing Medicare for the phony services.”

“Patients undergoing physical therapy at the McGraths’ practice sought simply to feel and move better,” said Michael Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “It seems all the defendants sought was to enrich themselves at those patients’ – and U.S. taxpayers’ – expense. Medicare fraud deals a big blow to a critical piece of our health care system. Every dollar lost to bogus billing is a dollar less to use for legitimate treatments and services.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The McGraths owned and operated Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute, a medical practice with offices in Westmont, New Jersey, and Wayne, Pennsylvania. Under Medicare rules, physical therapy had to be provided by Robert Claude McGrath or by a trained physical therapist under his supervision. However, from January 2011 through April 2016, the McGraths sought to defraud Medicare by employing unlicensed, untrained persons to give physical therapy to Medicare patients, at times when Robert Claude McGrath was not even in the office to supervise. They then submitted bills to Medicare fraudulently identifying Robert Claude McGrath as the provider of physical therapy.
The defendants each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2017.

“These criminals face serving time in prison as well as paying out a $1.78 million settlement,” said Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Additionally, my agency reserves the right to exclude both father and son from Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal health programs.”

“People trust medical professionals to treat them and not cheat them,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark S. McCormack, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ Metro Washington Field Office. “Our office will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners to pursue and bring to justice those who would exploit this vulnerable population.”

In the related civil settlement, also announced today, the McGraths and Atlantic Spine agreed to pay $1.78 million plus interest to the federal government to resolve allegations that the fraudulent bills submitted under the McGraths’ scheme caused false claims to be submitted to Medicare in violation of the False Claims Act.
The civil settlement resolves certain claims filed by Linda Stevens, a former billing manager at Atlantic Spine, in the District of New Jersey, under the federal False Claims Act. The federal False Claims Act contains a qui tam, or whistleblower, provision that permits whistleblowers to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims against the government, and to share in any recovery. Ms. Stevens will receive approximately $338,200 from the settlement proceeds, along with her attorney’s fees.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited agents of the FBI’s South Jersey Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Harpster in Philadelphia, special agents from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Lampert, and special agents from the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge McCormack, with the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. David Walk Jr. and Andrew A. Caffrey III of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit represented the government in the criminal case and the civil case, respectively.

The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office reorganized its health care practice in 2010 and created a stand-along Health Care and Government Fraud Unit to handle both criminal and civil investigations and prosecutions of health care fraud offenses. Since that time, the office has recovered more than $1.33 billion in health care and government fraud settlements, judgments, fines, restitution and forfeiture under the False Claims Act, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and other statutes.

Defense counsel:
Robert Christopher McGrath and Atlantic Spine & Joint Institute: Riza I. Dagli Esq., Roseland, New Jersey.
Robert Claude McGrath: Perry Primavera Esq., Hackensack, New Jersey
Counsel for Relator Linda Stevens: Brian J. McCormick Jr., Philadelphia

 

Southern CA Resident Sentenced 34 Months in Prison For Bank Fraud Conspiracy

 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO – Michael Inman was sentenced to 34 months in prison for his role in a bank fraud conspiracy, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. The sentence was handed down June 7, 2017, by the Honorable Charles R. Breyer, U.S. District Judge, following a guilty plea in which Inman admitted he participated in a scheme to steal checks, open fraudulent bank accounts, write fraudulent checks, and deposit stolen and fraudulent checks as part of a bank fraud scheme.

Inman, 55, of Los Angeles, Calif., pleaded guilty on February 8, 2017, to participating in the bank fraud conspiracy. According to the plea agreement, Inman admitted that beginning in January of 2013, he agreed with at least one other person to commit bank fraud. The plea agreement describes a number of transactions in which Inman stole high value cashier’s checks from the victim and he and his co-conspirators used the stolen identity of the victim to write and deposit fraudulent checks. For example, in January of 2013, members of Inman’s conspiracy opened a bank account in the name of the victim and, in February of 2013, a co-conspirator deposited into the account a stolen $99,000 cashier’s check that had been made out to the victim. Similarly, Inman admitted that in June of 2013, co-conspirators opened another two fraudulent accounts and deposited a $99,000 check. Further, Inman admitted participating in a scheme in which people were provided checks drawn on the fraudulent bank accounts.

A grand jury indicted Inman on February 11, 2016, charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Inman pleaded guilty to the conspiracy count.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Breyer sentenced Inman to pay $198,000 in restitution to the victim and to forfeit $198,000. Judge Breyer ordered the defendant to begin serving his sentence on or before August 2, 2017.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marc Price Wolf and Claudia A. Quiroz are prosecuting the case with assistance from Kevin Costello, Yanira Osorio, and Lance Libatique. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI.

US Files Forfeiture Complaint Against Chinese Company for Laundering Money for North Korea

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Company Allegedly Violated Sanctions by Laundering U.S. Dollar Transactions on Behalf of North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank
WASHINGTON – The United States has filed a complaint to civilly forfeit $1,902,976 from Mingzheng International Trading Limited (Mingzheng), a company based in Shenyang, China. The complaint alleges that Mingzheng is a front company that was created to launder United States dollars on behalf of sanctioned North Korean entities.
According to the complaint, Mingzheng conspired to evade U.S. economic sanctions by facilitating prohibited U.S. dollar transactions through the United States on behalf of the Foreign Trade Bank, a sanctioned entity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and to launder the proceeds of that conduct through U.S. financial institutions.

The forfeiture action was announced today by U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips and Michael DeLeon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Phoenix Field Office.

The action represents one of the largest seizures of North Korean funds by the Department of Justice.

“This complaint alleges that parties in China established and used a front company to surreptitiously move North Korean money through the United States and violated the sanctions imposed by our government on North Korea,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “Sanctions laws are critical to our national security and foreign policy interests, and this case demonstrates that we will seek significant remedies for those companies that violate them.”

“The FBI has dedicated substantial resources to investigate complex illegal monetary transactions involving foreign adversaries. This specific case has significant national security implications,” said Special Agent in Charge DeLeon. “The men and women of the FBI’s Phoenix Field Division worked diligently to identify the illegal transactions. We hope this sends a strong message to those who utilize US banking systems for illegal activities.”

The complaint was filed on June 14, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. According to the complaint, Mingzheng is owned by a Chinese national and is based in Shenyang, China. Mingzheng allegedly operated as a front company for a foreign-based branch of the North Korea-based Foreign Trade Bank (FTB). In March 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Foreign Trade Bank as a sanctioned entity pursuant to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations. The designation noted that the Foreign Trade Bank is a state-owned bank, and “acts as North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank.” The designation further noted that North Korea uses the Foreign Trade Bank to facilitate millions of dollars in transactions on behalf of actors linked to its proliferation network.

The United Nations Panel of Experts reported in 2017 as to how North Korean banks have been able to evade sanctions and continue to access the international banking system. Specifically, despite strengthened financial sanctions, North Korean networks are adapting by using greater ingenuity in accessing formal banking channels. This includes maintaining correspondent bank accounts and representative offices abroad, which are staffed by foreign nationals making use of front companies. These broad interwoven networks allow the North Korean banks to conduct illicit procurement and banking activity.

An FBI investigation revealed that Mingzheng’s alleged activities mirror this money laundering paradigm. Specifically, Mingzheng acts a front company for a covert Chinese branch of the Foreign Trade Bank. This branch is operated by a Chinese national who has historically been tied to the Foreign Trade Bank.

The government is seeking to forfeit $1,902,976 that was transacted in October and November of 2015 by Mingzheng, via wire transfers, using their Chinese bank accounts. These U.S. dollar payments, which cleared through the United States, are alleged to violate U.S. law, because Mingzheng was surreptitiously making them on behalf of the Foreign Trade Bank, whose designation precluded such U.S. dollar transactions.

The claims made in the complaint are only allegations and do not constitute a determination of liability.

The FBI’s Phoenix Field Office is investigating the case. Assistant U.S Attorneys Arvind K. Lal, Zia M. Faruqui, Christopher B. Brown, Deborah Curtis and Brian P. Hudak are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Toni Anne Donato.

CFO of Public Computer-Services Company Pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud Charge

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Illinois

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 19, 2017

CHICAGO — The former chief financial officer of a public computer-services company admitted in federal court today that he participated in a scheme to defraud a global telecommunications provider out of at least $3 million.

ANTHONY ROTH, 52, of Upton, Mass., pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. The conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve did not immediately set a sentencing date.

The guilty plea was announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission provided valuable assistance.

Roth served as the chief financial officer of ContinuityX Solutions Inc., a computer-services company based in Metamora, Ill. Roth stated in a plea agreement that he and ContinuityX’s former chief executive officer, DAVID GODWIN, approached certain companies to buy services from an international telecommunications firm that the companies did not need or intend to use. Godwin and Roth promised these companies that they would not have to pay for the services because he had arranged separate side deals with other companies to fund and use the services, according to Roth’s plea agreement. Roth and Godwin then created false financial information to fraudulently inflate the financial condition of the companies, the plea agreement states. They did all of this so that the telecommunications firm would approve the sales to these companies and pay ContinuityX hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions for purportedly having brought new customers to the telecommunications company, the plea agreement states.

In 2011 and 2012 Roth and Godwin fraudulently caused ContinuityX to receive approximately $3 million in commission payments from the telecommunications company, according to Roth’s plea agreement. The commissions were paid upfront, and Godwin provided some of the money to the companies that signed up for the services, the plea agreement states.

Godwin, 55, of Germantown Hills, Ill., and a third defendant, former ContinuityX sales representative JOHN COLETTI, 56, of Canyon Country, Calif., are also charged in the case. Godwin has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of wire fraud, while Coletti has pleaded not guilty to five counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to the FBI. Godwin and Coletti are scheduled for a jury trial on Sept. 25, 2017.

The public is reminded that charges are not evidence of guilt. Godwin and Coletti are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven Dollear, Brian Wallach and John Mitchell.

Former Executive Director Of The Ramapo Local Development Corporation Pleads Guilty To Securities Fraud And Conspiracy Charges

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that N. AARON TROODLER, the former Executive Director of the Ramapo Local Development Corporation (“RLDC”), pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel to conspiring with Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence to commit securities fraud as a result of a scheme to defraud investors in municipal bonds issued by the RLDC and the Town of Ramapo (the “Town”). This case is believed to be the first conviction for federal securities fraud in connection with municipal bond issuances.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As we said at the time of his arrest, N. Aaron Troodler defrauded both the citizens of Ramapo and thousands of investors around the country, helping to sell over $150 million of municipal bonds on fabricated financials. Today, Troodler has admitted to committing securities fraud. This guilty plea, in what we believe to be the first municipal bond-related criminal securities fraud prosecution, is a big step in policing and bringing accountability to the $3.7 trillion municipal bond market.”

According to the allegations contained in the Superseding Information to which TROODLER pled guilty today and the related Indictment of TROODLER’s co-conspirator, Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence:

As of August 2015, the Town had more than $128 million in outstanding bonds that had been issued for various municipal purposes, while the RLDC, a corporation created and owned by the Town under state law, had issued $25 million in bonds to pay for the construction of Provident Bank Park (now Palisades Credit Union Park), a minor league baseball stadium in Ramapo.

The Indictment and Superseding Information charge that St. Lawrence and TROODLER lied to investors in the Town’s and RLDC’s bonds in order to conceal the deteriorating state of the Town’s finances and the inability of the RLDC to make scheduled payments of principal and interest to holders of its bonds from its own money.

While the fraud predated the construction of the stadium, the Town’s financial problems were caused largely by the $58 million total cost of the stadium. The Town paid more than half of that cost, despite the rejection of the Town’s guarantee of bonds to pay for construction of the stadium in a Town-wide referendum in 2010 and St. Lawrence’s public statements that no public money would be used to pay for the stadium.

The defendants lied to investors primarily by making up false assets in the Town’s General Fund. The General Fund is the Town’s primary operating fund. The accumulated difference over time between how much money the Town receives in taxes and fees and how much it spends in a year is the fund’s balance. The fund balance is a cushion that can be spent during difficult financial times. The size of the fund balance relative to the amount of the fund’s revenue and trends in a town’s General Fund balance over time are the primary indicators of the town’s financial health.

The Indictment alleges that St. Lawrence lied to the RLDC’s bond rating service in January 2013 when he told them in a telephone call that the 2012 fund balance would remain unchanged from the 2011 balance. Immediately after that call ended, St. Lawrence told Town employees “to do [an upcoming] refinancing of the short term debt as fast as possible because . . . we’re going to have to all be magicians to get to some of those numbers.”

The Indictment and the Superseding Information also allege that St. Lawrence and TROODLER told investors in the Town’s and RLDC’s bonds that the RLDC was making the payments on its bonds from its operating revenue, meaning money it was making from its ordinary business of running the baseball stadium and selling condominiums at a development it had built. That was important to investors because it led them to believe that the Town would not have to pay off the RLDC’s $25 million bonds. It also made the RLDC’s bonds look less risky. The RLDC actually made those payments from money TROODLER borrowed from the bank or money TROODLER obtained from the Town at St. Lawrence’s direction.

When the RLDC issued $25 million in bonds to build the stadium building itself in 2011, St. Lawrence inflated the size of the Town’s General Fund by including a false $3.6 million receivable in the General Fund. The Town’s financial condition was important to investors in the RLDC’s bonds because the Town guaranteed the payments of principal and interest on the bonds. Without that fake asset, the General Fund’s balance would have been negative in that year.

In addition, St. Lawrence inflated the General Fund with another fake receivable for $3.08 million from 2010 through 2015. It first went on the Town’s books when the RLDC agreed to buy property known as The Hamlets from the Town for $3.08 million. That sale never closed because the land turned out to be a habitat for rattlesnakes. Rather than take the receivable off the Town’s books – and reduce the size of the General Fund balance by $3.08 million, thereby creating a negative balance – St. Lawrence claimed the receivable had to do with the RLDC’s purchase of another property from the Town that had already taken place. To keep it on the books, St. Lawrence then caused the Town Attorney to tell the Town’s auditors over a period of years that the receivable would be paid back within a year, which was required if the receivable was going to stay in the General Fund. Without this fake receivable alone, the Town’s General Fund balance would have been negative for years.

In May 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) searched Town Hall in connection with this investigation. Less than 10 days later, St. Lawrence inflated another receivable in the General Fund – this one for money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) to reimburse the Town for expenses from Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. St. Lawrence claimed that the Town was going to receive $3.145 million from FEMA when the Town hadn’t even submitted those claims to FEMA yet. Without St. Lawrence’s inflation of this receivable alone, the projected General Fund balance for 2012 would have been negative when the Town sold bonds in May 2013.

Finally, the Indictment alleges that St. Lawrence also inflated the General Fund balance by making more than $12 million in transfers from the Town’s Ambulance Fund to the General Fund from 2009 to 2014. The group of properties in Ramapo that pays into the Ambulance Fund is different from the group of properties that pays into the General Fund. Under state law, transfers between funds with different tax bases can only be loans. St. Lawrence told the auditors that the two funds had the same tax base to justify the transfers.

* * *

TROODLER, 42, of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, pled guilty to one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

TROODLER is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Seibel on September 18, 2017, at 3:30 p.m.

The charges against Christopher St. Lawrence contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI and the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office. He also thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for their assistance in the investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys James McMahon, Daniel Loss, and Stephen J. Ritchin are in charge of the prosecution.

Kiekert AG to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging Involving Auto Parts

Kiekert AG, an automotive parts manufacturer based in Heiligenhaus, Germany, has agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $6.1 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to rig bids of side-door latches and latch minimodules installed in cars sold in the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice announced today.

According to a one-count felony charge filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Kiekert participated in a conspiracy to eliminate competition by agreeing to allocate sales, rig bids and fix prices for side-door latches and latch minimodules sold to Ford Motor Company and its subsidiaries in the United States and elsewhere between September 2008 and May 2013.  In addition to Kiekert’s agreement to pay a $6.1 million criminal fine, the manufacturer has agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing investigation.  The plea agreement is subject to court approval.

“The Antitrust Division has uncovered conspiracies involving more than 50 automotive parts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  “Automobile manufacturers, and the American consumers who buy their cars, are entitled to prices set by competition, not secret cartels.”

“Americans expect corporations in the United States and overseas to conduct their business honestly.  To do anything less, compromises consumer trust,” said Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of FBI’s Detroit Division.  “Today’s plea agreement of Kiekert AG, demonstrates the resolve of the FBI and the Department of Justice to protect American consumers from price fixing and bid rigging schemes that ultimately harm the U.S. economy.”

Side-door latches secure car doors to the body.  Latch minimodules include the side-door latch and all related mechanical operating components, including the electronic lock function.

According to the charges, Kiekert officials participated in meetings and communications with representatives of another major side-door latch producer, during which they agreed to allocate sales, rig bids and fix prices submitted to Ford.  To effectuate those agreements, the conspirators exchanged information on bids and price quotations for submission to Ford.

Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in the automotive parts industry, which is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement sections and the FBI.  Including Kiekert, 48 companies and 65 executives have been charged in the division’s ongoing investigation and have agreed to pay a total of more than $2.9 billion in criminal fines.

These charges were brought by the Antitrust Division’s Chicago Office and the FBI’s Detroit Field Office with the assistance of the FBI headquarters’ International Corruption Unit.

Kiekert AG Information