Man Ordered To Pay More than $2.9 Million in Disgorgement and a Civil Monetary Penalty for Engaging in Precious Metals Transactions

 

Court Earlier Entered a Default Judgment Order against His Company, Oakmont Financial, Inc.

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced that Judge William P. Dimitrouleas of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida entered an Order of Final Judgment by Default (Order) against Defendant Joseph Charles DiCrisci of Henderson, Nevada, an owner and principal of Oakmont Financial Inc. (Oakmont), for engaging in in illegal, off-exchange precious metals transactions (see CFTC Complaint and Press Release 7317-16, February 3, 2016). The Court previously, on November 8, 2016, entered a Default Judgment Order against Oakmont (Oakmont Order).

The Court’s Order requires DiCrisci to pay $735,329 in disgorgement and a $2,205,987 civil monetary penalty. The Order also imposes permanent trading and registration bans against DiCrisci and prohibits him from engaging in illegal, off-exchange precious metals transactions, as charged. Similar prohibitions were entered against Oakmont in the Oakmont Order.

The Court’s Order stems from a CFTC Complaint filed on January 12, 2016 that charged DiCrisci and Oakmont with engaging in illegal, off-exchange precious metals transactions on a leveraged, margined or financed basis. The Complaint also charged Oakmont with acting as a Futures Commission Merchant (FCM), without being registered as such. The Complaint charged, and the Order finds, that DiCrisci was Oakmont’s controlling person who knowingly induced the underlying violation of the Commodity Exchange Act, or failed to act in good faith, and therefore was liable for Oakmont’s violations of the Act.

In the Order, the Court further finds that, from at least July 16, 2011 and continuing through at least July 27, 2012, Oakmont, by and through its employees, solicited retail customers by telephone to engage in financed precious metals transactions, which constitute illegal off-exchange retail commodity transactions and acted as an FCM without being so registered.

The Order also finds that precious metals were never delivered to any customers with respect to the leveraged metals transactions made on behalf of Oakmont’s customers. Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, leveraged, margined or financed transactions, such as those conducted by Oakmont, are illegal off-exchange transactions unless they result in actual delivery within 28 days.

The CFTC cautions that Orders requiring repayment of funds to victims may not result in the recovery of any money lost because the wrongdoers may not have sufficient funds or assets.  The CFTC will continue to fight vigorously for the protection of customers and to ensure the wrongdoers are held accountable.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this action are Kara Mucha, Erica Bodin, Kassra Goudarzi, James A. Garcia, Michael Solinsky, Charles Marvine, and Rick Glaser.

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GrantFraud.Com: Former DHS Employee Inprisoned for Stealing USDA Funds

As part of our effort to track white collar enforcement trends with the new Administration we will be tracking developments in grant fraud enforcement and procurement fraud enforcement over at GrantFraud.Com that is under construction and open.  You may click the title below to see a new USDA grant fraud case filing.  For a variety of reasons that Brad Geyer will be blogging about, we are projecting emboldened grant fraud and procurement fraud enforcement moving forward

Former DHS Employee Sentenced to Prison in Scheme to Steal USDA Funds Intended to Feed Hungry Children & Little Rock Man Pleads Guilty in Same Scheme

 

 

 

Labuda on The Role of Customs in National Economic Growth

The Role of Customs in National Economic Growth

By Janet Labuda**

Traditionally, Customs Services have  been tasked with the collection and protection of revenues generated from the importation of goods into their respective countries. Declared valuation of the imported goods is the basis for the collection of duties and value added tax for the national budgets. However, as the global economy is gravitating toward various free trade and duty-free preference partnerships and regional economic integration the traditional role of Customs is evolving.

Most Customs Services will readily admit that the growth of import trade and resulting complexities are often overwhelming for current personnel numbers, training, and abilities. The World Customs Organization has advocated the use of various risk management programs to identify the highest risk transactions, and therefore direct limited resources to addressing only these risks, while absorbing lower risk situations. Various countries have also established trusted partnerships with members of the supply chain using the business community as a force multiplier for compliance. Modern Customs Services must be on the leading edge of building a culture of compliance within the global trade community.

The international trade community has embraced the concept of just in time inventory procedures and Customs must embrace a just in time response to the needs of business. The lack of timeliness in regulatory decisions, and addressing legal issues, e.g., protests, the inability to create clear and concise regulations to elucidate new legal requirements, and failure to understand the business of business has a detrimental effect on corporate prosperity and subsequently a nation’s economic growth. Customs must see itself as an economic growth engine and compliance partnerships need to be expanded to include economic growth partnerships.

Generally, companies that reach out to Customs are seeking to enhance their compliance footprint, not to engage in questionable trade practices. There is no doubt that there are those in the trade community who engage in undervaluation, circumvention of anti-dumping duties, the introduction of goods that violate intellectual property rights, and in introducing products that adversely affect the health and safety of consumers. In these situations, Customs should take swift and effective enforcement action. Violations such as these also have a dampening effect on economic growth. However, for those companies seeking to be compliant players in the global economy, Customs Services need to step up and engage in collaborative solutions and ways forward.

Customs has a duty to remove unnecessary roadblocks affecting international trade transactions. Creating policies that are the antithesis of global economic partnerships is unacceptable. Customs Services should recognize their role in national economic growth by taking steps to ensure that Customs officials are trained in the complexities of international trade and the legal requirements necessary for a seamless facilitation of legitimate trade. Customs needs to develop programs that enable the highest level of integrity among Customs human resources and to develop strong risk management programs that address serious violations, rather than just seeking to pluck low hanging fruit which have little risk to compliance or which impede the flow of compliant trade. Of course, it is critical to ensure that adequate resources are in place to quickly address requests from the trade community regarding legal advice and rulings. Mutually developed compliance programs must take into account business needs, and provide quick and effective communication with the trade community. Customs must guarantee consistent and uniform treatment of issues across various ports and government agency offices to ensure predictability.

For import/expert issues, Janet can be contacted at Vandegrift Inc.  Janet can also be contacted at FormerFedsGroup.

Janet Labuda: Global Trade – Expectations Under the New Administration

Vandegrift Blog – Global Trade – Expectations Under the New Administration November 28, 2016

FormerFedsGroup’s Janet Labuda gives us some insight on what importers can do to prepare for global trade under the new administration.

As always, continue to send us your comments and questions. We look forward to your feedback.  Janet can be reached at Janet.Labuda@FormerFedsGroup.Com

DOJ Announces Plan to Improve Forensic Practitioners’ “Professional Responsibility”

Washington, D.C.-  The Department of Justie announces new steps to improve “professional responsibility” among forensics practitioners.

 The DOJ announcement:

Justice Department Announces New Steps to Advance and Strengthen Forensic Science

Changes Include New Code of Professional Responsibility for Practice of Forensic Science

The Department of Justice announced new steps today as part of its ongoing commitment to strengthening and advancing forensic science.  The department will implement a number of steps that will promote professional responsibility among forensics practitioners, institute best practices and advance the relationship between the academic research of forensic science and implementation in the field.

“Today’s announcement marks yet another step forward in the department’s efforts to strengthen the practice of forensic science in our nation’s laboratories and courtrooms,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates.  “We are continually looking at ways to ensure that forensic evidence is collected, analyzed and presented in a responsible and scientifically rigorous manner.”

The new policies include adopting a new code of professional responsibility that builds upon existing policies and accreditation requirements for departmental forensic examiners and laboratories. The department believes the code will improve education and guidance on professional responsibility while establishing a process for identifying and addressing violations of professional conduct.

Department forensic laboratories will also review their policies and procedures to ensure that forensic examiners are not using the expressions “reasonable scientific certainty” or “reasonable (forensic discipline) certainty” in their reports or testimony.  Department prosecutors will also abstain from using these expressions when presenting forensic reports or questioning forensic experts in court unless required by a judge or applicable law.  This decision complements the department’s efforts, announced earlier this year, to provide better guidance to forensic examiners and federal prosecutors on how to properly characterize the strength of forensic evidence in the courtroom.

The department also announced policies to implement greater transparency and access to forensic laboratory quality assurance documents and a plan to explore a grant funding of multiyear post-doctoral fellowships at federal, state and local forensic science service providers and forensic medicine service providers.

The new policies arose out of recommendations made by the National Commission of Forensic Science, which was established to advance the field of forensic science and make suggestions to the Attorney General on how to ensure that reliable and scientifically valid evidence is used when solving crimes.  The Attorney General’s decision to implement several of the commission’s recommendations was announced at a meeting of the commission today.  A memo was also sent to all department component heads directing the implementation of the recommendations.  Additional information on the department’s ongoing work to strengthen forensic science can be found at www.justice.gov/forensics.

 

GeyerGorey LLP 

GeyerGorey LLP is experienced in working with clients to successfully resolve the toughest, most complicated white collar criminal investigations, including FCPA, frauds including grant fraud and procurement fraud, and competition matters including antitrust and anti-dumping cases. Our partners all have over 20 years of senior level experience with the US Department of Justice and deep expertise in the field of federal white collar crimes. We know how the government’s enforcement agencies think and what they look for in these types of investigations. We use these insights to help our clients mount an effective and efficient defense that specifically addresses any red flags that federal agents look for when conducting an investigation. If your organization is under investigation, or you are concerned that an investigation may be launched, GeyerGorey LLP may be the right firm for you. Call Now +1 (888) 293-0644

SEC Whistleblower Program Continues, Rewards Two Individuals $450,000

Washington, D.C.- The SEC has continued to demonstrate its power in its new whistleblower program, rewarding two whistleblowers with $450,000 jointly. The third SEC whistleblower award this month, this payout follows a multi-million dollar settlement just last week, illustrating the SEC’s conviction in protecting, encouraging, and rewarding whistleblowers.

Article reproduced below, with original link following.

SEC ANNOUNCES THIRD WHISTLEBLOWER AWARD THIS MONTH, TWO INDIVIDUALS SPLIT $450,000

By Richard L. Cassin | Monday, May 23, 2016 at 1:28PM

The Securities and Exchange Commission awarded more than $450,000 jointly to two individuals Friday for a tip that led the SEC to open a corporate accounting investigation and for their help once the investigation was underway.

The whistleblower award is the third announced by the SEC during May, bringing the month’s payouts to $10 million, the agency said.

“The recent flurry of awards reflects the high-quality nature of the tips the SEC is receiving as public awareness of the whistleblower program grows,” Sean McKessy, chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, said in a statement Friday.

“These two individuals not only submitted valuable tips to help open our investigation but also provided valuable assistance as we proceeded,” McKessy said.

On May 17, the SEC awarded between $5 million and $6 million to a whistleblower whose information led the SEC to uncover securities violations which would have been “nearly impossible to detect” without the company insider’s help.

The award was the third highest ever granted under the SEC whistleblower program since the program’s inception in 2011.

On May 13, the SEC awarded a whistleblower more than $3.5 million for producing evidence against his or her company during an ongoing investigation “that strengthened the SEC’s case.”

In that case, the SEC first denied an award to the whistleblower because the informaiton related to an investigation that had already started.

After the whistleblower appealed, the SEC reversed its decision.

By law, the SEC has to protect the confidentiality of whistleblowers and not disclose information that might reveal a whistleblower’s identity.

The agency has now awarded more than $68 million to 31 whistleblowers since the program started in 2011.

The biggest award so far was more than $30 million in 2014. A 2013 award topped $14 million.

Whistleblowers can be eligible for awards when they voluntarily provide the SEC with “unique and useful information that leads to a successful enforcement action.”

Awards can range from 10 percent to 30 percent of recoveries when amounts collected are more than $1 million.

The SEC received more than 4,000 tips last year.

Original Link

Guild Mortgage’s D.C. Location Enter Federal Suit for Knowingly Underwriting Loans for FHA Housing

Cinnaminson, NJ- Guild Mortgage knowingly filed hundreds of falsely underwritten loans to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) over the course of six years, most of which were defaulted upon.

Original Article:

United States Files Lawsuit Alleging That Guild Mortgage Improperly Originated and Underwrote FHA-Insured Mortgage Loans 

The United States has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Guild Mortgage Company (Guild) under the False Claims Act for improperly originating and underwriting mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Justice Department announced today.  Guild is a mortgage lender headquartered in San Diego, California.

“This case is another example of the  Justice Department’s continued efforts to ensure that lenders that participate in the FHA mortgage insurance program act in good faith and conduct appropriate due diligence when committing the United States to insure home loans,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “To protect the housing market and the FHA fund, we will continue to hold responsible lenders that knowingly violate the rules.”

Guild participated in the FHA insurance program as a direct endorsement (DE) lender.  As a DE lender, Guild had the authority to originate, underwrite and certify mortgages for FHA insurance.  If a DE lender such as Guild approves a mortgage loan for FHA insurance and the loan later defaults, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), FHA’s parent agency, is responsible for the losses resulting from the defaulted loan.  Under the DE lender program, neither the FHA nor HUD reviews the underwriting of a loan before it is endorsed for FHA insurance.  HUD therefore relies on DE lenders to follow program rules designed to ensure that they are properly underwriting and certifying mortgages for FHA insurance and DE lenders must certify that every loan endorsed for FHA insurance is underwritten according to the applicable FHA standards.

The government’s complaint alleges that, from January 2006 through December 2011, Guild knowingly submitted, or caused the submission of, claims for hundreds of improperly underwritten FHA-insured loans.  The complaint further alleges that Guild grew its FHA lending business by ignoring FHA rules and falsely certifying compliance with underwriting requirements in order to reap the profits from FHA-insured mortgages.  For example, Guild allegedly allowed underwriters to waive compliance with FHA requirements when underwriting a loan.  Additionally, Guild used unqualified junior-underwriters who did not have a DE certification to waive mandatory conditions on higher risk loans where HUD required underwriting only by highly trained DE underwriters.

The government’s complaint further alleges that Guild’s senior management focused on growth and profits and ignored quality.  From 2006 to 2012, Guild conducted at least 125 branch audits in which almost 40 percent resulted in either a qualified rating or unsatisfactory rating.  A qualified rating was defined as having a “significant number of findings, and/or findings noted that have more serious impact or risk to Guild,” or “Knowledge of procedures and controls; however, they appear to be inefficient.”  An unsatisfactory rating was defined as one where “serious concerns were noted: lack of knowledge, procedures, and/or controls in branch.”  The complaint alleges that, through Guild’s quality control reviews, significant defects were found in over 20 percent of the FHA loans reviewed between 2006 and 2011 and over half the loans had either significant or moderate defects.  Significant defects included fraud, misrepresentation and other serious findings while moderate defects included not following guidelines.  However, Guild did not calculate or distribute any error rate during the relevant time period, thus management was not presented with these findings.  Additionally, for many of the quarters from 2006 through 2009, Guild did not even distribute any of the quality control findings to management.  As a result, Guild management often did not review or remediate findings from quality control audits during these years.  In the quarters where Guild management actually did review quality control findings, it did so almost a year after the loans closed and failed to timely remediate any identified problems.  In 2013, when Guild finally began addressing the quality of its FHA underwriting, Guild’s head of quality control pointed out the ineffectiveness of its past efforts at addressing loan quality:  “I’m not optimistic about training reminders and individual follow-ups being all that effective.”

The government’s complaint alleges that as a result of Guild’s knowingly deficient mortgage underwriting practices, HUD has already paid tens of millions of dollars of insurance claims on loans improperly underwritten by Guild, and that there are many additional loans improperly underwritten by Guild that are currently in default and could result in further insurance claims on HUD.  For example, the government’s complaint identifies a mortgage loan that was improperly underwritten in violation of HUD requirements, causing the borrower to default and HUD to pay the loss on the loan.  Specifically, Guild failed to verify the borrower’s prior rental payments, overstated the borrower’s income, failed to develop a credit history for the borrower who had no credit score, exceeded FHA’s qualifying debt to income ratio without determining whether certain compensating factors were present, and failed to identify the source of a large deposit made to the borrower’s account.  The underwriter at Guild improperly waived multiple conditions and allowed an unauthorized junior underwriter to do the same for other conditions.  In sworn testimony, the Guild underwriter admitted the loan failed to comply with FHA underwriting requirements.

“The Federal Housing Administration’s insurance program is meant to encourage lenders to expand opportunity for homeownership by providing financing to prospective buyers who otherwise might not be able to enter the housing market,” said U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips for the District of Columbia.  “To ensure that prospective homebuyers realize the dream of long term homeownership, the program has strict rules and is not a license for lenders to carelessly subject federal dollars to risk. This lawsuit is designed to help the FHA – and American taxpayers — recoup tens of millions of dollars in losses attributable to a lender accused of improperly underwriting FHA-insured mortgages and committing the government’s guarantee to mortgages that failed to comply with program rules.”

“The decision to intervene in this matter should serve as a reminder of the priority given to pursuing lenders that violate HUD program rules in order to hold them accountable and the value of private citizen participation, including whistleblowers, in pursuing lenders that violate the rules,” said HUD Inspector General David A. Montoya.

“FHA relies on the honesty and integrity of those lenders participating in our program,” said HUD’s General Counsel Helen R. Kanovsky.  “The action we take today should send a clear message that we will not tolerate the abuse of our programs or of the families who should benefit from them.”

The lawsuit was brought under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act by a former employee of Guild.  Under the act, a private party may bring suit on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  The government may intervene in the case, as it has done here.  The False Claims Act allows the government to recover treble damages and penalties from those who violate it.

The investigation of this matter was a coordinated effort among HUD, its Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch.

The action is captioned United States ex rel. Dougherty v. Guild Mortgage Company (D.D.C.).  The claims asserted in the complaint are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Original Article Link

Official Filing

Hitachi Chemical Plea Agreement Part 1- Robert Connolly

Hitachi Chemical Plea Agreement: Part 1—Enhancement of Compliance Program as a Condition of Probation

ISRI gauging impact of coin buyback suspension

The American Metal Market Daily is the online resource for metals industry news and proprietary pricing information covering the steel, non-ferrous and scrap markets. Since its first print issue published in 1882, AMM has been the trusted name in metals industry information.  This is what AMM has learned about growing concerns reporrted by members of and recent actions taken by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI)  on their behalf (click below to access the article):

“Collecting coins out of scrap metal is a decades-old practice—particularly since the shredder came into being, and more so since the advent of advanced metal processing technology,” he said. “If it is hurting our members as a result of pricing of zorba or through the inability to sell direct back to U.S. Mint, then obviously we need to step in.”

AMM: Mint Coin Buyback Delay Deals Blow to Recyclers

The American Metal Market Daily is the online resource for metals industry news and proprietary pricing information covering the steel, non-ferrous and scrap markets. Since its first print issue published in 1882, AMM has been the trusted name in metals industry information.  This is what AMM has learned about the scrap industry’s response to the Mint’s decision to extend for another six months the suspension of the program that allows mutilated coin redemptions (click below):

Mint Coin Buyback Delay Deals Blow to Recyclers