Houston Man Faces Twenty Years in Prison for His Role in $6.5 Million Diamond Fraud Scheme

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

DALLAS — A Houston man, Christopher Arnold Jiongo, appeared this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul D Stickney and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.

Jiongo, 55, faces a maximum statutory penalty of twenty years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. He will remain on bond pending sentencing, which is set for September 11, 2017, before U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey. Co-defendants Craig Allen Otteson, 64, of McKinney and Jay Bruce Heimburger, 58, of Dallas, are scheduled for trial July 17, 2017.

According to plea documents filed in the case, Otteson acted as the Managing Member and Chief Compliance Officer of Stonebridge Advisors, LLC, located on Belt Line road in Dallas. Stonebridge Advisors was involved as the Managing Partner of Worldwide Diamond Ventures, L.P., located at 6029 Belt Line in Dallas, and it acted as the General Partner of Worldwide Diamond. Heimburger acted as a Principal Partner of Worldwide Diamond, and he was also listed as the registered agent and Director of JBH Securities, Inc. located on San Rafael in Dallas. JBH Securities was primarily involved in the business of providing investment advice. Worldwide Diamond was primarily involved in the business of buying and reselling diamonds on the international market. On October 1, 2013, Worldwide Diamond filed for bankruptcy in the Northern District of Texas.

During the summer of 2011 through November 2011, Jiongo drafted $50,000 diamond notes which were later used as investment vehicles to generate investment funds. Jiongo, Otteson and Heimburger represented that all investment funds would be used to buy and resell diamonds and that every dollar invested would always be fully secured by the cash and diamond inventory of Worldwide Diamond. Sometime in the summer of 2011, Jiongo, Otteson and Heimburger realized that the original business plan was not working out as planned and that the defendants therefore could not honor the original promises and representations made to investors. Jiongo, Otteson, and Heimburger then engaged in a scheme to defraud investors by fraudulently concealing from investors that investor funds were being used for unauthorized purposes unrelated to the purchase and resale of diamonds. These unauthorized purposes included making several loans totaling approximately $2.4 million to third parties and to Global Reach Industries Limited for purposes not disclosed to or authorized by the investors. Jiongo, Otteson and Heimburger also fraudulently concealed from Worldwide Diamond investors that defendants planned to make an unauthorized $1 million loan of investor funds to Global Reach Industries Limited, a company established and controlled by defendant Jiongo.

During July 2011, Jiongo, Otteson and Heimburger all agreed to fraudulently wire transfer $400,000 of investor funds into several bank accounts designated by Jiongo. In August 2011, all three defendants agreed that defendant Jiongo would cause another $600,000 of investor funds to be wire transferred directly into a trust account controlled by Jiongo.

As a result of this scheme to defraud during the period from about 2011 through 2012, documents reflect that millions of dollars were fraudulently collected from Worldwide Diamond investors.

This case is one of several felony prosecutions of bankruptcy-related crimes generated by the Bankruptcy Fraud Initiative in the Northern District of Texas. Of the 26 defendants charged as part of that initiative – 17 have been convicted, 1 resulted in a mistrial and 8 are pending trial.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis is in charge of the prosecution.

$80 Million Judgment Entered Against BNP Paribas for False Claims to the U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Department of Justice announced today that an $80 million False Claims Act judgment was entered against BNP Paribas for submitting false claims for payment guarantees issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  BNP Paribas is a global financial institution headquartered in Paris.

“We will not tolerate the misuse of taxpayer funded programs designed to help American businesses,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.  “Companies that abuse these programs will be held accountable.”

The United States filed a lawsuit against BNP Paribas in connection with its receipt of payment guarantees under USDA’s Supplier Credit Guarantee (SCG) Program.  The program provided payment guarantees to U.S.-based exporters for their sales of grain and other agricultural commodities to importers in foreign countries.  The program encouraged American exporters to sell American agricultural commodities to foreign importers and covered part of the losses if the foreign importers failed to pay.  The SCG Program regulations provided that U.S. exporters were ineligible to participate in the SCG Program if the exporter and foreign importer were under common ownership or control.

The judgment entered by the court resolves the government’s allegations that, from 1998 to 2005, BNP Paribas participated in a sustained scheme to defraud the SCG Program.  In furtherance of the scheme, American exporters and Mexican importers who were under common control improperly obtained SCG Program export credit guarantees for transactions between the affiliated exporters and importers.  In some cases, the underlying transactions were shams and did not involve any real shipment of grain.  BNP Paribas accepted assignment of the credit guarantees from the American exporters, even though it knew that the affiliated exporters and importers were ineligible for SCG Program financing, and a BNP Paribas vice-president, Jerry Cruz, received bribes from the exporters.  Beginning in April 2005, when the Mexican importers began defaulting on their payment obligations, BNP Paribas submitted claims to the USDA for the resulting losses.

On Jan. 20, 2012, Cruz pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“I would like to thank the Department of Justice and the USDA General Counsel’s office for their collaboration in recovering $80 million under this judgment,” said Administrator of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service Phil Karsting.  “This illustrates the importance USDA and this administration places on protecting the integrity of our programs.”

The resolution of this matter was the result of a coordinated effort among the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the USDA, the USDA Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

The lawsuit is captioned United States v. BNP Paribas SA, et al., No. 4:11 cv 3718 (S.D. Tex.).

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19 Arrested in International Round Up on Federal Fraud Charges

Fifteen individuals were arrested today in South Africa, Canada, California, Wisconsin and Indiana, pursuant to an eight-count federal indictment on fraud charges filed in the Southern District of Mississippi.  A total of 19 individuals were arrested across the United States and internationally on charges brought by federal prosecutors in Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia.
Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. O’Neil of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis for the Southern District of Mississippi, Raymond Parmer Jr., Special Agent in Charge of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Orleans and Robert Wemyss, U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector in Charge made the announcement.
Another individual was arrested today in New York on a related Southern District of Mississippi complaint.    Three defendants in South Carolina were arrested in Charleston, pursuant to a nine-count indictment, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia has filed related criminal complaints in Atlanta against two additional defendants.    All of the indictments and complaints were unsealed yesterday.
The indictments allege the involvement of a West African transnational organized crime enterprise engaged in numerous complex financial fraud schemes over the internet.    This mass marketing fraud includes romance scams, re-shipping scams, fraudulent check scams and work-at-home scams, along with bank, financial and credit card account take-overs.
The investigation was initiated in October 2011, by HSI agents in Gulfport, Mississippi, after U.S. law enforcement officers were contacted by a female victim who was the victim of a sweetheart scam.    The victim received a package in the mail requesting that she reship the merchandise to an address in Pretoria, South Africa.  The investigation later revealed that the merchandise was purchased using stolen personal identity information and fraudulent credit card information of persons in the United States.  Investigators have identified hundreds of victims of this scam in the United States, resulting in the loss of millions of U.S. dollars.
Today’s arrests were the result of an investigation led by the HSI Gulfport office in partnership with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, South African Police Service, Toronto Police, HSI Cyber Crimes Center, Treasury Executive Office of Asset Forfeiture, HSI Ontario, HSI Charleston, Interpol South Africa, HSI Pretoria and HSI Atlanta.
The Department of Justice Office of International Affairs assisted in the provisional arrests of ten defendants in Pretoria, South Africa.    Another defendant was arrested in Toronto, Canada, and the remaining defendants were arrested in the United States.
The case in Mississippi will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Annette Williams and Scott Gilbert, and will be scheduled for trial after extradition of the defendants to Mississippi.    The South Carolina prosecution will be handled by Department of Justice Organized Crime and Gang Section trial attorneys Leshia Lee-Dixon and Robert Tully.    The Georgia cases will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shanya J. Dingle of the Northern District of Georgia.
An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant.    Under the law, an indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Ocean Shipping Companies to Pay $3.4 Million to Settle Claims of Price Fixing Government Cargo Transportation Contracts

Sea Star Line LLC and Horizon Lines LLC have agreed to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by fixing the price of government cargo transportation contracts between the continental United States and Puerto Rico, the Department of Justice announced today.   Under the settlement agreements, Sea Star Line has agreed to pay $1.9 million, and Horizon Lines has agreed to pay $1.5 million.

“Today’s civil settlements demonstrate our continuing vigilance to ensure that those doing business with the government do not engage in anticompetitive conduct,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division Stuart F. Delery.   “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of taxpayers will face serious consequences.”

The government alleged that former executives of the defendant ocean shippers used personal email accounts to communicate confidential bidding information, thereby enabling each of the shippers to know the transportation rates that its competitor intended to submit to federal agencies for specific routes.   This information allowed the shippers to allocate specific routes between themselves at predetermined rates.   Among the contracts affected were U.S. Postal Service contracts to transport mail and Department of Agriculture contracts to ship food.   Both Sea Star Line and Horizon Lines previously pleaded guilty, in related criminal proceedings, to anticompetitive conduct in violation of the Sherman Act.

“Postal Service contractors must understand and know that actions that undermine the contracting process, such as conspiring to suppress and eliminate competition, will not be tolerated and will be aggressively investigated,” said Tom Frost, Special Agent in Charge of the Major Fraud Investigations Division (MFID) with the Postal Service Office of Inspector General.   “MFID will continue to work with DOJ, both criminally and civilly, to bring those individuals and companies to justice.”

The civil settlements resolve allegations in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Jacksonville, Fla., by former Sea Star Line executive William B. Stallings.   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.   Stallings will receive $512,719 of the recovered funds.

The settlements were the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. Stallings v. Sea Star Line LLC, et al., Case No. 3:13-cv-152-J-12JBT (M.D. Fla.).   The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only, except to the extent the conduct was admitted as part of the defendants’ prior guilty pleas, and there has been no determination of liability.

Attorney Convicted in Multimillion-Dollar Stock Fraud

Attorney Mitchell J. Stein, 53, of Hidden Hills, Calif., was convicted by a jury in the Southern District of Florida for his role in operating a five-year, multimillion-dollar market manipulation and fraud scheme, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Stein was charged in a December 2011 indictment and on May 20, 2013, he was convicted on all counts: conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and three counts each of mail fraud and wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison; three counts of securities fraud, which each carry a maximum penalty of 25 years; three counts of money laundering, which each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years; and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Stein is being detained until sentencing, which is scheduled for Aug. 16, 2013.

According to evidence presented at trial, Stein’s wife held a controlling interest in Signalife Inc., a publicly-traded company currently known as Heart Tronics that purportedly sold electronic heart monitoring devices.  Stein engaged in a scheme to artificially inflate the price of Signalife stock by creating the false impression of sales activity for Signalife.  Specifically, the evidence at trial showed that Stein and his co-conspirators created fake purchase orders and related documents from fictitious customers, then caused Signalife to issue press releases and file documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) trumpeting these fictitious sales.  Evidence at trial also proved that in a further effort to create the false appearance of sales activity, Stein arranged to have Signalife products shipped to and temporarily stored with an individual who had not purchased any products.

Evidence at trial further proved that Stein disguised his selling of stock during the conspiracy by placing shares in purportedly blind trusts, and that he had a co-conspirator sell shares of Signalife stock after Stein caused false information to be disseminated to the public.  Stein also caused Signalife to issue shares to third parties so that those third parties could sell the shares and remit the proceeds of those sales to Stein.  From one co-conspirator alone, Stein received illicit gains of over $1.8 million.     In addition, evidence at trial proved that Stein conspired to obstruct the SEC’s investigation into Heart Tronics by testifying falsely and arranging for others to testify falsely in an effort to conceal the scheme described above.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

This matter was referred to the Department by the SEC, which conducted a parallel investigation and in December 2011 announced the filing of a civil enforcement action against Stein and others.  The Department thanks the SEC for its substantial assistance in this matter.  The Department also acknowledges the substantial assistance of FINRA’s Criminal Prosecution Assistance Group.     This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Chief Albert B. Stieglitz, Jr. and Trial Attorneys Kevin B. Muhlendorf and Andrew H. Warren of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Eighth Individual Sentenced in Connection with Costa Rica-Based Business Opportunity Fraud Ventures

Sean Rosales, a dual United States and Costa Rican citizen, was sentenced today in connection with a series of business opportunity fraud ventures based in Costa Rica, the Justice Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced today.  Rosales was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Ursula M. Ungaro in Miami to 97 months in prison and 5 years supervised release.  Rosales was also ordered to pay more than $7.3 million in restitution.

On March 20, Rosales pled guilty to one count of an indictment pending against him, charging conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.  Rosales was arrested in Chicago, Illinois late last year following his indictment by a federal grand jury in Miami on Nov. 29, 2011.   The indictment alleged that Rosales and his co-conspirators purported to sell beverage and greeting card business opportunities, including assistance in establishing, maintaining and operating such businesses.  The charges form part of the government’s continued nationwide crackdown on business opportunity fraud.

Prior to Rosales’ sentencing today, eleven other individuals were charged in connection with business opportunity fraud ventures based in Costa Rica.  Rosales is the eighth of those individuals to be convicted and sentenced in the United States.

“Many Americans dream of owning and operating their own small business, but fraud schemes such as the one perpetrated by this defendant can turn that dream into a nightmare,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to be aggressive in prosecuting those who take advantage of innocent, hardworking Americans through business opportunity fraud.”

Beginning in May 2005, Rosales and his coconspirators fraudulently induced purchasers in the United States to buy business opportunities in USA Beverages Inc., Twin Peaks Gourmet Coffee Inc., Cards-R-Us Inc., Premier Cards Inc., The Coffee Man Inc., and Powerbrands Distributing Company.  The business opportunities cost thousands of dollars each, and most purchasers paid at least $10,000.  Each company operated for several months, and after one company closed, the next opened.  The various companies used bank accounts, office space and other services in the Southern District of Florida and elsewhere.

Rosales, using aliases, participated in a conspiracy that used various means to make it appear to potential purchasers that the businesses were located entirely in the United States.  In reality, Rosales operated out of Costa Rica to fraudulently induce potential purchasers in the United States to buy the purported business opportunities.

The companies made numerous false statements to potential purchasers of the business opportunities, including that purchasers would likely earn substantial profits; that prior purchasers of the business opportunities were earning substantial profits; that purchasers would sell a guaranteed minimum amount of merchandise, such as greeting cards and beverages; and that the business opportunity worked with locators familiar with the potential purchaser’s area who would secure or had already secured high-traffic locations for the potential purchaser’s merchandise stands.  Potential purchasers also were falsely told that the profits of some of the companies were based in part on the profits of the business opportunity purchasers, thus creating the false impression that the companies had a stake in the purchasers’ success and in finding good locations.

The companies employed various types of sales representatives, including fronters, closers and references.  A fronter spoke to potential purchasers when the prospective purchasers initially contacted the company in response to an advertisement.  A closer subsequently spoke to potential purchasers to finalize deals.  References spoke to potential purchasers about the financial success they purportedly had experienced since purchasing one of the business opportunities.  The companies also employed locators, who were typically characterized by the sales representatives as third parties who worked with the companies to find high-traffic locations for the prospective purchaser’s merchandise display racks.

Rosales, using aliases, was a fronter for USA Beverages, a fronter and reference for Twin Peaks, a fronter and reference for Cards-R-Us, a fronter, locator and reference for Premier Cards, a locator for Coffee Man, and a locator for Powerbrands.

Each of the companies was registered as a corporation and rented office space to make it appear to potential purchasers that its operations were fully in the United States.  USA Beverages was registered as a Florida and New Mexico corporation and rented office space in Las Cruces, N.M.  Twin Peaks was registered as a Florida and Colorado corporation and rented office space in Fort Collins, Colo., and Cards-R-Us was registered as a Nevada corporation and rented office space in Reno, Nev.  Premier Cards was registered as a Colorado and Pennsylvania corporation and rented office space in Philadelphia, and The Coffee Man was registered as a Colorado corporation and rented office space in Denver.  Powerbrands was registered as a Wisconsin corporation and rented office space in Glendale, Wisconsin and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.  “Fraudulent business opportunity sellers must realize that financial fraud victimizing Americans will be prosecuted vigorously, even if the fraudsters conduct their operations from abroad,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.  “Increased international law enforcement cooperation eliminates safe havens for those who seek to cheat Americans from overseas.”

“The success of this investigation shows that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to working with the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners, both foreign and domestically, to protect Americans from the predatory nature of business opportunity frauds,” said Ronald Verrochio, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge, Miami Division.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Delery commended the investigative efforts of the Postal Inspection Service.  The case was being prosecuted by Assistant Director Jeffrey Steger and trial attorney Alan Phelps with the U.S. Department of Justice Consumer Protection Branch.

North Carolina Commodities Firm Owner Sentenced to 36 Months in Prison for Multimillion-dollar Fraud

The principal and co-owner of North Carolina-based Integra Capital Management LLC, was sentenced today to serve 36 months in prison for his role in a scheme to defraud commodities trading investors of more than $3.2 million, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney of the Western District of North Carolina Anne M. Tompkins.
Nicholas Cox, 35, of Lexington, N.C., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr., in the Western District of North Carolina. In addition to his prison term, Cox was sentenced to serve three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,981,477 in restitution.
On Dec. 22, 2012, Cox pleaded guilty in the Western District of North Carolina to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, five counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to court documents, between September 2006 and January 2009, Cox and his co-conspirator, Rodney Whitney, 50, of Archdale, N.C., the co-owner of Integra, engaged in a scheme to defraud investors in commodity trading pools operated by the firm. Integra was established purportedly for the purpose of pooling investors’ funds in commodity pools, and investing in commodity futures and foreign currency exchange trading. According to court documents, Cox and Whitney obtained and misappropriated more than $3.2 million in investor funds and fabricated account statements and tax forms to conceal their fraud.
According to court documents, Cox and Whitney falsely represented, among other things, that Integra’s managers had more than 30 years of combined market experience; that Integra paid dividends of two to five percent of the investor’s initial investment, which was derived from Integra’s trading profits; and investors could remove their principal investments within five days upon giving notice to Integra. According to court documents, Cox and Whitney used the money invested by later investors to pay the monthly investment returns they had promised to earlier investors, to purchase real estate, to fund other business ventures and to purchase automobiles and other personal goods and services.
On March 21, 2011, Whitney pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was sentenced on Jan. 7, 2013, to 60 months in prison for his role in the scheme.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Luke Marsh of the Criminal Division’ s Fraud Section and Benjamin Bain-Creed and Kenny Smith of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina. The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
This prosecution was done in coordination with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov .

Former Executives of Stanford Financial Group Entities Convicted for Roles in Fraud Scheme

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 19, 2012
Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 19, 2012
Former Executives of Stanford Financial Group Entities Convicted for Roles in Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON – A Houston federal jury has convicted Gilbert T. Lopez Jr., the former chief accounting officer of Stanford Financial Group Company, and Mark J. Kuhrt, the former global controller of Stanford Financial Group Global Management, for their roles in helping Robert Allen Stanford perpetrate a fraud scheme involving Stanford International Bank (SIB).

The guilty verdict was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas; FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins of the Criminal Investigative Division; Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration Phyllis C. Borzi; Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell; and Special Agent in Charge Lucy Cruz of IRS-Criminal Investigation.

Stanford, who was convicted in a separate trial held earlier this year, illegally used billions of dollars of SIB’s assets to fund his personal business ventures, to live a lavish lifestyle, and for other improper purposes.

The evidence presented at the trial of Lopez and Kuhrt established that they were aware of and tracked Stanford’s misuse of SIB’s assets, kept the misuse hidden from the public and from almost all of Stanford’s other employees, and worked behind the scenes to prevent the misuse from being discovered.

The trial against Lopez and Kuhrt spanned five weeks.  After approximately three days of deliberations, the jury found both Lopez, 70, and Kuhrt, 40, both of Houston, guilty of 10 of 11 counts in the indictment.  Each defendant was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud.  Each was found not guilty on one wire fraud count.

Both defendants were immediately remanded into custody.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who presided over the trial, has set sentencing for Feb. 14, 2013.  At sentencing, Lopez and Kuhrt will each face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count of conviction.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS-CI and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration.  The case was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Jeffrey Goldberg and Trial Attorney Andrew Warren of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Varnado of the Southern District of Texas.

Scheme

WASHINGTON – A Houston federal jury has convicted Gilbert T. Lopez Jr., the former chief accounting officer of Stanford Financial Group Company, and Mark J. Kuhrt, the former global controller of Stanford Financial Group Global Management, for their roles in helping Robert Allen Stanford perpetrate a fraud scheme involving Stanford International Bank (SIB).

The guilty verdict was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas; FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins of the Criminal Investigative Division; Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration Phyllis C. Borzi; Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell; and Special Agent in Charge Lucy Cruz of IRS-Criminal Investigation.

Stanford, who was convicted in a separate trial held earlier this year, illegally used billions of dollars of SIB’s assets to fund his personal business ventures, to live a lavish lifestyle, and for other improper purposes.

The evidence presented at the trial of Lopez and Kuhrt established that they were aware of and tracked Stanford’s misuse of SIB’s assets, kept the misuse hidden from the public and from almost all of Stanford’s other employees, and worked behind the scenes to prevent the misuse from being discovered.

The trial against Lopez and Kuhrt spanned five weeks.  After approximately three days of deliberations, the jury found both Lopez, 70, and Kuhrt, 40, both of Houston, guilty of 10 of 11 counts in the indictment.  Each defendant was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud.  Each was found not guilty on one wire fraud count.

Both defendants were immediately remanded into custody.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who presided over the trial, has set sentencing for Feb. 14, 2013.  At sentencing, Lopez and Kuhrt will each face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count of conviction.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS-CI and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration.  The case was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Jeffrey Goldberg and Trial Attorney Andrew Warren of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Varnado of the Southern District of Texas.