Hudson County, New Jersey, Man Sentenced To 63 Months In Prison For Masterminding Fake ID Website And Participating In ‘SIRF’ Scheme

Thursday, July 27, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A Jersey City, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 63 months in prison for his role in two separate conspiracies: one to create and operate a website that sold high-quality, custom-made fake identification documents, some of which were later used to commit financial crimes, and a second to fraudulently obtain tax refund checks, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Ricardo Rosario, 34, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with authentication features and conspiracy to submit false claims to the U.S. Government. Judge Linares imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From October 2012 through August 2014, Rosario, with the assistance of Abraham Corcino, 34, of Jersey City, and Alexis Scott Carthens, 38, of Newark, sold fake driver’s licenses over the Internet, running a website that was available at “fakeidstore.com” and “fakedlstore.com.” A number of the fake driver’s licenses sold by Rosario and other conspirators were used in connection with “cash out” schemes, where stolen credit card information, usually obtained through hacking or ATM skimming operations, was encoded on to counterfeit credit cards and used to steal cash from victims’ accounts.

Rosario created and ran the website. Corcino and Carthens assisted him by creating and mailing the fake driver’s licenses purchased through the website. Corcino also maintained an Instagram account to promote the website. The website sold fake New Jersey, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin driver’s licenses, and the website boasted that the licenses had “scannable barcodes” and “real” holographic overlays. The price for each fake driver’s license was approximately $150, but the website offered bulk pricing for orders of 10 or more.

The website allowed its users to pay by bitcoin, a cryptographic-based digital currency, or MoneyPak, a type of prepaid payment card that could be purchased at retail stores. The “FAQ” section of the website indicated that orders would be received approximately one to two days after payment was received and described the website’s policy with respect to returns: “No Refunds. No snitching.”

In the Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) conspiracy, Rosario assisted Carthens, who obtained stolen personally identifiable information (PII) primarily in the form of lab testing request forms that he purchased from another individual. Rosario provided Carthens with email accounts and drop addresses used in furtherance of the scheme. The email accounts were used to register accounts for online tax filing services and prepaid card accounts used to apply for and receive the tax refunds. The drop addresses were used to physically receive the refunds in the form of prepaid debit cards.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Linares sentenced Rosario to three years of supervised release and ordered forfeiture of $232,660 and restitution of $121,922.

Corcino was sentenced on April 17, 2017, to three years of probation. Carthens pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme on April 25, 2016, and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 28, 2017.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn, and special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Zach Intrater of the Economic Crimes Unit and Barbara Ward, Acting Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel: Brian Neary Esq., Hackensack, New Jersey

Short Hills, New Jersey, Investment Manager Sentenced To 33 Months In Prison For $675,000 Ponzi Scheme

Thursday, July 27, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – An investment manager with an office in Short Hills, New Jersey, was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for that he fraudulently inducing investments, concealing investment losses, and diverting more than $675,000 in investor money for his own use, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Mark Moskowitz, 48, of Short Hills, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden to an information charging him with one count of wire fraud. Judge Hayden imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

In a separate legal proceeding, the N.J. Bureau of Securities ordered Moskowitz and his trading company, Edge Trading LLC, to pay a $1 million civil penalty for selling unregistered fraudulent securities and misusing investors’ funds for personal expenses.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Moskowitz controlled an investment fund under the names Edge Trading Partners L.P. and Edge Trading LLC (Edge Trading). In addition to touting his investment skill and experience, Moskowitz concealed losses from investors and falsely told them that Edge Trading was growing year after year. Based on these misrepresentations, investors continued to entrust additional funds to Moskowitz and left previous investments under his control.

Edge Trading was an investment fund that Moskowitz created and operated, starting in or around 2012. Moskowitz told investors that Edge Trading was invested in U.S. and foreign equities, futures contracts, and option contracts and that the fund’s investments continued to show positive returns. In reality, Moskowitz redirected investor money to his personal use, which he concealed from the investors.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Hayden sentenced Moskowitz to three years of supervised release and ordered restitution and forfeiture of $694,577.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing. He also thanked the N.J. Bureau of Securities in the State Attorney General’s Office, under the direction of Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and Acting Bureau Chief Amy Kopleton, for its assistance in the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

Defense counsel: David Holman Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defenders, Newark

New Jersey Man Sentenced To 39 Months In Prison For Defrauding Investors

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A North Caldwell, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 39 months in prison for fraudulently using more than $550,000 in investment funds that he solicited to purchase and sell consumer products in bulk, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Michael Esposito, 45, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini to an information charging him with one count of wire fraud. Judge Martini imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From August 2013 through February 2017, Esposito was the president of numerous entities that purported to purchase consumer products in bulk from manufacturers for resale to wholesalers and retailers. Esposito told potential investors that he could purchase consumer goods – such as soda and bottled water – at substantial discounts, and that he had buyers ready to purchase the products at a significant profit.

In return for providing the funds necessary to purchase the products, Esposito promised the victim investors a large percentage of the profits. However, Esposito used the funds for his personal expenses and to pay other investors in order to make it appear the money was properly used. Esposito admitted that his actions resulted in losses of more than $550,000.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Martini sentenced Esposito to three years of supervised release. Restitution will be determined at a late date.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents with the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation. He also thanked investigators with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation for their assistance.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Kogan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit and Sarah Devlin of the Asset Forfeiture Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel: Brooke M. Barnett Esq., Newark

Newark Police Officer Admits Conspiracy To Commit Fraud Against Housing Assistance Program

Monday, July 24, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A Newark police officer today admitted conspiring to fraudulently obtain payments under the federal public housing assistance program known as “Section 8,” Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Luis Cancel, 50, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of agreeing with another individual to obtain Section 8 public housing benefits to which they were not entitled.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

The Section 8 Program is a federal public housing assistance program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It provides rent subsidies to qualified low-income individuals. HUD provided federal grant money to the Newark Housing Authority (NHA) for the Section 8 Program. Under the NHA’s Section 8 Program, a tenant’s rental assistance was based upon the tenant’s anticipated family gross income. Tenants receiving Section 8 assistance from the NHA had to inform the NHA of all members of the household and the annual household income.

From January 2010 to May 2015, Cancel, then a Newark police officer, lived with another person (Individual 1) who was receiving Section 8 benefits. Cancel and the other individual agreed not to disclose to the NHA that they were living together or that Cancel was a Newark police officer, and, also, a security guard with the Robert Treat Hotel. Individual 1 submitted fraudulent documents to the NHA that failed to disclose these facts. Cancel also submitted letters to the NHA falsely indicating that he lived at a separate residence. Based upon their misrepresentations, Cancel and Individual 1 received approximately $74,000 in Section 8 subsidies to which they were not entitled.

The count to which Cancel pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 6, 2017.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, with the investigation leading to today’s plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

Defense counsel: Joseph D. Rotella Esq., Newark

Passaic County Man Admits Defrauding Clifton-Based Trucking Company of $900,000

Monday, July 24, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A Passaic County, New Jersey, man today admitted his role in a scheme to defraud a trucking company out of more than $900,000, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.

Angel D. Vidal, 25, of Paterson, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark federal court to Count 1 of an indictment charging him with wire fraud.

According to documents filed in this and other cases and statements made in court:

Lisa Popewiny, 55, of Clifton, New Jersey, was the payroll clerk at Clifford B. Finkle Jr. Inc., a Clifton-based company that provided transportation and freight services to various public and private entities located in New Jersey, New York, and elsewhere. From June 2012 to April 2015, Popewiny, Vidal, and his two brothers, Angel Gabriel Vidal, 23, and Miguel Vidal, 23, a former truck driver for the company, engaged in a scheme to defraud the company out of $920,380. On June 26, 2017, Angel Gabriel Vidal pleaded guilty before Judge Arleo to Count 2 of an indictment charging him with wire fraud. On March 30, 2017, Miguel Vidal pleaded guilty to an information charging him with wire fraud. Popewiny is scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 2, 2017.

Popewiny allegedly falsified payroll records in order to generate fraudulent paychecks payable to non-existent employees, including the Vidal brothers. All of the Vidal brothers have admitted to allowing the use of their personal identifying information to generate the fraudulent paychecks. The three men then converted the checks, many of which were deposited into their bank accounts and then funneled out of the accounts in cash. Miguel Vidal admitted to recruiting other individuals to provide their personal information so that Popewiny could allegedly falsely add them to the payroll. Over the course of the scheme, Popewiny allegedly input false hours for at least 12 different individuals. The scheme came to light when owners of the company, in an effort to investigate suspected fraud, distributed the payroll checks to employees – a task normally completed by Popewiny. After all of the payroll checks had been distributed, several paychecks remained unclaimed that turned out to be fraudulently issued.

The charge to which Angel D. Vidal and his brothers pleaded guilty carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 17, 2017.

Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick credited criminal investigators in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and postal inspectors from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James V. Buthorn, with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cari Fais of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division.

The charges and allegations against Popewiny are merely accusations, and she is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Hospice Company To Pay $2 Million To Resolve Alleged False Claims Related To Unnecessary Hospice Care

Thursday, July 6, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. – A hospice company in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, has agreed to pay to the United States $2 million to resolve allegations that it provided unnecessary hospice services, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced today.

Compassionate Care of Gwynedd Inc. is a hospice provider based in Bensalem and a subsidiary of Compassionate Care Hospice Group Inc., a Florida corporation with its principal place of business in Parsippany, New Jersey. The settlement announced today follows an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. The allegations arose from a whistle-blower suit filed under the False Claims Act.

The United States alleges that from Jan. 1, 2005, through Nov. 15, 2011, Compassionate Care of Gwynedd admitted patients who did not need hospice care and billed Medicare for these medically unnecessary services. The government alleges that the company admitted these patients by using a diagnosis of “debility” that was not medically justified.

The relators, or whistler-blowers, in the underlying qui tam will receive more than $350,000 as their statutory share of the recovery under the False Claims Act. The civil lawsuit was filed in the District of New Jersey and is captioned United States, et al., ex rel. Jane Doe and Mary Roe v. Compassionate Care Hospice, et al.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert, with the investigation leading to the settlement.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Graybow of the Health Care and Government Fraud Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and Trial Attorney Justin Draycott of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. The Office of Inspector General and the Office of the General Counsel for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the Department of Health and Human Services also participated in the investigation and settlement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey reorganized its health care practice in 2010 and created a stand-alone 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 $1.36 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.

The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only; there have been no admissions of liability.

Counsel for relators: Britton D. Monts Esq., Austin, Texas; Timothy J. McInnis Esq., New York

Counsel for defendant: Sean C. Cenawood Esq., New York

Cardiac Monitoring Companies and Executive Agree to Pay $13.45 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Monday, June 26, 2017

AMI Monitoring Inc. aka Spectocor, its owner, Joseph Bogdan, Medi-Lynx Cardiac Monitoring LLC, and Medicalgorithmics SA, the current majority owner of Medi-Lynx Cardiac Monitoring LLC, have agreed to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by billing Medicare for higher and more expensive levels of cardiac monitoring services than requested by the ordering physicians, the Department of Justice announced today. Spectocor and Bogdan have agreed to pay $10.56 million, and Medi-Lynx and Medicalgorithmics have agreed to pay $2.89 million.

“Independent diagnostic testing facilities that improperly steer physicians to order higher levels of service will be held accountable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will vigilantly ensure the appropriate use of our country’s limited Medicare funds.”

From 2011 through 2016, Spectocor, headquartered in McKinney, Texas, and Joseph Bogdan, allegedly marketed the Pocket ECG as capable of performing three separate types of cardiac monitoring services—holter, event, and telemetry. When a physician sought to enroll a patient for Pocket ECG, however, the enrollment process allegedly only allowed the physician to enroll in Pocket ECG for the service which provided the highest rate of reimbursement provided by a patient’s insurance, thus steering the ordering physician to a more costly level of service. In 2013, Medi-Lynx, a related company headquartered in Plano, Texas, began selling the Pocket ECG and allegedly adopted this same enrollment procedure. Medicalgorithmics SA, a limited liability company based in Warsaw, Poland, acquired a controlling interest in Medi-Lynx in September 2016.

“Sophisticated medical technology can be used to help doctors dramatically improve the lives of their patients, but it can also be misused to fraudulently increase medical bills,” said Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick for the District of New Jersey. “Today’s settlement demonstrates that the federal government is committed to preserving the integrity of the Medicare system and ensuring that Medicare funds are spent only for patient care.”

“Billing for unneeded services, as the government alleged, takes unfair advantage of Medicare patients and steals from taxpayers,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “OIG, along with our law enforcement partners, will aggressively investigate these crimes.”

The settlements resolve allegations filed in a lawsuit by Eben Steele, a former sales manager at Spectocor. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Newark, New Jersey, 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. Mr. Steele will receive approximately $2.4 million from the two settlements.

The government’s resolution of this matter illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act. Tips and complaints from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement can be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services at 900-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

The settlements were the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the HHS-OIG.

The case is captioned United States ex rel. John Doe v. Spectocor Enterprise Services, LLC, et al., Case No. 14-1387 (KSH) (D. N.J.). The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Antitrust Division Tax Lien Initiative Continues…

SIX INVESTORS INDICTED FOR THEIR ROLES IN BID RIGGING SCHEME AT
MUNICIPAL TAX LIEN AUCTIONS IN NEW JERSEY

Investigation Has Yielded 20 Charges to Date

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., returned an indictment against six investors for their roles in a conspiracy to rig bids at auctions conducted by New Jersey municipalities for the sale of tax liens, the Department of Justice announced.

The indictment, filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark, charges four individuals, Joseph Wolfson, Gregg Gehring, James Jeffers Jr. and Robert Jeffrey, and two entities, Betty Simon Trustee LLC and Richard Simon Trustee, with participating in a conspiracy to rig bids at tax lien auctions in New Jersey.  According to the indictment, from at least as early as 1998 and continuing until as late as February 2009, the investors participated in a conspiracy to rig bids at auctions for the sale of municipal tax liens in New Jersey by agreeing to allocate among certain bidders which liens each would bid on.  The indictment alleges that the investors proceeded to submit bids in accordance with the agreements and purchased tax liens at collusive and non-competitive interest rates.

Joseph Wolfson, of Margate, N.J., was a part-owner of two entities that invested in municipal tax liens, Betty Simon Trustee and Richard Simon Trustee, both of Northfield, N.J.  Gregg Gehring, of Newton, N.J., was employed by a major tax lien investment company as a vice president.  James Jeffers Jr., of Burlington, N.J., was a bidder for Crusader Servicing Corp., which pleaded guilty to its role in the conspiracy in September 2012, and also a bidder for Crusader’s successor corporation. Robert Jeffrey, of Bradenton, Fla., was a bidder for both Crusader and its successor corporation.

“The individuals and entities charged today demonstrated a blatant disregard for the competitive process by allocating the purchase of certain municipal tax liens by, from time to time, flipping a coin, drawing numbers out of a hat or drawing from a deck of cards,” said Leslie C. Overton, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division.  “The Antitrust Division remains committed to prosecuting those who thwart the competitive bidding process.”

The department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracy was to suppress and restrain competition in order to obtain selected municipal tax liens offered at public auctions at non-competitive interest rates.  When the owner of real property fails to pay taxes on that property, the municipality in which the property is located may attach a lien for the amount of the unpaid taxes.  If the taxes remain unpaid after a waiting period, the lien may be sold at auction.  State law requires that investors bid on the interest rate delinquent property owners will pay upon redemption.  By law, the bid opens at 18 percent interest and, through a competitive bidding process, can be driven down to zero percent.  If a lien remains unpaid after a certain period of time, the investor who purchased the lien may begin foreclosure proceedings against the property to which the lien is attached.  Since the conspiracy permitted the conspirators to purchase tax liens with limited competition, each conspirator was able to obtain liens which earned a higher interest rate.  Property owners were therefore made to pay higher interest on their tax debts than they would have paid had their liens been purchased in open and honest competition, the department said.

The indictment alleges, among other things, that from at least as early as 1998 and continuing until as late as February 2009, prior to the commencement of certain tax lien auctions in New Jersey, the investors and their co-conspirators agreed not to compete for the purchase of certain municipal tax liens.

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  The maximum fine for a Sherman Act violation may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victim if either amount is greater than the $1 million statutory maximum.

Including today’s charges, 20 individuals and entities have been charged as part of an ongoing investigation into bid rigging or fraud related to municipal tax lien auctions in New Jersey.  To date, 11 individuals – Isadore H. May, Richard J. Pisciotta Jr., William A. Collins, Robert W. Stein, David M. Farber, Robert E. Rothman, Stephen E. Hruby, David Butler, Norman T. Remick, Robert U. Del Vecchio Sr., and Michael Mastellone – and three companies, DSBD LLC, Crusader Servicing Corp., and Mercer S.M.E. Inc., have pleaded guilty aspart of this investigation.

Today’s charge is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 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 more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants, including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants.  For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s New York Field Office and the FBI’s Atlantic City, N.J., office.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to municipal tax lien auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s New York Field Office at 212-335-8000, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm or contact the Atlantic City Resident Agency of the FBI at 609-677-6400.