Executives of Swiss and Las Vegas Companies Convicted in International Investment Fraud Scheme

A federal jury in Las Vegas convicted two men of conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud yesterday for their roles in an approximately $10 million international investment fraud scheme involving numerous victims.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden of the District of Nevada and Special Agent in Charge Laura A. Bucheit of the FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office made the announcement.

Anthony Brandel, 48, of Las Vegas, and James Warras, 69, of Waterford, Wisconsin, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy, nine counts of wire fraud and eight counts of securities fraud following a five-day trial before Senior U.S. District Judge Kent J. Dawson of the District of Nevada.  The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on March 2, 2016, by Judge Dawson.

According to evidence presented at trial, Brandel and Warras conspired with others in the United States and Switzerland to promote investments and loan instruments that they knew to be fraudulent.  The conspirators told victims that, for an up-front payment, a Swiss company known as the Malom (Make A Lot of Money) Group AG would provide access to lucrative investment opportunities and substantial cash loans.  To effectuate this scheme, the defendants fabricated bank documents purporting to show that the Malom Group had large amounts of money in several European financial institutions.  And as part of an effort to defraud an investor who held an equity stake in a corporation that had filed for bankruptcy, Warras submitted a sworn affidavit to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of New Hampshire in which he made false statements about the value of certain bonds that the defendants promoted to the investor.

Brandel and Warras were charged together with four other defendants, including Joseph Micelli, 62, a former California attorney who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud and is set to be sentenced on Feb. 23, 2016.  The remaining defendants are either at large or awaiting extradition from other countries.

The FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office investigated the case.  Assistant Chief Brian R. Young and Trial Attorneys Melissa Aoyagi and Anna G. Kaminska of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case with assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada.  The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Enforcement Division, which referred the matter to the department and is conducting a parallel civil enforcement investigation, also provided valuable assistance.

Today’s announcement 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.  Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants.  For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

Allen P. Grunes: “Another Look at Privacy,” 20 Geo. Mason L. Rev. (Summer 2013)

Allen Grunes took a moment to discuss his latest law review article on the intersection of privacy and Antitrust Law and suggests its implications for the future: 

Another Look at Privacy, 20 Geo. Mason L. Rev. (Summer 2013)

“Antitrust law does not often take privacy issues into account, even when construing ‘privacy’ in its broadest sense to include privacy policies, the collection and subsequent use or sale of personal information, and privacy regulation. Issues involving privacy and its flip side, “big data,” occasionally do surface in antitrust matters, but by and large they remain on the margin. There have been a handful of attempts to move privacy more toward the center of the antitrust universe, but they have not been very successful.

In this Article, I first discuss some of the challenges consumer privacy poses and why antitrust has had a difficult time with privacy considerations. Next, I discuss several arguments that a few brave souls have made urging that privacy should be more central to antitrust—especially when consumer data is at the center of a merger, as it was in Google/DoubleClick. I then look at some of the ways that, on the periphery, antitrust law does incorporate privacy issues. Finally, I offer what is hopefully a more nuanced and productive way of thinking about the issue based on several characteristics of online markets, and suggest a few interesting implications for the future.”