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November 29, 2012

Con Man Agrees to Plead Guilty in Three Fraud Schemes, Including Multi-Million Dollar Ponzi and Separate Mortgage Fraud Scheme

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 7:34 pm

LOS ANGELES – A Glendale man has agreed to plead guilty to federal fraud charges, admitting that he ran three separate scams, including a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 30 families out of more than $8 million.

Kaveh Vahedi has also admitted his role in a mortgage fraud scheme that submitted hundreds of falsified loan applications to banks through his brokerage firm, Countywide Financial. Vahedi has also acknowledged stealing more than $700,000 from his parents by draining their bank account and taking out a loan on their home.

Vahedi, 51, who has been in federal custody since last May, entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors that was filed late Monday in United States District Court. Vahedi agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with the Ponzi scheme and one count of conspiracy in relation to the mortgage fraud scheme. Vahedi also agreed to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud to resolve a previously filed criminal case related to the fraud against his parents.

Vahedi is scheduled to plead guilty tomorrow morning before United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson. Once he pleads guilty to the three felony counts stemming from the three schemes, Vahedi will face a statutory maximum sentence of 55 years in federal prison.

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Two Men Convicted in Armenian Power Case Each Sentenced to Quarter Century in Federal Prison for Orchestrating Fraud Scheme

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 7:28 pm

SANTA ANA, California – Two men who orchestrated an elaborate identity theft scheme from behind the walls of a state prison were sentenced today by a federal judge who ordered both men to spend 25 years in federal prison.

The two men were the lead defendants in one of two federal indictments that targeted the Armenian Power gang two years ago. According to the fraud indictment issued by a grand jury in Orange County, members of Armenian Power worked with members of African-American street gangs and bribed bank insiders to gather information that allowed them to take over bank accounts in a scheme that caused losses of at least $8 million.

Today in federal court, United States District Judge David O. Carter sentenced the masterminds of the Orange County scheme and said this case involved one of the most sophisticated fraud schemes he had ever seen.

The two defendants sentenced today were:
Angus Brown, also known as “Homicide,” 36, who is described in court papers as a “career criminal and identity thief” with numerous prior conviction and was serving time for identity theft when he engaged in the identity theft scheme that led to this case; and Arman Sharopetrosian, also known as “Horse,” 33, of Burbank, a member of the Armenian Power criminal enterprise who was serving a 10-year sentenced for shooting at an occupied vehicle and carrying a concealed weapon when he committed the federal fraud offense.

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November 16, 2012

Former Law Firm Partner Convicted of Obstructing SEC Investigation

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 3:45 pm

LOS ANGELES – A federal district judge today convicted a former partner of Nixon Peabody LLP for obstructing a Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) investigation into whether one of the law firm’s former clients was running a Ponzi scheme.

Following a two-week bench trial, attorney David Tamman, 45, of Santa Monica, was convicted on all ten counts on which he was tried: one count of conspiring to obstruct justice, five counts of altering documents, one count of being an accessory after the fact to co-defendant John Farahi’s mail and securities fraud crimes, and three counts of aiding and abetting Farahi’s false testimony before the SEC.

“A case like this reveals the lengths to which those committing frauds will go to conceal their criminal deeds,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr., whose office prosecuted the case.  “It also demonstrates that we will go to equal lengths to overcome these efforts at concealment and cast a bright light on fraudulent schemes that threaten investors and others in today’s difficult financial environment.”

The evidence at trial showed that immediately after the SEC made a surprise inspection of Farahi’s business, Tamman met with Farahi and began altering and backdating documents to make it appear that Farahi had been disclosing to investors that Farahi was himself taking the majority of investors’ funds. Those altered documents were later produced to the SEC and falsely represented by Farahi to be the actual documents that had earlier been given to investors.  The evidence at trial also showed that Tamman created and backdated promissory notes and supplemental disclosure documents and lied to his partners and co-counsel about the creation and alteration of documents that the SEC was seeking.

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October 24, 2012

L.A. Man Sentenced to Over 6 Years in Prison for Using Information from Elderly Victims to Obtain Credit Cards and Buy Luxury Goods

Filed under: Los Angeles Criminal attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 5:38 pm

LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles man has been sentenced to 76 months in federal prison for his role in an international identity theft and credit card fraud scheme that targeted elderly victims.

Doren Harold Ward, 37, who resides in the Park La Brea district of Los Angeles, was sentenced yesterday by United States District Judge Terry J. Hatter. In addition to the prison term, Judge Hatter ordered Ward to pay nearly $300,000 in restitution.

During yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Hatter asked Ward if he knew the credit cards belonged to real people, and despite a jury finding him guilty of six felony counts in June (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2012/084.html), Ward continued to deny that he knew the credit cards he abused belonged to 45 victims of identity theft.

“Identity theft is a serious crime that often has far-reaching effects on its victims,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “This lengthy prison sentence should also have a far-reaching impact, sending a powerful message to thieves like Ward that their criminal conduct will lead to severe consequences.”

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September 25, 2012

Romanian Man and Russian Woman Guilty in Internet Car Sales Scam

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 4:56 pm

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – A Romanian man and a Russian woman have pleaded guilty to participating in an Internet scam that offered non-existent automobiles for sale and caused victims from across the United States to suffer losses of more than $4 million.

Corneliu Weikum, 38, a Romanian national who resides in the Federal Republic of Germany, and Yulia Mishina-Heffron, 24, of Russia, each pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon to two counts – one involving smuggling bulk cash out of the United States, and another involving a plot to commit wire and bank fraud.

Weikum and Mishina-Heffron pleaded guilty pursuant to cases brought by the United States Attorney’s Offices in Los Angeles (which included the conspiracy count) and Las Vegas (which included the bulk cash smuggling count).

According to court documents, between May 2007 and November 15, 2010, Weikum and Mishina-Heffron participated in a scheme operated out of Romania that advertised cars and other vehicles for sale on websites that included eBay Motors, Auto Trader, Yahoo Auto, edmunds.com, and Cragslist. After negotiating with members of the conspiracy in Romania, victims of the scam were instructed to deposit the money for the cars into bank accounts established at the direction of Weikum and Mishina-Heffron. Associates withdrew the money and gave it to Weikum and Mishina-Heffron, who would then smuggle the money out of the United States in the form of cash and wire transfers.

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July 30, 2012

Former Executive at Orange County Bank Sentenced to 41 Months in Federal Prison for Stealing Nearly $2 Million from One Account

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 8:33 pm

SANTA ANA, California – An Orange County man who served as a vice president of Farmers and Merchants Bank and was the manager of the institution’s Laguna Hills branch was sentenced this afternoon to 41 months in federal prison for stealing nearly $2 million from a customer’s account.

Matthew J. Walker, 34, of Orange, was sentenced by United States District Judge Andrew J. Guilford, who ordered Walker to pay just over $1.8 million in restitution.

Walker pleaded guilty to one count of theft of bank funds in November 2011,
specifically admitted that he stole nearly $2 million over a 16-month period that ended in July 2010. Walker withdrew money from a line of credit in the name of a trust that held an account at Farmers and Merchants. To cover up the scheme, Walker made interest payments on the money supposedly loaned to the trust.

Walker “stole almost $2 million dollars from a client for a personal venture where he was trying ‘to hit it big,’” according to a sentencing memo filed by prosecutors. “Much like gambling, [Walker] used the money on a start-up company that he was intimately involved in and where he could win or lose. Like most risky gambles, he ultimately lost it all.”

May 24, 2012

Bay Area Woman Indicted in San Francisco for Tax Evasion and Bank Fraud Allegedly Defrauded Mississippi Bank

Filed under: Federal Crimes Defense Attorney — Tags: , — fayarfa @ 4:39 am

A federal grand jury in San Francisco has returned an indictment charging Crystal Ann Poole with evading income taxes for over eight years and for defrauding a federally insured bank in Mississippi, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today.

The indictment alleges that Poole had failed to file income tax returns and failed to pay income taxes since 1998, despite earning, in later years, as much as $200,000 each year.  She allegedly evaded collection of her taxes by using a false Social Security number and by keeping her employers from withholding income taxes from her wages.

The indictment further alleges that, in January 2006, Poole defrauded the Community Bank of Mississippi in order to borrow $335,000 to buy a home in Florence, Miss.  In order to get the loan, she allegedly provided the bank with a false Social Security number that masked several disqualifying financial circumstances to include a recently filed bankruptcy, one pending lawsuit, and numerous unpaid debts.

An indictment merely alleges that a crime has been committed, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  If convicted, Poole faces a maximum potential sentence of 51 years in prison and a maximum fine of over $2 million.

Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally of the Justice Department’s Tax Division thanked special agents of IRS - Criminal Investigation, who provided valuable assistance in conducting the investigation; Tax Division Trial Attorneys Brian Bailey and Katherine Wong, who prosecuted the case; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Moore for his assistance with the prosecution.

May 23, 2012

SoCal Manager of International Computer Hacking Ring Sentenced to Five Years in Federal Prison for Defrauding Banks

Filed under: Los Angeles Drug Attorney — Tags: , , — fayarfa @ 5:08 am

LOS ANGELES – A principal figure in the domestic arm of an international “phishing” operation that used spam emails and bogus websites to collect personal information used to defraud American banks was sentencing this morning to five years in federal prison.

Nichole Michelle Merzi, 26, of Oceanside, was sentenced in the fraud case by Senior United States District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr.

After a six-week trial last year, Merzi was found guilty of bank and wire fraud conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, computer fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy charges.

Along with her then-boyfriend – Kenneth Joseph Lucas II – Merzi was a lead defendant named in an indictment returned in the fall of 2009 as part of Operation “Phish Phry,” a multinational investigation conducted in the United States and Egypt that led to charges against 100 individuals – the largest number of defendants ever charged in a cybercrime case. As a result of Operation Phish Phry, 47 people have been convicted in federal court in Los Angeles. Lucas was sentenced in 2011 in two federal cases – one stemming from the phishing scheme and one from a indoor marijuana grow operation that he constructed – to a total of 13 years in federal prison (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/Pressroom/2011/092.html).

Operation Phish Phry revealed how Egyptian hackers obtained bank account numbers and related personal identification information from bank customers through phishing – a technique that involves sending e-mail messages that appear to be official correspondence from banks or credit card vendors. Bank customers who received the spam emails were directed to phony websites purporting to be linked to financial institutions, where the customers were asked to enter their account numbers, passwords and other personal identification information. Because the websites appeared to be legitimate – complete with bank logos and legal disclaimers – the victims did not realize that the websites were not related to legitimate financial institutions.

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February 3, 2012

Orange County Couple Plead Guilty to Federal Fraud Charges for Bilking Banks out of Nearly $5 Million

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — Tags: , , , — fayarfa @ 5:07 am

SANTA ANA, California – A Newport Coast couple pleaded guilty this morning to defrauding a consortium of seven banks, including Bank of America, in connection with a $130 million line of credit.

Thomas Chia Fu, 63, and his wife, Cheri L. Shyu (also known as Cheri Fu), 60, owned Anaheim-based Galleria USA, Inc., which imported home decor items manufactured in China. The Fus obtained a $130 million revolving line of credit for Galleria from a consortium of seven banks. In connection with that revolving line of credit, the couple overstated by tens of millions of dollars the accounts receivables of the company – lies they told the banks in order to continue borrowing funds under the revolving line of credit, according to plea agreements filed in this case. The Fus also admitted to falsifying in Galleria’s computer system the accounts receivable amounts by a factor of 10 or more times the actual amount purchased to support the exaggerated numbers and hide Galleria’s true financial status.

The banks suffered an estimated loss of $4.7 million on the revolving line of credit from October 2008 to July 2009.

The Fus pleaded guilty this morning before United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney. Cheri Fu is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Carney on July 9, and Thomas Fu is scheduled to be sentenced on July 30.

At sentencing, the Fus each face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison.

January 1, 2012

Six Indicted on Federal Fraud and Money Laundering Charges in $4 Million Internet Scam involving Vehicles Offered for Sale

Filed under: Los Angeles Criminal attorney — Tags: , , , — fayarfa @ 8:52 pm

Fraud Scheme Used Well Known Websites that Offered Vehicles for Sale

LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury has indicted six foreign nationals on charges related to an Internet sales scheme that allegedly defrauded Americans who attempted to purchase automobiles and other vehicles on the Internet through websites that included eBay Motors, Auto Trader, Yahoo Auto, Edmunds.com and Craigslist.

The 24-count indictment, which was returned yesterday afternoon, alleges a scheme in which vehicles were offered for sale on various legitimate websites. Money was subsequently collected from victims across the United States and supposedly put into escrow accounts with PayPal and eBay Motors. The money was then siphoned from the accounts, with millions of dollars being sent to Europe. Not one vehicle was delivered to the hundreds of victims who lost more than $4 million during the 3½ years the scheme operated, according to the indictment.

The charges are the result of a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), IRS - Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service. Several other state and local law enforcement agencies provided substantial assistance during the investigation, including the Costa Mesa Police Department.

The indictment alleges conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, eight counts of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and four counts of money laundering. Additionally, the indictment seeks the forfeiture of property and money illegally obtained through the scheme, including more than $4.2 million in U.S. currency. If they are convicted of the charges in the indictment, the defendants would each face sentences that could total hundreds of years in federal prison.

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