Mark Steven Szekely sentenced to prison

February 7, 2015

Mark Steven Szekely (54, Ponte Vedra) to nine years in federal prison for wire fraud. The Court also entered a money judgment in the amount of $454,972.65, the traceable proceeds of the offense, and ordered him to pay restitution to his victims in the same amount. Szekely pleaded guilty on October 14, 2014.

Mark Steven SzekelyAccording to court documents and testimony presented during the sentencing hearing, Szekely conducted a scheme to defraud others in which he swindled at least 17 individuals out of $454,972.65. Among the victims were his friends, members of his church, his children’s teachers, and a 17-year-old high school student who had saved money from babysitting. As part of his scheme, Szekely represented that he was an accomplished author with connections to entertainment lawyers in New York City that could assist the victims with copyrighting, publishing, and/or producing their works into Broadway plays or films. In reality, Szekely had no such connections, and instead, fraudulently created a list of fictitious lawyers and other professionals. In addition, several of the victims were defrauded into investing in “annuities” tied to a book Szekely had written and was allegedly being produced into a movie. Court testimony established that Szekely had not worked for approximately 12 years and had supported himself and his family with the proceeds of his fraud.

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Business Ethics at Work – IBE Ethics and Work Survey – Comments by Chuck Gallagher Business Ethics Expert

December 9, 2012

First I reported on the KPMG survey from India and now the Institute of Business Ethics published their “at work survey” which shows similar results.  Lack of workplace ethics is rising due to the pressures from our worldwide current economic situation.  There’s nothing like a good recession to bring out the worst in folks!  By the way the full report on the IBE’s survey is found HERE.

According to the British Guardian:

right-wrongThe IBE’s ethics at work survey, which was last carried out in 2008, asks employees about their attitudes to ethical issues in the workplace, their perceptions regarding ethical practices in their organizations and what formal assistance on ethical matters their organizations provide for them.

Encouragingly, the majority of British (84%) and mainland European (77%) employees say that honesty is practiced “always or frequently” in their organization.

Although the proportion of British full-time workers who say they have felt pressure to compromise their organization’s ethical standards remains similar to 2008 (9% and 11% respectively), as does the prevalence of an unethical culture (18%), British employees seem to be significantly more likely to experience certain types of pressure to behave unethically than in previous years. The most common of these include meeting unrealistic business objectives or targets (19%) and being asked to take short cuts (14%).

Wanting to help their organization survive was mentioned for the first time as a source of pressure (7%), an indication that the recession is taking its toll on ethical standards.

Of the fifth of British employees who have been aware of misconduct in their organization in the last year, only half of these (51%) say they have reported it. Similarly, of the quarter (28%) of mainland European employees who said they had been aware of misconduct, only half raised their concerns.

As the head of the Ethics Resource Group – an organization that provides ethics training, presentations and consulting to companies worldwide, the statement above that “meeting unrealistic business objectives” creates a significant pressure is true.  Logically when business is booming the NEED to meet an unrealistic objective is reduced.  However, especially during periods of weak economic performance, the NEED increases and pressure seems to mount from all sides.  The most significant part of this problem is if the “unrealistic business pressure” is supported from the top where the discipline for ethics must originate.

To deter unethical and potentially illegal behavior, three things must be present: (1) Delivering swift and consistent justice for unethical actions; (2) Identify the weak areas within your organization and target them for ethical training and attention; and (3) develop ways to foster ethical behavior among leaders and monitor management integrity.  This is the three legged stool from which a company creates a foundation for positive ethical behavior.

Lapses in Business ethics are not just caused by one person!

The report in the Guardian is quite telling:

In business ethics, there are no lone gunmen – the theory that integrity failures are caused by just one person behaving badly. UBS was fined £29.7m last month by the FSA for failures in its systems and controls that allowed former employee Kweku Adoboli to conduct Britain’s biggest bank fraud. Integrity crises are usually the result of a gradual erosion in behavior over time, which develop into an unethical culture, rather than one person acting on their own while everyone else stands by, powerless.

While we celebrate that the majority feel their workplace is one where honesty is practiced, this is undermined by the statistic that a third of those in managerial or supervisory roles in British organizations perceive “petty fiddling” as inevitable.

But why fret about a few biros and A4 pads missing from the stationery cupboard when there are bigger risks like bribery and corruption and health and safety to mitigate against?

Consider the broken windows theory: a building is vandalised with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the vandals break a few more; eventually the building is broken into and squatters move in. The theory is that petty crimes, if unaddressed, create a culture which leads to larger ones.

New York’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, put this theory to practical use in his zero-tolerance of petty crimes such as vandalism in New York. The result was turning around a city that once seemed ungovernable, particularly when it came to crime. Overall crime rates dropped by 44% to their lowest in more than a generation, and the city’s murder rate went down by 70%. Petty fiddling at work is a little like those broken windows.

New research by Dr Muel Kaptein of the Rotterdam School Of Management into why good people do bad things may give cause for concern. Kaptein cites “acceptance of small theft” as something which may indicate a culture susceptible to integrity failure. If small thefts of highlighter pens are ignored, then so are slightly larger ones, like over-claiming expenses or accepting unauthorized business gifts. It doesn’t take long for people to begin pushing those limits, and before long you have a large scale integrity failure on your hands.

A major multinational corporation unnamed states the following in their Code of Business Conduct:  “At XXXXXX assets should be used for legitimate business purposes, incidental and occasional personal use of XXXXXX assets such as computers, telephones and supplies is permitted.”  It is interesting here that Sr. Management recognizes that there is no way to completely control the petty actions by employees so they have defined those actions and made them tolerable.  Yet, there is a challenge that is found in the written policy, namely what is “incidental and occasional personal use?”

The ethics at work survey found that just under half of the UK’s full-time workforce thinks it’s acceptable to take pencils and pens (41%) and make personal phone calls (45%) from work and about a third (30%) said it was OK to post personal mail from work. A quarter think it is acceptable to use the internet in work time and a fifth of British employees feel it is acceptable to “take a sicky”. The survey also showed that there is little difference in attitudes between employees and managers.

If the tone is set by managers that these small ethical breaches are unacceptable, then perhaps the tone and culture will follow. Most people do not start out to be malicious, or to harm the organization or defraud it – they are just trying to do their job.

The challenge so aptly presented in this report is where is the line and perhaps, more importantly, should we tighten the reigns when the NEED increases or is the presentation of acceptable ethical tolerance levels best when dealing with the mundane at work?

Credit is given to: Simon Webley is research director at the Institute of Business Ethics. The Employee Views of Ethics at Work: 2012 British Survey and Employee Views of Ethics at Work: 2012 Continental Europe Survey are both available as free downloads from http://www.ibe.org.uk


KPMG India Fraud Survey – Patterns of Crime – Comments by Business Ethics and Fraud Prevention Expert Chuck Gallagher

December 9, 2012
KPMG India

White Collar Crime up?  Is that any surprise considering the vast changes in the world economy over the past four years?  With high profile cases like Bernie Madoff and a host of others, I have been asked multiple times if we reached a point where “White Collar Crime” may be on the decline.  My response is “heaven’s no!”  In fact, there are three components of an ethical lapse and the proliferation of “White Collar Crime” and NEED is at the top of the list!

When the Economy stinks NEED IS HIGH…

To my left is a graph from a KPMG India Fraud Survey – the entire report is found HERE.    In their report KPMG states that “White-collar crime in corporate India has witnessed a ‘substantial increase’ over the last two years.”

The graph shows the areas where respondents indicated that fraud had taken place.  Interestingly enough, according to the report the incidents of fraud had increased by 10% from 2010 to the same survey in 2012.

According to the KPMG Survey:

Cracking down on fraud is critical for a country that needs investment.

“India is a fast-growing economy. The problem is a level of low confidence in international investors, which stems from corruption,” Rohit Mahajan, partner and co-head, forensic services, KPMG India, said at a press briefing in New Delhi. “Besides international investors, this has also impacted entrepreneurial spirit in India.”

The infringements are of various kinds, with bribery and corruption making up 83% of cases. A large part of the frauds also relate to cyber crime (71%) and diversion of assets (65%). The sectors most affected are financial services (33%) and information and entertainment (17%), according to the survey.

Most frauds (85%) are investigated internally and very little of the money is actually recovered, the survey said. The most effective methods for detecting frauds are whistleblowers, internal audits and data analytics.

The challenge represented by this report is not limited to India.  Other data suggests that similar patterns of fraud and white collar crime exist in all developed economies especially those whose development has been spurned by rapid economic growth.  India and China for example.  The challenge becomes how to stop the proliferation of white collar crime?  Policies alone will not be the most significant deterrent. We must stem the gap between ethical policies and practical behavior.

Often misconduct either never gets reported or when reported is somehow never escalated beyond direct managers.  This silo of data prohibits effective solutions when combating white collar crime.  For purposes of this post however the primary value is to observe the patterns of white collar crime so organizations will have an intelligent methodology to target abuse and curb unethical and potentially illegal practices.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!

As the founder of the Ethics Resource Group, I work with Companies, Associations and Universities bring awareness of Ethical Choices and how to help Employee and Members stay within the ethical boundaries.  For more information contact me at chuck@chuckgallagher.com or visit chuckgallagher.com


Dan Frishberg apparently in violation of SEC order not to offer Investment Advice. Will there ever be Justice in this case?

November 6, 2012

Hello everyone Dan, here. How often do you hear yourself saying “no I haven’t looked at that yet, but I’ve been meaning to?”

Thus began an email written to my by none other than Dan Frishberg.  Yes, Dan Frishberg of disgraced BizRadio fame, the same Dan Frishberg that is banned from the SEC in offering investment advice…not that it seems the SEC has any teeth when it comes to Dan and his continued radio commentary.

I just read yet another email from a frustrated trader telling me that the trading techniques, the pattern recognition software, or the black box strategies that he believed in are simply not working.

Wow…again I’m confused.  You received “yet another email from a frustrated trader” – but Dan you’re not supposed to be offering investment advice so why would you be receiving any emails from traders?  What am I missing here?

Brokers are telling their customers to ignore their losses and hang on, but that’s what they always say. Sometimes that advice works, but it has also resulted in some of the biggest losses in the past twenty years.

Oh my…”some of the biggest losses in the past twenty years” – wonder if that isn’t exactly what happened to people – good folks who couldn’t afford to lose – when they listened to your line about BizRadio and why they should invest in you.  Dan tell me – if they lost in you, why should they now listen to you – especially when you’re not supposed to be offering investment advice?  Damn this perplexes me!

One listener said he has finally realized technical analysis doesn’t work. This isn’t true, the current price is unquestionably a key part of the story but this is only part of it.

Only part of the story…seems that’s a mantra for you.  Has anyone who invested with you in BizRadio ever gotten the truth – the full story or even as much as an apology?

The paradox of investing is – it’s easy to make money when you stop searching for the easy answer.

Yet you and Al Kaleta offered “easy answers” to investors who by all accounts were defrauded.  Have you made restitution?  Have you made it easy for them to recover their monies?

Instead, get an update on what’s working now — the most up to the minute insight into the trends, turning points, and my best stock and option trade ideas in my all new newsletter, Whats Working Now.

You do have a big set of (whatever)…get “my best stock and option trade ideas” – good lord is that not in direct violation of the SEC requirement that you not offer investment advice?  Justice?  Doesn’t seem to be any here!

CLICK HERE – (I disabled this link as I’m not giving Dan Frishberg a link from my blog)

DANIEL FRISHBERG
THE MONEYMAN REPORT
themoneyman.com

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Mortgage Fraud scheme by former SunTrust Mortgage leads to guilty plea by Javier Siveroni

August 10, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Javier Siveroni, 48, of Springfield, Va., pleaded guilty today to using his position as a loan officer to help carry out a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme involving more than 15 homes in Northern Virginia.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Liam O’Grady.

Siveroni pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  Siveroni faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on Nov. 4, 2011.

According to court documents, Siveroni, a former loan officer at the Falls Church branch of SunTrust Mortgage, prepared and submitted false, fraudulent, and misleading mortgage loan applications for unqualified buyers – individuals who lacked the finances, credit rating, or legal status to obtain a certain loan amount.  The fraudulent mortgage loan applications contained false information regarding applicants’ employment, income, assets, immigration status, and intent to live in the property as a primary residence.  As part of the fraud scheme, Siveroni created, and taught his co-conspirators how to create, fake documents in order to corroborate false information contained in the loan applications.  The total amount of mortgage loans approved through the conspiracy exceeded $6.5 million.  The total loss attributable directly to Siveroni is over $2.5 million.

In related matters, three loan officers have pled guilty for their roles in the alleged conspiracy: Preston Cherouny, 45, of Washington, D.C.; John Leone, 44, of Vienna, Va.; Alejandro Alquinta, 35, of Springfield, Va. Maria Teresa Sanchez, 44, of Burke, Va., and Yolanda Salazar Camacho, 35, of Alexandria, Va., also pled guilty for their roles as loan officer assistants in the conspiracy.

This ongoing investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Uzo Asonye prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.


Not Paying Withholding taxes to the IRS is Tax Evasion – Kim Jenkins Brandveen plead guilty – faces Prison sentence

August 10, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. – Kim Jenkins Brandveen, 50, of Petersburg, Va., pleaded guilty today to tax evasion as part of a multi-year scheme involving various durable medical supply companies she owned.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Jeannine Hammett, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s Washington, D.C., Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Henry E. Hudson.

Brandveen was indicted on June 7, 2011 and today pled guilty to one count of tax evasion.  Brandveen faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison when she is sentenced on November 18, 2011.

In a statement of facts filed with her plea agreement, Brandveen admitted being the owner of Healthcare Solutions Medical Supply, LLC, which sold durable medical equipment and provided home health services.  Brandveen directed the withholding of federal employment taxes from the paychecks of that business’s employees, but regularly and systematically failed to pay those taxes over to the IRS, instead using those funds for other business ventures and personal expenses.

When the IRS undertook collection efforts, Brandveen ceased operation of that business and abandoned its bank accounts.  She then created a new business, Healthcare Solutions Service Corporation, a virtually identical business performing largely the same functions from the same location with the same employees.  That business also failed to pay over employees’ withheld employment taxes to the IRS, again using them for Brandveen’s other business ventures and personal expenses.  When the IRS undertook to hold Brandveen personally responsible for the failure to pay the employment taxes, she misled the IRS by falsely asserting that a relative was actually the party responsible for paying those taxes.


Birdie Leroy Revis pleads Guilty to Multi-Million Dollar Health Care Fraud Scheme… Choices and Consequences…

August 9, 2011

HOUSTON – An accused recruiter in a multi-million dollar health care fraud scheme scheduled for trial on Monday, has instead pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Birdie Leroy Revis, 60, of Houston, pleaded guilty before United States District Judge David Hittner this morning to conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute. Trial had been scheduled to begin with jury selection on Monday, Aug. 8, 2011.

Revis was a recruiter for Sefan Medical Supply (Sefan), a durable medical equipment provider, located in Houston. Based upon the joint investigative efforts of the agencies comprising the Medicare Fraud Strike Force into a $2.8 million scheme to defraud Medicare by Sefan, evidence was obtained proving that Revis’ role in the scheme was to provide Medicare beneficiary information to Sefan. Sefan, in turn, then billed Medicare for medically unnecessary durable medical equipment and supplies which were either not provided to Medicare beneficiaries or a lesser product from what was billed to Medicare was provided. The information was provided on a prescription form for arthritis kits. All the kits included a knee adjustment with air chamber, rigid frame back brace, elbow with joint, ankle gauntlet, flex glove with elastic finger, heat lamp with stand and a wrist brace. Sefan would order these items for both the left and right side. If the beneficiaries received any items, they did not receive the rigid brace items billed to Medicare, instead they would receive neoprene sleeves, which was not covered by Medicare.

Revis provided to Sefan information for more than 686 beneficiaries for which Sefan paid Revis approximately $400 per beneficiary for a total of more than $353,000. With the information provided by Revis, Sefan billed Medicare for more than $2.8 million worth of claims for arthritis kits and was paid more than $1.7 million for those fraudulent claims.

Revis remains on bond pending sentencing, which is set on Nov. 2, 2011. Revis faces a maximum of up to five years in prison to be followed by up to a three-year-term of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 for the kickback conspiracy conviction.

The owner of Sefan and the physician whose signature was on the prescriptions have also been convicted following their respective pleas of guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Kate Ose Olear, the owner of Sefan, was sentenced to 57 months in prison on Feb. 10, 2011, by United States District Judge David Hittner. John Edward Perry III, the physician, pleaded guilty in June 2010. He remains on bond pending his sentencing on Oct. 21, 2011, before United States District Judge Gray H. Miller.

The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force comprised of agents with the Department of Health and Human Services, Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Division, Texas Attorney General Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, United States Railroad Retirement Board and the FBI. Assistant United States Jennifer Lowery and Special Assistant United States Attorney Justin Blan are prosecuting the case.