Lorn Leitman, CPA and Attorney sentenced to 17 1/2 years in Federal Prison for a Ponzi Scheme!

July 14, 2011

Lorn Leitman, attorney and CPA, of Miami, Florida, to 210 months’ incarceration for his role in a 10-year Ponzi scheme. In an unusual decision, the court departed upward from a sentencing guideline range of 121-151 months, commenting, “this case is exceptional.”

A federal grand jury charged the defendant with violating the mail fraud statute for defrauding elderly victims and retirees, among others, through the operation of a Ponzi scheme which sought investments in either phantom residential mortgages or a separate venture burdening U.S. military personnel with predatory and usurious loans. The defendant pled guilty to one count of mail fraud on April 6, 2011 and faced a maximum possible sentence of imprisonment for 20 years. Several victims appeared in court to address the impact of the fraud. As one victim explained, losses from the Ponzi scheme forced the end of his retirement and his return to work. He commented, “my dreams are dead.”

The court explained that the decision to sentence above the guidelines resulted from the defendant’s conduct preying upon his closest friends, fellow servicemen, the elderly and retirees, and noted that the defendant breached codes of conduct applicable to members of the Florida Bar and certified public accountants. In addition to the enhanced sentence, the court ordered the defendant to pay $3,308,435.03 in restitution to victims.

OBSERVATION:

From personal and past experience in dealing with fraud and now fraud prevention, the most likely target of those scammed are folks who are close to the perpetrator.  Reality is, in this case, the time in prison will leave Leitman a changed man and the chance of seeing any restitution is slim.

If you were a victim of this crime, please take a moment and share how you were lured into Leitman’s trap.  Your comments may help others recognize and avoid a similar fate.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Ronald Munkeboe Defense Attorney arrested for DUI – hum…funny how folks tend to get caught for what they are know for!

July 10, 2011

So we’re clear…it is not my intention to make fun of or find joy in anothers plight.  Yet, this article shows something that, if you look closely, is a trend when it comes to negative choices and their painful consequences.  Perhaps a psychologist would call it human nature…or perhaps there is another description for it, but more times than not, the negative choices that we make in life tend to revolve around the positive things we naturally do.

Think about it…Bernie Madoff was a brilliant investor and yet his negative choices centered around a Ponzi scheme or his financial work.  John Edwards indiscretions centered around his campaign.  My choices were focused around theft and failure to pay taxes on stolen money, and I was a CPA.  So, it’s no surprise that a DUI attorney would find his legal challenges related to – A DUI!

Here’s the report:

A Nashville DUI attorney was arrested late Tuesday night after nearly running over a Metro police officer as he sped out of a Bellevue gas station.

According to the police affidavit, Officer Mary Taylor saw Ronald Munkeboe pull into the Shell station at the corner of Charlotte Pike and Old Hickory Boulevard and watched as he picked up a tall can of beer from his console and took a sip.

Taylor reported Munkeboe was unsteady on his feet as he walked into the convenience store and she confronted him when he returned to his vehicle.

After identifying herself as a Metro officer, Munkeboe asked her if she was on duty, according to the affidavit.

After Taylor replied yes, and asked him to step out of his car, Munkeboe replied, “I’m alright”, put his vehicle in reverse and sped out of the parking lot.

Officer Taylor was nearly struck in the process.

Munkeboe, 45, was tracked to his home on nearby Wheatfield Court.  He admitted to drinking six or seven beers and was arrested.

He was booked into the Metro jail on charges of DUI and aggravated assault of an officer, among other charges.

Munkeboe graduated from the Nashville School of Law in 1999 and serves as a criminal defense attorney in Nashville with the firm Middle Tennessee Law, according to his Web site.

What are your thoughts?  Do you know Ronald Munkeboe?  Is this just a simple mistake on Munkeboe’s part or a pattern of behavior?  Wouldn’t it have been easier to submit to the officer rather than almost run over him?  After the consequences of his actions becomes clear, don’t you think Munkeboe will have a hard time in the court room defending DUI clients since law enforcement officials likely won’t forget his encounter with one of their own?

Information on his background is here:  http://www.lawyer.com/ron-munkeboe.html

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Lawyer – Ted Russell Schwartz Murray – Guilty! White Collar Crime Speaker Chuck Gallagher Comments

October 26, 2008

As the time of decision grew near, the only thing that Ted Russell Schwartz Murray could likely have wished for is another storm.

The trial which began on Sept. 8, 2008, was interrupted by Hurricane Ike, and concluded with the return of the guilty verdicts yesterday.  A Houston federal jury has convicted Ted Russell Schwartz Murray, a lawyer licensed in Texas and Florida, of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and securities fraud in connection with the operation of Money Mortgage Corporation of America, a subsidiary of Premiere Holdings, LP, a real estate investment program.  Murray was also convicted Murray of making a False Statement on Tax Returns for the years 1999 and 2000.

Murray and co-defendants David Isaac Lapin and Jeffrey Carl Wigginton, Sr. were all charged by indictment in August, 2006. Lapin and Wigginton pleaded guilty in August 2008 to the conspiracy to commit mail fraud and securities fraud for their roles in the scheme and are pending sentencing in Nov. 2008.  Murray was charged separately in a second indictment with the tax offenses.

Every choice has a consequence.  As a business ethics and white collar crime speaker I have seen over and over the consequences of greed motivated actions.  For a fraud to exist three things exit: (1) need; (2) opportunity and (3) rationalization.  The verdict was guilty.  The question is what was the motivation of Murray and his co-conspirators.

According to the US Attorney’s news release:

During trial, the United States presented its evidence proving that between 1996 and 2001, Murray, 57, conspired to commit mail fraud and securities fraud in the promotion and marketing of the Premiere 72 or “P72″ mortgage investment program. Murray testified at trial and denied he had made false representations to investors when the program was promoted with promises of (1) 12% interest; (2) 1st liens on real estate; (3) 72 hour liquidity; and (4) 70% loan to value ratio. However, the evidence proved that so-called interest payments were actually set aside from a portion of the investor’s principle and returned to them as interest; many loans were not secured by 1st liens on real estate; and many loans were not based on a 70% loan to value ratio. Lapin, a co-conspirator in the scheme, testified that he and his co-defendants failed to disclose to investors the fact that loans on certain projects were actually in default at the time the funds of new investors were placed in these loans. An expert witness, qualified in forensic accounting, testified that the Premiere 72 program was conducted like a Ponzi scheme, where the money from new investors is used to pay earlier investors.

Mortgage Crisis – no wonder.  With practically free money and a country that seemed to believe that real estate had no ceiling, the opportunity was right the perpetration of such a fraud.  Likewise, in the current economic climate with fear leading the way, others will rise to fill the void.

While admitting that the above material facts were not disclosed to investors, Murray blamed his partners claiming Lapin had failed to live up to his fiduciary duties and both Lapin and Wigginton failed to disclose to investors that Premiere Holdings charged fees ranging from 15 -25% from investor funds. Murray denied any responsibility to disclose any material facts to investors.

With sentencing following in March 2009 the failure to accept personal accountability will no doubt play a role in the length of sentence.

Over 500 people invested in the fraudulent mortgage investment program promoted by Murray and his co-conspirators.  During the five year period the scheme operated, Premier Holdings, LP, Murray and his co-conspirators generated more than $200 million in gross receipts. Premier Holdings, LP, filed for bankruptcy in Oct. 2001 at which time the company had more than $160 million of investor funds tied up in the fraudulent scheme.  Murray filed for personal bankruptcy a short time thereafter.

The jury found Murray guilty of all 20 counts submitted to the jury arising from the scheme to defraud investors including the conspiracy charge, 14 counts of mail fraud, and four counts of securities fraud. The conspiracy conviction and each of the convictions for mail fraud carry a maximum statutory penalty of five years imprisonment. The securities fraud counts of conviction each carry a maximum penalty  of  10 years imprisonment.  Each count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

In addition to the scheme to defraud, Murray was also charged and convicted in a separate case with two counts of making a false statement on his tax returns based upon evidence which proved that Murray disguised personal expenses as business expenses and deducted a portion of those expenses on his tax returns, including a $29,000 Rolex watch, payments to casinos, a series of payments totaling over $5 million for return of principal to investors, payments for a $1 million ownership interest in the building where Premiere held its offices at 11451 Katy Freeway, and gifts to family members.  Murray faces a maximum of three years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on each of two counts of conviction.

Considering where we are today – economically – I would not be surprised to see that the sentence would err on the heavy side.  For those who read this – if you know Murray perhaps you could give some clue as to what motivated his behavior.  Obviously, Murray was educated and hence would know the difference between right and wrong, between ethical behavior and unethical behavior.

Comments are welcome