George Tannous was the man, so thought hundreds of people from around the country. Apparently so did the government, as George Tannous, 51, of Tujunga, was charged in a two-count information that accuses him of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and subscribing to a false tax return. In a plea agreement Tannous agreed to plead guilty to the two felony counts
A former revenue agent with the Internal Revenue Service was charged in relation to a securities fraud scheme that took more than $10 million from hundreds of victims across the country. According to the news release from the US Attorney’s office:
Tannous and three co-conspirators solicited victims to purchase unregistered stock in Bidbay.com, Inc. (also known as Auctiondiner.com, Inc.) and several related shell companies. Tannous was the president of Bidbay. The information alleges that victims were lured by false statements that Bidbay.com and/or the shell companies would soon be acquired by Ebay, Inc. for $20 per share. Ebay never had any intention of acquiring Bidbay.com and, in fact, had filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Bidbay.com over the use of “bay” in its name.
In an article in auction bytes Ina Steiner reported the following:
BidBay decided to settle with eBay after eBay filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the smaller auction site last summer. The lawsuit had charged BidBay with copying eBay’s look and feel in the design of its logo and for using the letters “bay” in the BidBay name. Ironically, BidBay owner George Tannous had purchased the domain name “BidBay.com” from an eBay auction. Last month, BidBay redesigned its logo, but apparently that was not enough.
“We can’t fight eBay – it would cost us half a million dollars,” George Tannous, BidBay’s CEO, told AuctionBytes. Tannous said his company has already spent thousands of dollars in legal fees relating to the suit.
Tannous failed to disclose that Bidbay.com and the related shell companies paid sales commissions of more than 50 percent to telemarketers who solicited investors, according to court papers. In 2001, Tannous personally received nearly $3 million in investor funds that he failed to disclose to the IRS, which resulted in more than $800,000 in unpaid taxes.
Wow… George Tannous, former IRS agent who clearly knew better, decided to play with fire and not report income. Now he had to know that would get him in trouble. Big trouble.
According to the information, Tannous failed to disclose to investors that one of his co-conspirators was a convicted felon awaiting sentencing on unrelated fraud charges. That co-conspirator, De Elroy Beeler Jr., was indicted last December by a grand jury (see: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/cac/pressroom/pr2007/157.html), and he is scheduled to go on trial on May 20.
Every choice has a consequence. Tannous choices will result in a prison sentence. Fortunately for him, he elected to work out a plea agreement which usually results in a shorter prison sentence. Having spent time in federal prison (not something I am proud of), many who cooperate with the government find that an early guilty plea and cooperation will substantially reduce their time behind bars. Today, I speak nationwide on (1) fraud in business, (2) how to avoid fraud in your company and (3) how business ethics can improve your financial performance.
One thing is for sure – You do reap what you sow! Tannous and others will come to learn that soon.
If you know George Tannous and have any comments feel free to jump in! Your comments are welcome!