Albert Fase Kaleta sued by the SEC for Madoff like investment – BizRadio and and Daniel Frishberg relief defendants

February 4, 2010

Where did the money go?  And, what attracted investors to invest?

According to the SEC,  between December 2007 and August of 2009, Albert Kaleta and his investment firm, Kaleta Capital Management, sold $10 million in promissory notes, telling investors the money would be loaned to small businesses at 12 percent to 14 percent interest. Instead, the SEC said, it went to the money-losing radio network and an affilated investment advisory firm, Daniel Frishberg Financial Services, also known as DFFS Capital Management.

NOTE: Whenever you are promised an investment return that is better than most folks can normally get…you have a good chance of being scammed!  This is the first rule of avoiding a Ponzi scheme and while this may not technically qualify as a Ponzi scheme…if it were allowed to continue, it would likely have morphed into one.

On Nov. 13, 2009, the Commission sued Albert Fase Kaleta and his company, Kaleta Capital Management, Inc. (KCM), in the United States District Court in Houston, Texas. The Commission alleges that Kaleta and KCM defrauded investors in the offer and sale of KCM-issued promissory notes in an offering that raised $10 million from approximately 50 investors. The Commission also sued two other entities, Business Radio Network, L.P. d/b/a BizRadio (BizRadio) and Daniel Frishberg Financial Services, Inc. (d/b/a DFFS Capital Management, Inc.) (DFFS) as Relief Defendants solely for the purposes of equitable relief.

Kaleta and Dan Frishberg, who appears on BizRadio as “The Money Man,” were among the network’s founders. Kaleta also was part owner and chief compliance officer for DFFS.  There is little doubt that Kaleta and/or Frishberg didn’t know what they were doing.

NOTE:  When money that is “supposed” to go into ‘small businesses’ and instead is diverted…that would be a warning sign that a fraud is beginning.  Now, realistically, the victims wouldn’t know as most fund diversions are kept from the public eye.  In this case, it would seem that luck (if you can call it that) intervened through the worst recession we’ve experienced in years.  More than likely the purported investment scam would have continued if the economy was robust.

The Commission alleges that Kaleta lied to investors about the intended uses of offering proceeds. Among other things, the Commission contends that Kaleta took approximately $1.5 million of the offering proceeds to pay personal expenses.

NOTE:  Like most of the Ponzi schemes I’ve reported on…a common thread is the use of “investment funds” for personal expenses.  Hint…this doesn’t look or smell like it was legitimate.  Again, timing is everything.  Madoff was fortunate in that his fraud spanned many years but, like most, imploded when the economy took a nosedive.

Without admitting or denying the complaint’s allegations, Kaleta and KCM have consented to permanent injunctions against future violations of the antifraud provisions, as well as an order appointing a receiver. The Court will determine the amount of disgorgement and civil penalty that will be assessed against Kaleta and KCM.

Named as “equitable relief defendants,” BizRadio and Daniel Frishberg Financial Services, also known as DFFS Capital Management share a responsibility to repay the money.

According to the Houston Chronicle – “In order to reverse what injustice has taken place here, so that the victims of this fraud can be made whole, what we’re seeking is that the relief defendants relinquish their possession of assets to which they have no rightful claim,” said Timothy McCole,the SEC attorney handling the case.

Frishberg said he and Kaleta are no longer partners. His firm and BizRadio will repay the debt under the terms of the promissory notes, he said.

“We’re eager to have them hurry up and appoint a receiver and get it going,” he said.


In a time when trust in financial professionals is at a low, I wonder what position Daniel Frishberg is taking here in early 2010 when it comes to the repayment of investors?

Are we finding transparency when it comes to the operation of BizRadio?

It seems that BizRadio often is jumping from station to station – especially in the Dallas, TX marketplace.  Is that a result of financial stress on the station since the flow of (what would appear to be) misappropriated investor funds has dried up?


The following is on the BizRadio web site:

We are off the air for the first time since 2005, but at our headquarters, we are as busy as we have ever been. We are using this time to make some major improvements in our operations that will benefit our audience and our investors.
We will be back on the air very soon, and we will make an important announcement about the future of BizRadio in the next week.
For the latest update, please continue to check back here at

John Anthony Miller – Ponzi Scheme Fruadster sentenced to 13 Years in prison… Was it worth it?

January 24, 2010

Frankly I’d say John Anthony Miller was lucky.  Based on the sentences being handed down for Bernie Madoff like Ponzi schemes, to get 13 years was probably light considering…

According the the news release from the US Attorney’s office, from 2000 through November 2008, Miller operated a Ponzi scheme through his Newport Beach-based investment companies, JAM Jr. Enterprises and Forte Financial Partners. Miller made promises of “guaranteed” annual returns of as much as 18 percent per year, telling investors that their money would be invested in foreign currency trading, oil wells, real estate and other vehicles. During the course of the scheme, Miller provided investors with monthly account statements that falsely represented they were earning the promised returns. In fact, Miller had never earned any real profits from his investment activity and, in the pattern of a typical Ponzi scheme, used money from some investors to make Ponzi payments to other investors.

Now it seems that Miller was, knowing his fate was sealed, trying to escape the clutches of the federal prison system.  Guess Miller didn’t think that prison suited his style.

The FBI and the State Department already were aware that John Anthony Miller’s scheme was falling apart when they targeted him in a sting in November 2008.  Working with an informant, an FBI agent who also was an attorney and a former clerk for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, set up a sting operation. Miller’s telephone calls with the informant were recorded as the scheme was collapsing.

Miller sought the informant’s help in obtaining a passport to a country that did not have an extradition treaty with the United States, according to the complaint. Using a story that a family friend knew a corrupt passport official, the informant set up a meeting between Miller and the purportedly corrupt official, who was actually an undercover officer from the U.S. Department of State.

Miller agreed to pay $20,000 for the passport, with $5,000 paid up front and the balance of $15,000 upon delivery of the passport. Miller paid the undercover officer $5,000 in cash that had been stuffed in an envelope. He then filled out a passport application that used the identity of his deceased classmate, according to the complaint. Miller ultimately concluded it was best to flee the country. After using Ponzi proceeds to pay the undercover agent the $5,000 deposit  required for the bogus passport in November 2008, Miller was told it would take seven to 10 days for the documents to be prepared. He provided two photographs of himself, and used the name, Social Security number and date of birth of his deceased Catholic school classmate in the application.

Looks like that scheme, like his ponzi schemes just didn’t work.  2010 brought a different outcome than the one Miller was planning – PRISON.

  • Over the course of his scheme, Miller defrauded more than 130 people out of more than $21 million, taking millions of dollars that some victims withdrew from IRA retirement savings accounts and others borrowed against their homes.
  • Prosecutors read Snyder portions of letters from victims. A husband and wife, one of whom was suffering from colon cancer, lost more than $800,000. Now in bankruptcy and suffering from regular nightmares, they wrote: “They say time heals all wounds, but not in this case. The impact on our lives has been like a cancer growing and festering and has caused irreparable and unrecoverable damage to our lives, not just financially but emotionally and physically.” They added: “Miller raped us of our money, our dignity, and any hope of a decent future.”
  • In sentencing papers, the feds labeled Miller “amongst the most egregious of any investment fraudster or Ponzi schemer this Court will ever see. He didn’t just solicit fraudulent investments through mailings or mass marketing, like many fraudsters do. He didn’t just interact with victims over the telephone or at investment seminars, like many others. [Miller] lied to people in person, up close, sitting in their living rooms or at their kitchen tables, knowing full well the vulnerability of his victims and the inevitable devastation his deceit would cause them.”



Business Ethics Daily Roundup – January 19, 2010 – Business Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher Comments

January 19, 2010

Don Knauss, chairman and chief executive officer of Clorox, shares his perspective regarding corporate ethical behavior and customer interactions.  “Can an organization really influence customers with the way it conducts its business?” My answer to that question, having been in this business for 28 years, is yes.

Nice to see a corporate CEO who finds the value in ethical behavior and benefit to customers.

The Role of Business Ethics in Relationships with Customers

Now who would have thunk (I know that’s not a real word), that Girl Scout Cookie sales would have anything to do with business ethics.  But, that is part of the lesson… Through the Girl Scout Cookie Program, girls develop five essential skills: Goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

Girl Scout cookie booth sales begin this weekend

Firms should put their IT ethics policy at the heart of any new business strategy, according to a new paper launched today by the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE).

Institute of Business Ethics Emphasise IT ethics policy

Bill Daniels — the late cable giant who funded the formation of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver — was known for his strong belief in practicing business ethics.

One of the more famous stories about his business practices: He owned the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association when the team declared bankruptcy in 1975. Though his financial obligations were taken care of, he still spent $750,000 of his own money to repay every season ticket holder and vendor, with interest.

Daniels Fund launches ethics initiative at region’s business schools

Barry R. Bekkedam, best known as a basketball star in the 1980s, later built his Main Line investment firm into one of the largest of its kind in the country, thanks to a knack for attracting money from extremely wealthy families.  Unfortunately, Bekkedam’s Ballamor Capital Management L.L.C., of Radnor, has been struggling with the loss of $30 million of client money to an alleged massive Ponzi scheme.

Seems like every time we turn around we hear of yet another Ponzi scheme.

Radnor firms struggles with alleged S. Fla Ponzi scheme

“Honest-Services Fraud” law – taking ethics and fraud deterrence too far?

January 12, 2010

Is it possible that in our quest for improved ethics and fraud deterrence that we’ve created a capture net that is too broad and too easy to be caught in?

Years ago I spent time in federal prison.  I am not proud of that fact, but it’s a fact that I cannot change.  Like Bernie Madoff, I defrauded clients (through the creation of a Ponzi scheme) and, when the card was pulled from the house of cards I created, I found myself facing that dreaded walk into federal prison.  Those 23 steps from the curb into federal prison were the longest 23 steps of my life.

Yet, while I was there…(as you can imagine) I became acquainted with many folks – most of whom had, in fact, done the crime.  They, like I, were paying the price for our crimes by doing the time (so to speak).  From that experience, one thing I learned was the broad sweeping power to convict of the word – CONSPIRACY.

It became clear that the government could use CONSPIRACY laws to capture “would be” criminals or make it easy to win convictions for those who committed crime, but otherwise would walk. Now it would appear that the broad bush word CONSPIRACY has been replaced with an even broader bush (or criminal capture net) called “HONEST SERVICES.”

HERE’S THE CONCEPT – according to an article in Fortune Magazine:

If a judge or governor accepts bribes, for instance, he is not necessarily stealing money from anyone, but he is depriving the public of the “honest services” they have a right to expect from him. Likewise, if a corporate purchasing officer accepts secret kickbacks from vendors, he’s depriving his employer of his “honest services.”

“Look around at all the high-profile cases today,” says Richard Craig Smith, a former federal prosecutor now with the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski. “Ninety-five percent of them are charged under honest-services fraud. That’s not just an accident.”

In fact, recent defendants in such cases compose a white-collar rogues’ gallery for our times, featuring such tarnished luminaries as former governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois; former U.S. congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana; newspaper magnate and former Hollinger International CEO Conrad Black; lobbyist Jack Abramoff; and former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.

HERE’S THE RUB – Just about anything that someone might perceive as wrong could be captured with the very wide net of the “Honest-Services” doctrine.  The Fortune article goes on to say:  “The feature that prosecutors love about honest-services fraud is precisely what critics say dooms it constitutionally: its nearly infinite adaptability. “There’s almost no fact pattern that cannot be fit around 1346,” says Smith, referring to the section of Title 18 of the U.S. Code that defines the offense. Read literally, it seems broad enough to catch any deceit at all. If so, then who among us is not guilty?”

If the law is so vague, broad and ill defined that you could commit a crime without knowing that you’ve committed one…then it is possible that the law that prosecutors love could be struck down as unconstitutional.  In fact thee are two cases before the Supreme Court on that very issue.

The law “invites abuse by headline-grabbing prosecutors in pursuit of local officials, state legislators, and corporate CEOs who engage in any manner of unappealing or ethically questionable conduct,” wrote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  “Carried to its logical conclusion,” he continued, it “also renders criminal a state legislator’s decision to vote for a bill because he expects it will curry favor with a small minority essential to his reelection; a mayor’s attempt to use the prestige of his office to obtain a restaurant table without a reservation; [or] a salaried employee’s phoning in sick to go to a ball game.”

“If you defraud someone out of money,” explains Susan Necheles, a white-collar defense lawyer at New York’s Hafetz & Necheles, “there’s clearly a crime, and there are plenty of statutes that cover it. When the government resorts to honest-services fraud, on the other hand, it’s almost always because there’s a real question whether this was a crime or just aggressive business behavior.”


As an ethics and fraud prevention speaker, I wonder, in the governments efforts to rein in fraud – have they gone too far in their efforts to broadly define “Honest-Services” for purposes of prosecuting and convicting those accused of (shall we say) “ethical” crimes?  The Fortune Magazine article provides an outstanding framework for this law’s background (read here).

In December the Supreme Court signaled, hearing an “Honest Services” case that the law was ambiguous and therefore likely to be struck down.  “A citizen is supposed to be able to understand the criminal law,” Breyer said, yet it was unclear what the law in question branded as a crime.

Early next year, the justices will hear a third case testing the honest-services fraud law, brought by former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey K. Skilling.  The justices hinted that they would put off ruling on the issue until they had considered Skilling’s case, since his lawyers argued most directly that the entire law should be thrown out as too vague.

QUESTION:  Do you feel that this statute should be struck down for being too vague?  If so, what should replace it?


Madoff Ponzi Scheme – How Do Folks Get De-Frauded? Comments by White Collar Crime Speaker Chuck Gallagher

December 20, 2008

The headlines are riddled with questions.  How do people get sucked into white collar crimes?  Didn’t they do their do diligence?  The Madoff scandal has more people asking more questions than any white collar crime in recent history and there are more to come.  Amazing, but the answer is often found in the comments made by those who have been directly touched by Madoff’s actions.

In a recent AP story the following was stated:

Signing up companies for office space in Manhattan skyscrapers made Norman F. Levy a very rich man.

In the hotly competitive but tight-knit world of New York commercial real estate, Levy worked across more than seven decades brokering leases in midtown’s towers. When he died in 2005 at 93, he was hailed as an elder statesman of the trade whose zest for the deal was matched by his generosity with both friendship and money.

“Your spirit and love of life have touched and changed all who knew you,” one friend of 40 years wrote in a paid death notice for Levy that ran in The New York Times. “You taught me so much. I’ll cherish our relationship forever.”

The friend was Bernard Madoff.

The real estate broker and the money manager were separated by 26 years, but they and their families had formed a friendship reinforced by shared interests, social circles — and trust.

Levy and Madoff were active in some of the same organizations, like New York’s Yeshiva University. They donated their money to many of the same causes — groups including the Lincoln Center Theater and Gift of Life, a South Florida charity that tries to save Jewish leukemia victims by matching them with bone marrow donors.

In the summer, both families headed to the Hamptons. When Norman F. Levy died, he was staying at his daughter’s house fronting the Atlantic in Montauk, just a few sprawling lots away from the mansion owned by the Madoffs.

For more than 30 years, the Levys also entrusted their personal investments to Madoff. When they chartered the Betty and Norman F. Levy Foundation — which reported assets last year of $244.4 million — as the vehicle for their charitable giving, they again put their trust in their longtime friend.

The story, apparently one of many now starting to surface, talks of connection, friendship and most of all TRUST.

The question – how does one get defrauded is obvious.  One of the key critical factors is “trust.”   In order for a scam or fraud to be effected there are three components that all must come together: (1) need; (2) opportunity and (3) rationalization.  Those are the tools of the fraudster and if any one is missing the fraud doesn’t happen.  But in order to be defrauded you must, as I call it, step into the PIT.   A prior blog post talks about the PIT.  But for a short explanation the PIT means: A Promise (P) which creates and Illusion (I) which is supported by Trust (T).  Trust for the person or organization being scamed is critical.

An outstanding article in the Charlotte stated in the first paragraph:

For sheer toe-curling embarrassment, it may be a while before Wall Street does better than the Bernard Madoff scandal. Here was a rogue who practically telegraphed his unreliability by hiring a tiny, no-name audit firm, by reporting monthly investment results that never fluctuated and by claiming a trading strategy that could not possibly have been implemented given the billions of dollars he managed. And yet, despite these warnings, the rich, the famous and the supposedly sophisticated entrusted their money to Madoff, who defrauded them with the most laughably crude of methods – an old-fashioned Ponzi scam.

Think about what is said up above – how many clues could one recieve before bells of warning would go off?  Reality is – people, especially those who believe that they deserve or should receive better than most, place their desire and “trust” above their intellect.  That’s when the suckering begins.  Unfortunately the devastation that follows is both financial and emotional.

The New York Times stated the following:

He provided little information and demanded a lot of trust.

“You have a lot of wealthy people who made a lot of money on handshakes,” said Mark S. Weiss, a commercial real estate broker at Newmark Knight Frank, where several brokers had invested heavily with Mr. Madoff. There was “something about this person, pedigree and reputation that inspired trust,” he said.

Across the city, industry executives said deals had been scuttled or jeopardized because of the scandal. Residential brokers are taking calls from Madoff investors who have had to put their apartments on the market. Many developers had pledged their investments with Mr. Madoff as collateral for projects, and are now worried that their banks will call in their loans.

“The level of devastation, both financial and on a human level, is astounding,” said Robert J. Ivanhoe, a lawyer who is representing 10 developers and investors who lost $5 million to $50 million each with Mr. Madoff.

As a former white collar fraudster (not something I’m proud of) the reality is the pattern is predictable.  Fraud to the victim is a function of trust and illusion.  Madoff, seemed to be the consumate illusionist and had unparelled trust.  His trust propelled the scheme and now we are at the beginning of finding just how devastating the effects will be.

More to come…

As a business ethics and fraud prevention speaker I routinely working with companies on a confidential basis to evaluate and eliminate fraud.  For more information or for comments related to ponzi schemes – contact me at or 828.244.1400.

Madoff Ponzi Scheme – Fraud Prevention Expert Chuck Gallagher Comments – Stay Out of the PIT

December 19, 2008

Splashed all over the media in every form one can imagine is the news of the massive Ponzi scheme that Bernard Madoff was able to perpetrate over the scope of decades.  A staggering $50 billion is being reported and the numbers seem to always rise as first estimates (for some reason) seem to be conservative.  Perhaps it’s just we don’t want to believe it can be that bad!


From the Wall Street Journal to Bloomberg to Time – all are reporting about what happen and now asking how?  Of course, it is becoming a field day for lawyers (trying to protect their client’s interests) as well as politicians (attempting to fix lax regulatory blame).  And the reporters – well they have questions (as they should).

How could it have happened?  How could we have known?  And, most importantly – how could it have been prevented?

Those are all good questions.  But the best question is – how best to find the answer?

In order to unravel this massive financial and legal mess one needs to understand the components and pattern of fraud in order to prevent it in the future.

Fraud consists of three primary components: (1) Need; (2) Opportunity and (3) Rationalization.  All three must exist for a fraud of this magnitude to take place, live and grow over time.   Without doubt…all three existed with Madoff.  The trouble is we may not know the exact details of “why” for some time to come – if ever.

However, the most important of the three is the OPPORTUNITY SEGMENT.  Without “opportunity” the three legged stool wouldn’t support the weight of the fraud or crime.  That’s where falling into the PIT comes in. Of course, the question is – what is the PIT and what does it stand for?

The OPPORTUNITY segment of the fraud goes like this:  The fraudster (Madoff) makes a PROMISE (P) to an unsuspecting investor, creating an ILLUSION (I) – generally something the investor truly desires – which is supported by TRUST (T) – most of the time something the fraudster already has with the unsuspecting investor.  That is the “PIT” and once one falls in it, it becomes easier for others to join.  In Madoff’s case the PIT had become so large that the slippery slope in was easy and the company impressive.  My guess is that folks wanted in.

O.K. – great, so there’s a PIT.  But the real question is how to avoid the trap?

I must say that there is no shortage of people from all walks of life who are easily, quickly and willing to call Madoff all manner of names and express outrage.  The fact is – getting caught in the PIT is easy and simple.  Avoidiance is unnatural for most. Think about it, most frauds take place with people you know and/or trust.  Trust is the key factor.  So how does one avoid the PIT?

Simple Avoidance Steps:

(1) Understand – especially in a down economy when temptation for financial performance is on the rise – anything this is proposed which seems too good to be true – isn’t.

(2) Know what you’re investing in.  If you don’t understand the investment or it is an area that is foreign (in other words you could easily be manipulated) avoid the investment.

(3) Check out the investment through reliable means.  In other words approach the investment with a healthy skepticism.  Trust no one completely and due your due diligence.

Fraudsters abuse the trust others have in them in order to effect their fraud.  I did and so did Madoff.

For more information about my programs and consulting on business ethics and fraud prevention, contact me at or call me at 828.244.1400.  My commitment to my clients: To evaluate and identify areas for fraud and help weed them out.  Fraud can be prevented!

FOREX Trading “Guru” – Joel Nathan Ward – Sentenced to Nine Year in Prison for $11 Million Fraud!

April 30, 2008

Described as a financial serial killer, JOEL NATHAN WARD, 49, of Turlock, California, was sentenced to nine years in prison for masterminding a Ponzi scheme in which nearly 100 investors lost over $11 million. WARD was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $11,275,501.53 and to serve three years of supervised release after the completion of his prison sentence. He was remanded into custody immediately following the sentencing hearing.

Ward took in more than $15 million from investors from 2003 to 2006 and most of the money was used to promote his business interests, salary, travel and other expenses, according to the statement.

This case is the product of an extensive joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal agency that regulates commodity futures and options markets in the United States, has noted the sharp rise and increasing complexity of foreign currency exchange (“forex”) trading scams. WARD, a frequent
commentator and seminar speaker on forex trading, ran an elaborate forex trading scam through an investment fund he controlled called the Joel Nathan ForexFund.

Now as a white collar crime speaker I must admit, anyone can make wrong choices. It’s ashamed that Ward used his speaking skills to further perpertrate a fraud of this magnitude.

According to material presented at sentencing, WARD offered investors the opportunity to invest in the foreign exchange interbank “spot” market through his fund. Between early 2003 and November 2006, WARD took in over $15 million from investors. Of that, about 85% was diverted to other purposes, including promoting WARD’s business interests, salary, travel and other expenses, and purchasing a foreign exchange trading school in Sacramento called Learn:Forex. WARD also used about $3.7 million to make “Ponzi” payments back to investors who sought to withdraw funds. According to trading records, he only actually traded about $2 million, and lost virtually all of it in the foreign exchange market. WARD concealed his diversion of funds by sending false account statements to investors purporting to show trading profits. He also defrauded investors in a second scheme relating to a purported real estate investment project in Mississippi. Nearly 100 investors lost a total of over $11.3 million.

“Joel Nathan Ward earned every minute of the nine-year sentence the court imposed. He brazenly defrauded scores of victims out of over $11 million,” stated US Attorney Scott. Several victims spoke during the sentencing hearing, telling the judge about the financial devastation caused by WARD’s conduct, and their hopes for restitution. In sentencing WARD today, Judge Burrell stated that WARD “defrauded many people. He caused losses over $11 million, and many investors suffered devastating losses.”

The defendant had proposed that he be allowed to remain out of prison while he attempted to generate funds to repay investors. In rejecting that plan, Judge Burrell stated that the “magnitude of his crimes, the manner in which the economic crimes were committed and concealed, and the duration of the criminal activities” required a lengthy prison sentence.

Every choice has a consequence. Ward’s choices have resulted in a substantial prison sentence. And, having spent time in federal prison (not something I am proud of), the time Ward spends will be life changing. Not only will he become a number, lose his identity, and have little to no ability to earn money, he will emerge with limited opportunity to make restitution.

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! Ward has come to learn that as he is now sleeping on a prison bed.

If you know fell for Ward’s ponzi scheme and are willing to share the effect you loses have had on you…feel free to comment.

Georgia Man – Anthony Christou – Convicted of Massive Mortgage Fraud Ponzi Scheme!

February 25, 2008

Christou was a gambler, in more than one way. But every choice has a consequence! It is like the law of gravity. The bold statement above is factual – you will reap what you sow. The question is here – what will the final consequence be for Anthony Christou, age 57, who was just convicted on charges of wire fraud and money laundering relating to an investment fraud scheme.

According to a Department of Justice News Release:

“This defendant personally met with dozens of victims, telling each that he would use their money to underwrite legitimate mortgages. He knew at the time that he had no intention of using his investors’ money legitimately, but rather that their funds would be put to use in keeping a massive Ponzi scheme afloat,” said United States Attorney David E. Nahmias. “Mr. Christou racked up more than $29 million in fraudulent investment in just two years, a significant portion of which was diverted to his gambling activities. The jury’s verdict after only five hours of deliberation and the likelihood of a long prison sentence in this case should send a clear message that this type of fraud will not be tolerated.”

Note: Christou has been convicted but not yet sentenced.

Between January 2004 and January 2006, CHRISTOU, who was at the time president of his own mortgage company, “Atlas Mortgage Inc.,” engaged in a scheme wherein he and others acting on his behalf solicited individuals, including business associates, personal friends and members of his church, to invest with him. CHRISTOU informed his investors that he would use their money to underwrite safe and secure “bridge loans” for wealthy individuals who were selling a house and needed funds to use as a down payment on newly acquired real property or to assist real estate developers with their short term capital needs. CHRISTOU entered into short term promissory notes with his lenders, the terms of which were dictated by
CHRISTOU, to memorialize their investment.

CHRISTOU falsely represented that his investors’ money would be secured by his borrowers’ equity and would be repaid, with substantial interest, in a short period of time. Between January 2004 and January 2006, CHRISTOU took in more than $29 million from investors, purportedly to fund bridge loans. Instead, he used his investors’ funds to repay his principal and interest obligations to earlier investors and, unbeknownst to his later investors, laundered more than $7 million of their assets to fund his gambling activities at casinos in Nevada, Mississippi, and New Jersey.

So how can such a fraud be accomplished? Easy! First there have to be three components present for a fraud like this to work. As a white collar crime speaker, I speak to groups nationwide about ethics, fraud and how to avoid it in your organization. What gives me the credential – training and experience. As a former CPA – trained with a Masters in Accounting – I am also (regrettably) a white collar criminal – having been convicted and spent time in federal prison for a ponzi scheme just like the one shown above.

The components of the crime: Need, Opportunity and Rationalization! Obviously, Christou needed the money. He needed it to fund his addition – gambling – and pay off the former folks defrauded. As long as he could pay them off he could continue the scheme. It appears that he made his own opportunity by using his skills in sales to convince others to invest in him. Rationalization – well I can’t begin to speak to his mindset. In my case, however, I convinced myself that it was a loan and even set up fake loan documents to support that illusion.

You cannot avoid the consequence of the choices you make. Consider wisely your choices and know that – stated again – Every choice has a consequence.