Steven Metro – Indicted for Securities Fraud

February 3, 2015

A federal grand jury indicted the managing clerk of the New York office of a prominent, international law firm for his alleged participation in a multi-year insider trading scheme that netted more than $5.6 million in illicit profits, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

securities fraudSteven Metro, 40, of Katonah, New York, is charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit securities and tender offer fraud, one count of securities fraud, and one count of tender offer fraud.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From 2009 to 2013, Metro, who was then the managing clerk of the New York office of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP (the “Law Firm”), one of the nation’s premier mergers and acquisitions firms, repeatedly provided material, nonpublic information to his friend and former law school classmate, Frank Tamayo, 41, of Brooklyn, New York.  The inside information divulged by Metro to Tamayo related to corporate transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions or tender offers, in which the law firm represented a party or financial advisor to the transaction. As the firm’s managing clerk – a litigation-related function – Metro did not personally work on most of the corporate transactions at issue. In most instances, Metro allegedly stole the inside information by scouring the firm’s computer system using search terms such as “merger agreement,” “bid letter,” “engagement letter,” “due diligence,” as well as client names, client-matter numbers, or combinations thereof.

Metro then divulged the inside information to Tamayo in person, usually meeting at a bar, coffee shop, or other location near their respective workplaces in midtown Manhattan.  During such meetings, Metro provided Tamayo inside information pertaining to, among other things, the names and/or ticker symbols of the companies whose securities should be purchased, the general timing of the planned deals, and information related to how the deals would affect the issuers’ stock price once announced. Tamayo generally would write the security’s ticker symbol on a small piece of paper or napkin and commit to memory any pricing/timing inside information provided by Metro.

After Tamayo received the inside information from Metro, Tamayo would meet with Vladimir Eydelman, 42, of Colts Neck, New Jersey, a professional stock broker. Tamayo usually would meet Eydelman near Eydelman’s workplace, such as at the large clock in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, where Tamayo would pass the inside information on to Eydelman. Tamayo would show Eydelman the paper or napkin on which Tamayo had written the ticker symbol of the company whose securities should be purchased. After Eydelman memorized the ticker symbol, Tamayo then would chew the paper or napkin until it was destroyed.

After receiving the inside information provided by Metro, whom Eydelman knew as Tamayo’s source at a law firm, Eydelman purchased securities for himself, family members, friends, and/or clients, including Tamayo. Eydelman quickly sold the shares and covered any positions once the relevant deal was publicly announced and the stock price rose.

Throughout the course of the five-year scheme, Tamayo reinvested the approximately $7,000 in profits that Metro made on the first deal and updated Metro on the running balance of his profits from the insider trading scheme. As of October 2013, by which time the conspirators had traded ahead of at least 13 planned corporate transactions, Metro’s share of the profits had reached approximately $168,000.  Metro sought to cash out his share of the accrued profits from the insider trading scheme, pressing Tamayo to “liberate some cash” during a meeting in January 2014.  Eydelman paid approximately $7,000 in cash to Tamayo in February 2014, with the expectation that Tamayo would use the cash to compensate Metro.
Tamayo, Metro and Eydelman netted more than $5.6 million in illicit profits over the course of the five-year insider trading scheme.

The conspiracy count with which Metro is charged carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The securities and tender offer fraud counts carry a  maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $5 million.


Geoffrey W. Nehrenz indicted for role in Ponzi Scheme

January 22, 2015

An eight-count federal indictment has been returned charging a Uniontown man for his role operating a Ponzi scheme in which 19 investors were defrauded out of approximately $5.5 million, law enforcement officials said.

Ponzi SchemeGeoffrey W. Nehrenz, 36, faces one count of securities fraud, three counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of fraud by an investment advisor, and two counts of money laundering.

“This defendant took advantage of people who trusted him and used their hard-earned money to fund his lifestyle,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

“Geoffrey Nehrenz callously preyed on the desires of 19 individuals to make wise investments and duped them out of millions,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Office. “The FBI will continue to root out fraudsters like Mr. Nehrenz.”

“Promoters of Ponzi schemes prey upon trusting investors and then steal their hard-earned money. Investors should be wary that programs promising unbelievable returns on investments should be looked at carefully,” said Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “Remember the old cliché: ‘If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.’”

Between October 2009 and September 2013, Nehrenz promoted and sold investment contracts to clients through Keystone Capital Management, LLC (“KCM”) an investment adviser company located in Uniontown, which is an Ohio limited liability company registered as an investment adviser firm, but not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Nehrenz was the managing member, president, and chief executive officer of KCM, according to the indictment.

Nehrenz induced 19 clients to invest in Keystone by promoting KCM’s ability to generate positive investment returns in equity markets while mitigating risk. He falsely represented to potential clients that their funds would be pooled, invested during the day in large- and mid-capitalization, publicly traded U.S. securities exclusively, and converted to cash overnight. Rather than investing the funds, Nehrenz used client money to pay his personal expenses, to pay business expenses to promote and prolong his investment scheme, and to make speculative, high-risk trades with domestic and overseas private placement vehicles without his clients’ authority, transactions known as “side pocket investments,” according to the indictment.

Nehrenz induced at least 19 clients to invest approximately $7 million into his hedge fund, resulting in losses to his clients in the amount of approximately $5.5 million.


SpongeBob say it isn’t so! Michael Metter and Steven Moskowitz indicited for Securities Fraud!

May 6, 2010

I hated to break the news to my boys.  It’s sad when you have to tell them that their daddy, the business ethics and fraud prevention speaker, has bad news.  They so loved SpongeBob SquarePants.  And then I broke it to them…Michael Metter, the Chief Executive Officer and President of Spongetech Delivery Systems, Inc. (Spongetech), and Steven Moskowitz, Spongetech’s Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Accounting Officer, Treasurer, and Secretary, was charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and obstruction of justice.

Yes…it’s true – the folks that made SpongeBob bath products reportedly falsified sales figures of their soap-filled sponges thereby making the company’s financial condition just a little “slicker” shall we say.

According to the complaint, between approximately January 2007 and May 2010, the defendants Michael Metter and Steven Moskowitz, and others, executed a scheme to defraud Spongetech’s existing and potential investors by publicly reporting — in its filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and in numerous press releases — false and grossly overstated sales figures.

Specifically, Metter and Moskowitz publicly reported that Spongetech had secured purchase orders from and/or had made sales to five customers that, in reality, did not exist. The complaint charges that the amounts of these orders and sales were material. For example, for the nine months ended February 28, 2009, Spongetech reported that sales to these five customers constituted approximately 99% of Spongetech’s revenue.

Seems their sales figures were just about as fake as the under sea world that they represented.

The complaint states that beginning in or about early September 2009, the SEC’s Enforcement Division issued subpoenas to various entities and individuals, including Metter and Moskowitz, as part of its investigation of Spongetech. Since then, Metter and Moskowitz allegedly obstructed the SEC’s investigation by fraudulently attempting to fabricate the existence of the five purported customers by (1) seeking to create Internet websites and virtual offices for the customers, (2) furnishing phony purchase orders purportedly issued by the customers, and (3) producing documents they falsely claimed were proof of payments by the non-existent customers.

“The defendants in this case — Spongetech’s highest corporate officers — are charged with executing a bold scheme to portray Spongetech as a company that was performing at a level far above reality,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “As detailed in the complaint, the audacity of their scheme was matched only by their obstructive efforts during the course of the SEC’s investigation. This Office will use all available resources to protect investors from fraud.”

If convicted of conspiracy, each defendant faces up to five years’ imprisonment.

And, according to a New York Daily News report, earlier this year, the Mets filed a lawsuit against SpongeTech seeking $2.3 million for advertising at Citi Field. The suit claimed SpongeTech bounced $400,000 in checks made out to the team.

Amazing to me, but like the reports that I’ve filed on scams and fraud with BizRadio – seems that Metter is also the owner of WGCH.  What is it with these radio guys.  First Dan Frishberg and now Mr. Metter.  Guess you can’t always believe what you hear.

SpongeTech fell as much as 98 percent to less than 1 cent on the news. The shares, which once traded as much as 35 cents, declined 18 percent this year before the announcement this week.

As I have said to my two sons – Every choice has a consequence.  Looks like Michael Metter and Steven Moskowitz will be facing some prison time if convicted.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Bernie Madoff Will Plead Guilty! Fraud Prevention Expert Chuck Gallagher Speaks Out

March 9, 2009

In what will likely become the biggest investment fraud in US history, Bernie Madoff is set to enter a plea of guilty at a US District Court in Manhattan on Thursday.    According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marc Litt and Lisa Baroni a plea hearing is scheduled for March 12, 2009. artmadoff

According to a CNN report:

Madoff’s attorneys Ira Sorkin and Daniel Horowitz confirmed to CNN that Madoff is waiving his right to a grand jury indictment and that there have been ongoing negotiations regarding a possible settlement.

“We obviously have talked to the government,” said Horowitz. “And we have been professional with each other.” The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had no comment.

Frankly, it would make sense that Madoff would enter a plea.  Anything beyond that would likely result in a sentence or punishment that would be less favorable to Madoff.  Let me, however, say, I don’t think the punishment will be anything to laugh at.  Madoff’s alleged crime is substantial enough that it will earn him many years in federal prison.  Based on his age, I have stated on more than one ocassion that Madoff may never see freedom again.  But, that is just speculation.

PERSPECTIVE:

As many of my readers know, I have been through what Madoff is facing now.  Here’s a reality check – if you fight the federal government, you will likely end up with a substantially longer sentence.  The government (for the most part) will do whatever is necessary to gain a “win”!  The governments role is not to make the victims whole or even to discover who or how many people have been victimized.  The role of the government is to bring those who break the law to justice.  And the easier you make it for them to “win” the more likely one is to receive a moderate to light sentence.

Now, having said that, I also know that there are victims who get angry when they discover that the government doesn’t really care about their loss or their plight.  If a victim can help the government win, then the government is interested.  But, when the US Attorney has sufficient evidence to win or gets an admission of guilt on a plea agreement (which is exactly what Madoff – through his attorneys – will enter on Thursday) they are done.  The rest of victims claim will come in other legal suits that will be brought against a multitude of organizations.

In Madoff’s case – gaining a guilty plea should be easy since Madoff basically admitted guilty publically.  CNN reported:

It was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme,” Madoff said, according to the government’s criminal complaint. “There is no innocent explanation,” Madoff told two FBI agents, according to the complaint, which states Madoff expected to go to jail.

With a statement like that – it’s an easy win for the goverment.  The issue in the plea agreement is not guilt, but what Madoff will plead guilty to and what sentence has basically been agreed to in advance.  The government will get it’s win, but will the sentence be sufficient to satisfy the victims?  By the way, starting at 10:00 a.m. victims will have a chance to be heard by the judge.  Not that it matters all that much as I would guess that it’s pretty well decided.

REALITY CHECK:

Having been through it, (wish I could say other wise) the process will likely be fairly straight forward.  Madoff pleads guilty to “securities fraud”.  The judge hears from the victims.  The judge accepts Madoff’s guilty plea.

WHAT’S NEXT:

Hum…now that’s a good question.  Thus far Madoff has been under – shall we call it – “house arrest.”  Whether he’ll be allowed to continue that form of confinement or whether the judge will require him remanded to some form of federal prison awaiting sentencing remains to be seen.  Certainly this is public outcry for Madoff to be imprisoned.

There is little chance that Madoff will be sentenced on Thursday.  If this hearing is true to form, it will only be an admission of guilty.  Once entered and accepted, Madoff will have more time to wait until his sentencing hearning.  In my case I had to wait almost six months before being sentenced and then another four months before being required to report to federal prison.

I doubt it will take that long for Madoff, but it will likely take time.

According to the New York Times:

If Mr. Madoff does plead guilty on Thursday, it could nevertheless be several months before he is sentenced, several former prosecutors said. The single count of securities fraud that he faces now carries a prison term of up to 20 years.

The one thing I do find interesting in this case if that the government is only seeking an admission of guilt on ONE count of securities fraud.  With so many victims, it would seem that the government could easily win multiple admissions of guilt on items other than just ONE count of securities fraud.  It makes one wonder if the government isn’t being cooperative due to the backlash that could come if Madoff exposed the incompetence of the SEC?

Just a thought!

QUESTION:

1.  Assuming Madoff Pleads guilty – how much time do you feel he should serve for his crime?

2.  Should Madoff’s sentence be reduced if he helps locate available funds to help with restitution?

3.  Should charitable organizations get preferential treatment when it comes to restitution?

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


IRS Agents and White Collar Crime – What’s Up? Former Revenue Agent George Tannous Charged With Securities Fraud!

April 24, 2008

Let me help you states a former IRS agent. Problems with the IRS – I’m there for you!

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!


Stealing From Preachers – 69 Year Old Man Convicted in Dallas Texas – Comments By White Collar Crime Speaker Chuck Gallagher

January 31, 2008

The crime was theft – in its purest sense. Stanley Leitner, age 69, from Argyle, Texas was found guilty after little more than two hours of jury deliberation. His crime – an investment fraud scheme where he defrauded more than 100 victims, many of whom were pastors, their friends and families.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s news release:

Leitner was convicted on six counts of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, one count of failing to disclose compensation for promoting a security, 13 counts of money laundering, and six counts of engaging in illegal monetary transactions. Each wire fraud count carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The securities fraud conviction carries a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine and the failure to disclose compensation for promoting a security count carries a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each money laundering count carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Each count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions carries a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Leitner is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Fish on April 22, 2008

Now, facing all those indictments, I am amazed that Leitner didn’t seek to plead guilty and forgo the jury trial. Surely he could not have thought that a jury would find him innocent? Hum, maybe he’s like Wesley Snipes (who’s on trial for tax fraud) and thought he didn’t understand what he was doing. Right!

From April 2004 to July 2005, Leitner was President and CEO of Megafund Corp., an entity he created to solicit investors to participate in (what he called a “High Yield” investment program. Leitner took the money – pooled it – and sent it to another individual’s overseas bank account in the Antilles. During this short fraudulent stint, Leitner raised more than $15 million from investors.

Leitner was found guilty of devising and executing a scheme to defraud his investors by making representations about the trading program he knew were not true, and not telling them material information he knew to be true, which led the investors into believing that there was little or no risk of losing the invested funds. In addition, Leitner failed to inform investors that he was not transferring to the program some of the funds investors sent to him, but instead was using those monies to fund several personal ventures and projects, including, among other things, a movie.

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As a keynote speaker(www.chuckgallagher.com), I talk to audiences nationwide about choices and consequences. Leitner is soon to face the consequence of his misguided actions. Based on the sentencing guidelines and the magnitude of the crime, I would expect that Mr. Leitner will see his last days on this earth in prison. Every choice has a consequence. My presentations deal with the Truth About Consequences and in this case…Leitner’s choices will yield consequences that I doubt he ever imagined.

Your thoughts?