Asset Search/Fraud Investigation

Following a money trail as part of your asset searchI. DURING YOUR ASSET SEARCH LOOK FOR A MONEY TRAIL

There is always a money trail you can follow during your asset search. This is true no matter how your adversary hides assets.  Even if your adversary maintains a secret offshore bank account there is a money trail. The money trail at the offshore bank would consist of: account opening documents; monthly account statements; and bank signature cards.  Therefore, as part of your asset search you would seek these documents from the offshore bank.  You might do this by employing a letter rogatory or a compelled consent form.

II. MONEY TRAILS WITH MANY ELEMENTS

Perhaps most important to remember is that a money trail can involve many elements. The suspected money trail in the criminal case of USA v. Tully Lovisa et. al., is thought to include: nominees (i.e. intermediaries/straw persons); shell companies; and post office boxes in New York and the Netherlands. Prosecutors may claim Mr. Tully Lovisa &/or his co-conspirators used these elements to launder the illicit profits of an advance fee scheme.  The July 10, 2018 indictment in the case alleges Mr. Lovisa &/or his co-conspirators mailed phony prize notices to hundreds of thousands of victims.

The notices supposedly indicated the victims won cash prizes ranging from tens of thousands to millions of dollars.  The notices allegedly said the victims could collect the prizes by mailing a $20 or $25 processing fee to the post office boxes in New York or the Netherlands.  According to the indictment, Mr. Lovisa &/or his co-conspirators never paid valuable prizes to the victims and the supposed scheme generated  more than $30 million in illicit profits from the processing fees paid by the victims.

III. THE 2010 LAWSUIT AGAINST MR. LOVISA

In 2010 the Federal Trade Commission sued Mr. Lovisa for an alleged advance fee scam similar to the alleged advance fee scam described at Mr. Lovisa’s July 10, 2018 indictment. The 2010 lawsuit was settled via a stipulation filed with the Court on 4/19/12.  A review of the 2010 lawsuit reveals the suspected money trail in that case could have consisted of shell companies and post office boxes. The 2010 lawsuit claimed Mr. Lovisa had sent personalized mailers in violation of 15 U.S.C. §45 (a), which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts. One of these alleged mailers mentioned by the 2010 lawsuit, is reproduced below.

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Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

Hidden Money SearchMy tips for finding hidden money are at Seven Tools For A Successful Asset Search. Hiring a private investigator is also usually a good idea. For additional help in your search for hidden money, you may need some of the following.

A) HANDWRITING EXPERTS

If forged documents were used to hide or steal money, you may need handwriting experts/forensic document examiners to conduct a questioned document examination.  “A Case of Tax Fraud, Identity Theft & Murder” showed how forged letters were used by “Chuck” to steal money from “Mr. Wallace’s” Cayman Island bank account. Chuck forged Mr. Wallace’s signature in 2 letters Chuck sent to “Bob,” a  banker at the Cayman Island bank. By impersonating Mr. Wallace at the 2 forged letters, Chuck was able to drain Mr. Wallace’s Cayman Island bank account. Although I partly sanitized it for privacy reasons, one of the letters Chuck forged is available here.

B) LINK CHARTS

Link charting software enables one to visualize relationships and associations between people and/or things. This visualization can assist you or your private investigators in following a money trail/tracking assets. You may similarly use link charts in court to support your claim that money was hidden from you. A link chart of a money laundering circuit is discussed at the webpage How FINTRAC Builds A Case. Link charts for analyzing telephone toll calls, methamphetamine and cocaine distribution and various crimes are published by RFF Electronics.

C) FORENSIC COMPUTER EXPERTS

Forensic computer experts can assist you if you give them physical access to items thought to store digital evidence. These items can be a computer, mobile phone, flash card from a digital camera, etc. At a forensic computer examination, the experts can use keywords to search for hidden assets; look for databases like Quickbooks; search for logins at banks; and seek data which was supposedly deleted.

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Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

An Asset Search For Tax FraudA scheme to hide assets may start out with the primary goal of placing assets beyond your reach. The scheme may then develop the secondary goal of hiding assets from tax authorities/committing a tax fraud. To increase your chances of a successful asset search, you should therefore look for indicators of tax fraud. A good list of the indicators is published by the IRS at IRM 25.1.2.3, Fraud Handbook – Indicators of Fraud.

Just one indicator listed at the Fraud Handbook is “deposits into bank accounts under nominee names.” This means secretly depositing money into bank accounts titled in the names of  intermediaries (i.e. nominees).  “Red Flags & The IRS Search For Attorney Memmott’s Assets” analyzes the tax fraud case against the now-disbarred California attorney Orion Memmott. Prosecutors accused Mr. Memmott of hiding assets from the IRS by titling real estate & bank accounts in the names of nominees.

In USA v. Beverely, Docket No 17−cr−60093, prosecutors similarly accused Timothy J. Beverley of hiding assets from the IRS.  Prosecutors claimed Mr. Beverley of Pompano Beach, Florida failed to report to the IRS $2.2 million he allegedly stole from his employer.  Page 4 ¶14 (b) of Mr. Beverley’s superseding indictment said Mr. Beverley hid his stolen money in bank accounts titled in the names of nominees. Mr. Beverley supposedly committed the theft & alleged tax fraud while on supervised release from his earlier money laundering case.  In the laundering case, prosecutors accused Mr. Beverley of hiding the illicit proceeds of a bank fraud. Mr. Beverley apparently hid the proceeds of the bank fraud by washing them through bank accounts belonging to the NASCAR team Mr. Beverley once owned—Tyler Jet Motorsports.

Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

Today’s post mentions how a tip collected from Colombian authorities revealed a bribery scheme thought to involve drug kingpin Jose Bayron Piedrahita-Ceballos.

During your asset search gather tips from witnesses who not only know about your adversary’s assets but are also at odds with your adversary. If you are litigating against your adversary you might collect tips from these witnesses by deposing them. Additionally, you should consider hiring a private investigator to conduct witness interviews to sniff out tips concerning your adversary’s assets. A witness interview I attended alongside an investigator is described at my post: “An Asset Search By Pursuing Interviews & Tips.”

The public corruption case brought against former Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Christopher V. Ciccione, II (“Ciccione”), could show the importance of gathering tips when searching for assets. U.S. law enforcement officials collected a tip which led them to discover illicit assets or bribes given to Ciccione: about $20,000 in cash; a Rolex watch worth approximately $12,000; a hotel stay at the Marriott in Bogota, Colombia; a party; a dinner; liquor; & the services of prostitutes. The tip originated from governmental authorities in Colombia who had tapped phones & detected the apparent bribery scheme between Ciccione & Colombian narcotics kingpin Jose Bayron Piedrahita Ceballos (“Piedrahita”). At his 11/30/17 Factual Basis For Plea, Ciccione admitted taking the bribe payments, except for the Rolex watch.

Ciccione admitted that while a Special Agent, he took the bribes to orchestrate the dismissal of Piedrahita’s drug trafficking indictment filed in federal court in Florida. Ciccione’s 11/30/17 Factual Basis For Plea Agreement explained Ciccione had improperly obtained official authorization for Piedrahita & Piedrahita’s family to enter into the U.S. It also said Ciccione leaked the names of 2 DEA confidential informants to Mr. Juan Carlos Velasco Cano, who was Piedrahita’s associate. On 9/21/17 Ciccione was indicted for his role in the alleged scheme & on 2/9/18 Ciccione was sentenced to serve 3 years in prison. Two more Asset Search Blog posts mentioning tips include “Mr. Benjamin’s Divorce & His White Collar Crimes” & “Warsaw Prosecutors Eye Possible Money Laundering At 50 Platowcowa Street.”

Image: Courtesy of U.S. Treasury’s Office Of Foreign Assets Control

Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

Asset Searches in the U.S.
This post says you can sometimes pursue asset searches in the U.S. because of your foreign lawsuit.

You may be able to use 28 U.S.C. § 1782 to perform asset searches connected to your foreign: divorce; dispute over a will; financial fraud claim; etc. This is true because pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782, the U.S. District Court can allow you to serve subpoenas in the U.S. in furtherance of lawsuits in a foreign land.  You would serve these subpoenas on U.S.-based witnesses with knowledge of the assets. One subpoena based on 28 U.S.C. § 1782 is supplied at my October 18, 2017 post “Asset Searches In the U.S. Because of Lawsuits Outside The U.S.”  Based on 28 U.S.C. § 1782, the U.S. District Court also allowed service of a subpoena upon J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. in New York City.  On January 3, 2018 the U.S. District Court issued its Order authorizing issuance of this subpoena in the case known as In Re Application of Shanghai Xiaosheng Industrial Investment Co. LTD.

According to court filings, Shanghai Xiaosheng Industrial Investment Co. LTD., (“Shanghai”), needs evidence from J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. to frame a lawsuit it will file in China against 9th Base Investment Limited (“9th Base”).  Shanghai was reportedly defrauded out of more than $31 million US dollars by 9th Base.  On or about October 12, 2015 Shanghai allegedly transferred yen valued at $31 million US dollars out of China into 9th Base’s New York bank account at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.  Shanghai apparently transferred the $31 million as part of a deal in which Shanghai was suppose to eventually acquire 28.57% of Kailai Oil & Gas Holdings, Ltd., which develops oil & gas in Papua, Indonesia. Shanghai alleged that 9th Base fraudulently induced Shanghai to transfer the $31 million &/or that 9th Base was unjustly enriched by the $31 million dollars. To learn more about Shanghai’s allegations against 9th Base, read the December 20, 2017 Declaration of Shen Jinrong available below.

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Copyright 2018 Fred L. Abrams

Searching for an adversary’s hidden assets can be like tracking a shell-game-operator.  In USA v. Khalili for instance, Mr. Dan Farhad Khalili was accused of hiding assets & undeclared revenue from the IRS for 15 years at 5 offshore banks. The offshore banks were located in Switzerland & Israel. Although on 4/27/11 Mr. Khalili applied for the IRS’ Voluntary Disclosure Program, the IRS found him ineligible for it. Mr. Khalili ultimately pleaded guilty to failing to file U.S. Department of Treasury Reports of Foreign Bank & Financial Accounts. On 4/25/17 Mr. Khalili was sentenced to 1 year & 1 day of prison. When you search for assets hidden through sophisticated schemes similar to the one Mr. Khalili was accused of, it may help to keep 3 goals in mind. These goals are to detect the paper trails, look for compartmentalization & seek transparency.

I. Detect The Paper Trails

One way your adversary may hide the paper trail of an offshore bank account is to open an offshore post office box. Your adversary could then have the offshore bank send monthly bank account statements & other documents to the offshore post office box. By maintaining these banking documents offshore, your adversary reduces the risk that you; domestic tax authorities; or anyone else; will detect the secret offshore bank account.

II. Look For Compartmentalization

A former intelligence officer I knew kept 1 cellular phone for incoming calls & another for outgoing calls. By compartmentalizing incoming & outgoing calls, the former intelligence officer was trying to hamper any investigation of his telephone toll records. Your adversary may compartmentalize his/her financial activities in a scheme to hide assets from you. For more information read my post “Compartmentalization & An Asset Search.”

III. Seek Transparency

By eliminating paper trails & compartmentalizing, your adversary can make his/her financial activities nontransparent. Your adversary can also make financial activities nontransparent via: fraudulent asset transfers; bulk-cash smuggling; art assets & cultural heritage property; diamonds or other portable valuable commodities; etc. These common concealment methods are outlined at “Red Flags For An Asset Search.”

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Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

In the criminal case against Robert Bandfield, the IRS & SEC searched for assets laundered offshore. These assets were the proceeds of stock pump & dump schemes.  The illicit proceeds of the pump & dump schemes were more than $250 million. The $250 million was believed to be hidden by money laundering carried out by Mr. Robert Bandfield & his co-conspirators.

According to a 2/6/17 press release, Mr. Bandfield was the “architect of [an] offshore fraud haven.” Mr. Bandfield seems to have owned 2 nominee incorporation services, which established & sold shell companies. The 2 nominee incorporation services formed offshore shell companies believed to have helped launder the $250 million.

Red flags Mr. Bandfield & his co-conspirators allegedly hid the $250 million included their suspected misuse of:

After Mr. Bandfield’s 9/5/14 indictment by a grand jury sitting in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Bandfiled was arrested on 9/9/14 at the airport in Miami, Florida. The indictment charged Mr. Bandfield & others with conspiracy to commit securities fraud; conspiracy to defraud the U.S. via tax fraud; & money laundering conspiracy. On 2/6/17 Mr. Bandfield was sentenced to 72 months imprisonment.  The sentence was based on Mr. Bandfield’s guilty plea to the money laundering conspiracy charged by his second superseding indictment available here.

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Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

A person who resides & is sued out of the U.S. may hide assets in the U.S. This person could hide assets by secretly: purchasing real estate in the U.S.; opening bank accounts in the U.S.; titling property in the names of shell companies formed in the U.S.; etc. How can you search for assets which are hidden in the U.S.? If the hidden assets are connected to a lawsuit outside the U.S., (& you are an interested person in this lawsuit), you might subpoena witnesses in the U.S.

You would try to collect evidence about the hidden assets by issuing subpoenas to witnesses who know about the assets. These witnesses can be: banks;  gatekeepers like lawyers & accountants; businesses which establish shell companies (i.e. nominee incorporation services); relatives of the person hiding assets; etc. You may apply for subpoenas pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1782 in the U.S. District Court which possesses personal jurisdiction over the witnesses; and as set forth at Fed.R.Civ.P. 45. At your application filed in the U.S. District Court, you would also show you need to subpoena the witnesses because of your lawsuit outside the U.S.

In the Ex-Parte Application of June Wu, Ms. Wu a Taiwanese national, sought permission from the U.S. District Court in Delaware to issue subpoenas under 28 U.S.C. §1782. Ms. Wu apparently deposited $3 million into a bank account in Taiwan for a prospective investment in the Delaware company Tagboard, Inc.  Ms. Wu’s $3 million was then allegedly embezzled out of Taiwan & supposedly transferred to Tagboard, Inc’s bank account in the U.S. At its 9/13/17 Order, the U.S. District Court authorized Ms. Wu’s attorney to serve subpoenas about the $3 million.  The Order permits Ms. Wu’s attorney to elicit evidence by using subpoenas including this one:

(Click On The Image To View The Complete Subpoena)

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A person hiding assets from you could park their money in an offshore bank account & hire an intermediary to be the account’s bank signatory. One website offers this “Bank Nominee Signatories Service” for a cost of about $1000 per year.  This person could additionally title their real estate in the name of shell companies. A person can also hide assets by converting cash into portable valuable commodities like diamonds and smuggle the diamonds offshore.

This kind of scheme is outlined by “Detecting Hidden Assets By Following A Money Trail.”  “Searching For Assets Hidden By Lawyers” examines another way to hide assets.  It explains a person might hide their cash by laundering it through a lawyer. In these kinds of schemes the person hides his/her true beneficial ownership of assets. You may be able to detect  true beneficial ownership & search for assets 3 ways:

I. Collecting human intelligence/informants’ tips is sometimes the only practical way to detect a sophisticated scheme to hide assets.  If there is an informant with knowledge of the hidden assets, the informant might be willing to tip you about the assets.  This informant may be a disgruntled: employee; family member; paramour; etc.

II. Private investigators may help you identify informants & gather leads about hidden assets through surveillance or other surreptitious means. Some investigators however, search for assets illegally or provide spurious information. Ex-Toronto private investigator Elaine White & ex-police detective Cullen Johnson for example, ran an “asset locator” business. They supplied their clients with bogus bank account information.

III. Legal tools can be critically important in searching for assets.  “How Does A Divorcing Spouse Recover Assets Concealed In A Swiss Bank Account?” gives a glimpse of the kinds of tools generally available in many countries across the globe. Among other things, the tools can include serving letters rogatory upon foreign bank witnesses & tipping prosecutors or other governmental authorities.

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 Copyright 2017 Fred L. Abrams

Like the IRS & SEC you can sometimes search for assets by using whistleblower tips, my October 3rd program explains.

A) PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

At the New York County Lawyers’ Association on October 3, 2017 from 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM, I will be the program chair of “Whistleblowers, Secret Swiss Bank Accounts & Recovering Hidden Assets.” Attendee registration is available at the website available here or by calling the New York County Lawyers’ Association at (212) 267-6646. During the October 3rd program, I highlight the use of whistleblower tips to recover hidden assets.  I show how to search for assets which can be hidden by high net worth divorcing spouses; corporations; Ponzi schemers; tax fraudsters; etc.  I talk about tools you can use to recover assets hidden in Switzerland and other places across the globe. The October 3rd program also focuses on the Internal Revenue Service & Securities Exchange Commission whistleblower programs which can provide qualifying tipsters with the largest payouts compared to any other reward programs in the world.

Jack BlumWashington, D.C. attorney Jack Blum is well-known internationally for his representation of whistleblowers. In addition to others he has represented,  Mr. Blum will talk about Mr. Hervé Falciani, the whistleblower the media dubbed “the [Edward] Snowden of Swiss banking.”  Mr. Falciani allegedly stole Swiss bank account information from HSBC in Geneva and as a whistleblower turned the information over to French authorities. This alleged HSBC bank account information eventually fell into the hands of the International Consortium Of Investigative Journalists, which published part of it at their webpages known as the Swiss Leaks project.  Furthermore, Mr. Blum appeared on the CBS/60 Minutes television show to discuss the foregoing.  He will similarly discuss these matters at the October 3rd program and analyze: the IRS whistleblower program; problems whistleblowers face in the real world; and the difficulty lawyers may encounter in dealing with whistleblowers either as clients or tipsters.

ThomasLabaton & Sucharow partner Jordan A. Thomas will also speak at the October 3rd program.  Mr. Thomas will discuss the Securities Exchange Commission’s whistleblower program, as he is one of the world’s leading experts on it. He will review the advantages and disadvantages of the different whistleblower programs; and the ethical concerns gatekeepers like attorneys, accountants, officers and directors have, in reporting illegal behavior in both the civil and criminal contexts.  As more fully set forth below, Mr. Thomas: is a former assistant director in the Commission’s Enforcement Division; had a leadership role in developing the Commission’s whistleblower program; and was assigned to many of the Commission’s highest-profile matters such as those involving Enron, Fannie Mae, UBS & Citigroup.

Photo Charles Bott

Charles Bott QC, Head of Carmelite Chambers in the United Kingdom, is a recognized authority on financial crime and its regulation.  Subject to his availability, Mr. Bott may travel to New York to speak at the October 3rd program. He has appeared in more than 80 serious fraud trials including some of the leading cases of recent years and advised many other clients under investigation.  Mr. Bott specializes in cases of serious fraud, money laundering and revenue evasion; and in the United Kingdom, he is regularly instructed in serious criminal cases and regulatory cases of all kinds.

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