Six Indicted in International Investment Fraud Scheme
Six individuals have been indicted for their role in an investment scam perpetrated from the United States and Switzerland, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden of the District of Nevada and Special Agent in Charge Laura A. Bucheit of the FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office announced today.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada has unsealed indictments against Anthony Brandel, 46, of Las Vegas; Joseph Micelli, 59, of Las Vegas; James Warras, 67, of Waterford, Wis.; Sean Finn, 44, of Whitefish, Mont.; Martin Schlaepfer, 55, of Zurich, Switzerland; and Hans-Jurg Lips, 50, of Zurich, Switzerland. Brandel and Micelli were arrested on Dec. 12, 2013, in Las Vegas, and Warras was arrested on Dec. 13, 2013, in Wisconsin. Finn, Schalepfer and Lips remain at large.
According to court documents, from October 2009 through October 2013, the defendants used a Swiss corporation known as Malom Group AG to promote investments in European equities and debt offerings, which they said would yield high rates of return. The indictment alleges that the defendants created and provided to investors fake bank statements representing that Malom Group AG had large deposit balances at prominent European banks. The defendants collected payments of between $200,000 and $1.2 million per investor but did not put the funds toward the advertised investments. Instead, the defendants used the money for their own purposes. Court documents allege that Brandel, Micelli, Finn and Warras attempted to conceal the proceeds of the conspiracy by not filing tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
According to allegations in the indictment, the investments that the defendants promoted did not yield any returns to their victims. When victims complained, the defendants told investors that the Malom Group AG would refund their money with the proceeds of pending transactions the defendants knew were fictitious and would not generate any proceeds. Despite the defendants’ promises of refunds, court documents allege that none of the investors identified in the indictment received a refund. The indictment alleges that Micelli, Warras and Lips went so far as to submit to a U.S. Bankruptcy Court declarations they knew contained false statements about a transaction that the Malom Group AG had promoted to an investor who had an interest in a company that had filed for bankruptcy protection.
According to the indictment, Anthony Brandel acted as the director of MY Consultants Inc., a Nevada corporation that purported to review potential investments for the Malom Group AG. Micelli, a disbarred former attorney, identified himself to victims as Malom Group AG’s “compliance officer.” Warras served as Malom Group AG’s Executive Vice President for U.S. Operations and Finn acted as a broker who recruited victims and referred them to Malom Group AG. Schlaepfer was Malom Group AG’s Chief Executive Officer and Lips identified himself as the head of Malom Group AG’s Structured Finance Group. Schlaepfer and Lips presently reside in Switzerland.
The case was investigated by the Las Vegas Field Office of the FBI. The Enforcement Division of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which referred the matter to the Department of Justice, provided valuable assistance and is conducting a parallel civil enforcement investigation. The Public Prosecutor of the Canton of Zurich State Attorney’s Office assisted with the investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Brian R. Young, Stephen J. Spiegelhalter and Anna Kaminska of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.
Today’s indictment was a result of efforts by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the Task Force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants, including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the Task Force, visit www.StopFraud.gov .