BANKRUPTCY TRUSTEE AND STATE COURT RECEIVER CHARGED WITH MISAPPROPRIATION OF $16 MILLION FROM FIDUCIARY FUNDS
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Donald F. Walton, United States Trustee for Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Region 21) announced the filing of a Criminal Information charging defendant Marika Tolz, 64, of Hollywood, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. Defendant Tolz is scheduled to make her initial appearance in Miami federal court on March 4, 2011, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry L. Garber at 1:30 p.m.
According to the Information, for more than 20 years Marika Tolz had been a member of the panel of Chapter 7 trustees, who are private individuals appointed by the U.S. Trustee in bankruptcy cases in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida. As a trustee, Tolz was required to collect property of bankruptcy estates and convert the property to cash. Among other duties, she was required to safeguard these assets, keep detailed and accurate financial records of funds received and disbursed, and make reports of activities occurring in administration of the estates.
The Information also alleges that Tolz served as court-appointed receiver on various legal matters. As a receiver, Tolz was required to act as a neutral fiduciary, including in civil enforcement actions involving alleged fraud and marshaling and safeguarding assets for ultimate distribution.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “As a trustee and as a receiver, Tolz had a responsibility to protect the assets she obtained through her appointments. Instead, Tolz engaged in a long-term scheme to misappropriate funds from these matters, and to use those funds for unauthorized expenses and for her own benefit. Robbing from one client to pay another is no way to do business, and will surely end in criminal prosecution and incarceration.”
“At the heart of these charges is the egregious breach of fiduciary responsibility by Marika Tolz. As a Trustee the courts routinely relied on her as an expert to assist in safeguarding and distributing assets of estates,” said John V. Gillies, FBI Special Agent in Charge. “Instead, she was motivated by greed and stole from the funds she was responsible for protecting. It doesn't matter whether a person is a con artist from the beginning or becomes one over time, the FBI remains committed to routing out fraud.”
“Bankruptcy trustees are fiduciaries and have responsibilities to numerous parties in the bankruptcy system,” stated Donald F. Walton, United States Trustee for Region 21. “When bankruptcy trustees violate those duties, it threatens the integrity of the bankruptcy system, as well as public confidence in that system. We deeply appreciate the strong commitment of U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer to combating bankruptcy fraud and abuse, as demonstrated by this prosecution.”
According to the Information, after receiving these fiduciary appointments, Tolz would establish bank accounts into which she would deposit the funds belonging to the related entity. From about March 24, 2003 through May 2010, Tolz misappropriated funds from these fiduciary accounts by writing unauthorized checks to her own General Trust account. From there, Tolz subsequently withdrew funds for purposes that had nothing to do with her fiduciary duties or the fiduciary accounts from which they were drawn. Tolz allegedly used some of the money from unrelated fiduciary accounts under her control to repay shortfalls in the fiduciary accounts she had depleted by her prior misappropriations, moving funds, in a Ponzi-like fashion, into those depleted accounts. Tolz also allegedly falsified reports that she was required to submit as part of her trustee and other fiduciary duties.
In this way, Tolz misappropriated at least $16 million from numerous matters to which she had been appointed fiduciary, resulting in approximately $2.4 million in losses to affected fiduciary matters.
An Information is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
U.S. Attorney Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. Mr. Ferrer also commended the assistance and cooperation of the United States Trustee Program, a component of the United States Department of Justice, which referred the matter and assisted in the investigation. The U.S. Trustee Program is charged with protecting the integrity of the bankruptcy system by overseeing case administration and litigating to enforce the bankruptcy laws. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Luis M. Perez.
Tolz Information (PDF)
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.