TWO FT. LAUDERDALE MEN INDICTED FOR MONEY LAUNDERING AND OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IN CONNECTION WITH MUTUAL BENEFITS CORPORATION FRAUD
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 José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), announced the unsealing of a fifty-four count indictment against defendants Henry Fecker, III, 57, and Steven Steiner, a/k/a “Steven Steinger,”59, for their participation in a scheme to launder and conceal proceeds in connection with the Mutual Benefits Corporation (“MBC”) fraud. More specifically, Fecker and Steiner are charged with receiving more than $10 million into the account of Camden Consulting, a company they controlled, and then hiding and concealing assets from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the United States District Court. Both defendants were arrested and appeared in court earlier today. A pre-trial detention hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea M. Simonton.
As alleged in the indictment, from approximately 1994 to May 2004, MBC purchased life insurance policies and sold them in fractionalized form to investors. MBC and its employees and agents eventually defrauded approximately 30,000 investors by, among other things, misleading them about the accuracy of life expectancies of the insureds and the expenses required to maintain the insurance policies via premium payments. New investor money was thus used to pay premiums on life insurance policies purchased by earlier investors. As the scheme continued, more investor money was required to prevent the Ponzi-scheme from collapsing. After the MBC business collapsed in 2004, investors eventually suffered more than $830 million in losses.
As charged in the indictment, Steiner was a founder and Vice President of MBC and was paid by MBC using the account of Camden Consulting. Fecker was the owner of Camden Consulting. In this way, the MBC funds were used to support a lavish lifestyle for Steiner and Fecker, who lived together and jointly owned waterfront homes in Ft. Lauderdale and Camden, Maine, and a luxury apartment in New York City.
According to the indictment, in May 2004, MBC was sued by the SEC in the civil action, S.E.C. vs. Mutual Benefits Corp., et al., No. 04-60573-CIV-MORENO (S.D. Fla.) (the “SEC Fraud Action”). The SEC obtained a restraining order to halt the alleged fraud at MBC, and thereafter a receiver was appointed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida (the “MBC Receiver”), to identify and trace the assets of MBC. Steiner was a named defendant in the SEC Fraud Action and Fecker was a party due to his control of Camden Consulting.
According to the indictment, after 2004 when MBC was shut down, Fecker and Steiner engaged in a series of transactions to hide assets from the SEC and the MBC Receiver by placing funds attributable to Steiner with third parties or in Fecker’s name alone, and later by causing third parties to make payments of monies due to Steiner, instead to Fecker. In 2006, for example, Fecker obtained a refinance of the Maine property and placed the proceeds of approximately $480,000 into a series of certified checks to conceal their existence from authorities. Fecker began cashing these checks in 2008 and continued this through July 2011, using the funds to support a lavish lifestyle for Fecker and Steiner.
To obtain a favorable settlement of their liability with the SEC, the indictment alleges that in 2006 and early 2007, Fecker and Steiner submitted a series of false and misleading documents to conceal their true financial condition. Based on this documentation, around April 2007, the SEC agreed to settled their liability for $5 million and further agreed to a reduced penalty of $3.95 million, and the court in the SEC Fraud Action thereafter ordered that these sums be paid by order dated April 10, 2007. The indictment alleges that, to date, Steiner and Fecker have paid only $750,000.
The indictment further alleges in late 2009, to further conceal assets from the SEC and the SEC receiver, Steiner sold the luxury New York apartment for $1.3 million, but caused false documents to state that the sales price was $1.1 million and submitted these documents to the SEC and the MBC Receiver. To further thwart the SEC’s efforts to recover assets attributable to MBC, Steiner allegedly provided false and misleading testimony under oath to the MBC Receiver concerning his assets and financial condition.
Previously, in a separate case also in the Southern District of Florida, Steiner was charged in United States v. Joel Steinger, et al. (Case No. 08-CR-21158), with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering, in relation to the MBC fraud scheme. Trial in that matter is scheduled for February 2013 before U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan.
United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Ponzi-schemes, like the MBC investment scheme, defraud unwitting investors out of their lives savings. These defendants compounded their legal troubles by then laundering the proceeds of the fraud and attempting to hide assets. Such abuse will not be tolerated.”
“We will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who obstruct justice by making false statements and concealing assets from an agency of the United States attempting to carry out its mission, such as the SEC’s efforts to protect investors here,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies.
“We will hold accountable those who engage in the laundering of funds derived from fraud, particularly through concealment and spending of funds through sophisticated transactions, like the ones employed here,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge José A. Gonzalez.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the IRS-CID, and the Miami Regional Office of the SEC, which previously brought a civil action against MBC and its principals. The matter is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerrob Duffy.
An indictment is only a charging document, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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.