Attorney General Eric Holder Addresses Southeastern Regional Investor Fraud Summit in Miami
Last of Six Regional Investor Fraud Summits Aims to Educate the Public on How to Recognize and Avoid Falling Prey to Investment Fraud Schemes
MIAMI - United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Pamela Marsh, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Robert O’Neill, Regional Director for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Eric I. Bustillo, in conjunction with other U.S. Attorney’s offices, the Department of Justice’s Criminal and Civil Divisions, and members of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF), held the final of six regional Investor Fraud Summits today at the Chapman Conference Center of Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, in downtown Miami. The purpose of the six investor fraud summits across the country was to help educate the public on how to protect their hard-earned money from fraud.
Attorney General Eric Holder was the keynote speaker at the Summit, hosted by Southern District of Florida U.S. Attorney Ferrer and SEC Regional Director Bustillo.
“Investor fraud crimes can erode faith in our financial markets, threaten our nation’s ongoing economic recovery, and undermine the fabric of our communities,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “That’s why protecting the American people from fraud is a top priority for today’s Justice Department. And through the Investor Fraud Summits we announce today, we’ll take our anti-fraud efforts to a new level -- by raising awareness about these devastating offenses, educating consumers on how to report suspected fraud schemes, and empowering members of the public to fight back.”
Today’s Summit also featured federal, state and local law enforcement officials and consumer protection experts, all of whom made presentations aimed at showing the public how to identify instances of fraud and abuse, to protect their investments and to avoid becoming the victim of fraud. In very powerful presentations, Dr. John Gentile and Mr. Manuel Camella, who themselves were defrauded, shared their stories as part of an effort to raise awareness and educate others on how to spot fraud.
The FBI reports an unprecedented rise in investment fraud schemes, involving thousands of victims and staggering losses. Since 2011, the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and 85 U.S. Attorneys’ offices have reported that approximately 800 defendants have been charged, tried, pleaded or sentenced in approximately 500 federal prosecutions involving investor fraud. The total reported amount swindled from victims for this time period tops more than $20 billion. This staggering number includes cases where the total amount victims lost range from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of millions, and, in some cases, billions, in hard-earned savings.
In addition, since 2011, the SEC, an FFETF partner agency, has charged 887 individuals and entities in 359 actions involving retail investor fraud. Nearly $9.7 billion have been alleged lost by over 1.2 million investors in those cases.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer, of the Southern District of Florida, stated, “Although the defendants in investor fraud prosecutions use a variety of tactics and schemes, they often take the same approach to solicit their victims: they take advantage of relationships of trust and make promises that are too good to be true. They will guarantee high returns and, in many instances, provide falsified investment documents to their victims. As a result of these misrepresentations, many victims lose their retirement savings, military survivor benefits, family death settlements, and money set aside for college tuition, mortgage payments, or a rainy day. While we at the Justice Department continue to obtain lengthy prison sentences for many of these scammers, for many of the victims, the damage to their families and their future financial security is irreparable. That is why it is so important for us to educate the public on how to identify these types of scams and avoid falling prey in the first place.”
SEC Regional Director Eric I. Bustillo added, “The SEC, together with the Department of Justice and colleagues in law enforcement, will continue to work together to uncover securities fraud schemes and prosecute those who perpetrate these frauds. With summits like this, we will continue to provide investors with the tools they need to stop securities fraudsters from deceiving investors and manipulating the financial markets.”
U.S. Attorney Pamela Marsh, Northern District of Florida, stated, “Hearing today from the victims of investor fraud schemes, I was reminded again of the devastation these crimes cause to victims and their families. We, as prosecutors, see the devastation first-hand and are motivated to continue our work with law enforcement to investigate and prosecute these cases. We are also inspired to inform, educate and prevent these crimes from occurring in our communities. Sharing information about what questions to ask and what red flags might indicate an investment fraud scheme is a great way to empower the public and prevent crime.”
“Fraud committed against individual consumers and financial institutions are a serious concern,” said U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill, Middle District of Florida. “Not only do these crimes affect the individual investor, but they also impact the integrity of our overall economy. Hopefully this summit will heighten the awareness of those seeking to invest their dollars, as we continue to develop strategies to enforce and prosecute these offenses.”
The Southern District of Florida ranks second in the nation in the number of securities and investment fraud investigations and prosecutions. To address this serious problem, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the creation of its first District-Wide Securities and Investment Fraud Initiative. Since December 2010, the Initiative has resulted in charges against 108 defendants and more than $1.5 billion in restitution to victims.
If you think you may be a victim of investor fraud, please call your local FBI office for assistance. To find your local office, please visit: www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field.
For tips on how to spot investor scams and for more information on investor fraud in general, please visit: www.stopfraud.gov.
President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force, chaired by Attorney General Eric Holder, includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the FFETF, please visit: www.stopfraud.gov.
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.