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August 12, 2010

Government Seeks Forfeiture of Property Derived from Scheme to Defraud Elderly Widower

BOSTON, Mass. - A South Dartmouth man was charged today in federal court with structuring cash transactions in connection with an effort to conceal the proceeds of a real estate transaction involving an elderly widower.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Susan Dukes, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation - Boston Field Division, Robert Bethel, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Chief Timothy M. Lee of the Dartmouth Police Department, announced today that RICHARD SOUZA, 45, of South Dartmouth, was charged in a criminal complaint with structuring cash transactions to avoid currency transaction reporting requirements. In a separate civil forfeiture complaint unsealed today, the government seeks the forfeiture of real estate and automobiles into which SOUZA directed the proceeds of a scheme to defraud a widower.

The civil forfeiture complaint alleges that from 2004 to 2008, SOUZA engaged in a scheme whereby he persuaded a widower, whose mental health was declining, to convey money and other assets to SOUZA as investments in real estate ventures, when in fact SOUZA used much of the money for his own benefit. It is alleged that one of the ventures involved the purchase and refinancing of a large tract of land in Maine, which the widower refinanced in his own name, while SOUZA kept the loan proceeds for himself. It is further alleged that the widower also sold his own home as part of a purported real estate deal, and SOUZA used some of the proceeds to purchase luxury automobiles. According to the civil complaint, before he met SOUZA, the widower’s net worth was approximately $750,000, and four years later, his net worth is approximately negative -$144,638.77, which included approximately $52,643.06 in new credit card debt. The civil forfeiture complaint seeks the forfeiture of the house in which SOUZA resides, as well as a commercial property at 368 Elm Street, South Dartmouth, the Maine property, and two Mercedes Benz automobiles – all funded in varying degree with the widower’s money.

The criminal complaint alleges that SOUZA structured cash transactions to avoid currency reporting rules that require banks to report cash transactions of over $10,000 to the United States Treasury. According to the criminal complaint, on June 15, 2006, in the course of two hours, SOUZA withdrew the proceeds of the Maine property refinancing in six separate cash withdrawals of $9,000 each from five different Sovereign Bank branches in the New Bedford area, in an effort to conceal his possession of the refinancing proceeds.

If convicted, SOUZA faces up to five years imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

The case is being investigated by Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Dartmouth Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jon Mitchell and Veronica Lei of Ortiz’s Economic Crimes Unit.

The details contained in the complaint are allegations. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


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