Local Defense Attorney and Others Arrested in Connection with Scheme to Obstruct Justice
|Oct. 28, 2011|
HOUSTON - Abraham Moses Fisch, 52, a criminal defense attorney in Houston, has been arrested on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and failure to file tax returns, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Stephen L. Morris, special-agent-in-charge of the FBI and Lucy Cruz, special-agent-in-charge of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI). Fisch and his wife, Monica Bertman, 60, were arrested just minutes ago and are expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances H. Stacy later today.
The indictment was returned under seal Oct. 19, 2011. On Monday, Oct. 24, 2011, the 21-count indictment was partially unsealed as to a third defendant, Lloyd Glen Williams, 67, a former used car financier. Upon the arrest of Fisch and Bertman today, the indictment was unsealed in its entirety.
The indictment alleges that from August 2006 to Oct. 19, 2011, Fisch, Williams and Bertman conspired to defraud defendants who were facing federal criminal charges in Houston. The indictment states that the fraud was perpetrated in at least five different federal criminal cases including U.S. v. Edilberto Portillo, et al. (H-06-182), U.S. v. Joey Herrera, et al. (H-07-038), U.S. v. Umawa Oke Imo, et al. (H-09-426) and U.S. v. Clifford Ubani and Princewill Njoku, et al. (H-09-421 and H-10-416).
According to the indictment, Williams, although not an attorney, held himself out as someone who could resolve criminal cases through his contacts with government officials. Williams, Fisch and Bertman worked together to solicit federal criminal defendants as clients under false pretenses. They claimed to the defendants that Williams had the power to cause their criminal charges to be dismissed or their sentence reduced if they would hire Fisch as their attorney, pay a large sum of money to Fisch and Williams and then provide Williams with information about their crimes. Williams claimed he would then pass that information along to contacts in various federal agencies. In return, Williams claimed his contacts would cause the criminal charges against the defendants to be dismissed or their sentences reduced.
According to the indictment, Williams claimed to the defrauded defendants that his alleged contacts were high-level government officials within the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, Williams, Fisch and Bertman falsely stated to some defendants that government officials were being bribed on behalf of the defendants with the funds the defendants had paid to Williams and Fisch. According to the indictment, however, no government officials received bribes and Williams’ supposed contacts were either retired government officials, were not in contact with Williams or otherwise had no ability or willingness to influence the outcome of a defendant’s case.
Williams and Fisch, the indictment alleges, undermined the functioning of the federal justice system by: (1) misleading defendants about the nature of the cooperation process with the government and interfering with defendants’ cooperation with the government, including failing to pass information from a defendant to the government; (2) interfering with plea negotiations with the government by preventing defendants from timely entering guilty pleas because of the mistaken belief their case was going to be dismissed; (3) interfering with defendants’ relationships with former and subsequent counsel, including communicating with represented defendants unbeknownst to their legitimate counsel, causing defendants to fire former counsel, causing defendants not to communicate fully and truthfully with their attorneys and causing defendants not to assist their attorneys in preparing their defense or in negotiating guilty pleas; and (4) insisting that defendants keep the nature of Williams’ so-called “assistance” secret from the court, the government and other attorneys.
In addition, the indictment charges Williams and Fisch with money laundering based on their deposits of the funds they earned from this scheme, which totaled at least $1,480,000. The United States is seeking forfeiture of that amount as money derived from the criminal activity. The indictment also charges Fisch with failing to timely file tax returns each year during the period that he obtained money from this scheme, specifically 2006 through 2010.
If convicted, Fisch faces a prison term of five years imprisonment for the conspiracy charge, 10 years on each of the four counts of obstruction of justice, 10 years for each of the nine counts of money laundering, 10 years for conspiracy to commit money laundering and one year for each of the five counts of failure to file tax returns in addition to substantial monetary fines. Bertman faces a maximum five years and 10 years, respectively, if convicted of conspiracy and one count of obstruction of justice in addition to a $250,000 fine.
Two days subsequent to his arrest, on Oct. 26, 2011, Williams entered a plea of guilty to counts 1 and 21 of the indictment that alleged knowingly conspiring to corruptly endeavor to influence, obstruct and impede the due administration of justice and willfully making and subscribing to a materially false 2007 Income Tax Return. For these convictions, he faces a maximum possible punishment of five years for the conspiracy charge and three years in prison for filing a false tax return as well as a $250,000 fine.
The investigation that led to this indictment and the arrests and plea was conducted by the FBI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert S. Johnson of the Southern District of Texas.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.