WASHINGTON - Five individuals who defrauded hedge fund investors of more than $200 million dollars have been indicted on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of the Southern District of Florida announced today.
Defendants named in the indictment, unsealed today in Miami, are Michael Lauer, Martin Garvey, and Eric Hauser, co-owners of management companies which directed the hedge funds, and Laurence Isaacson and Milton Barbarosh, who had financial interests in Boca Raton, Fla.-based “shell” companies in which the hedge funds invested. All of the defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail, wire and securities fraud and six counts of wire fraud. If convicted, each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine for each count of wire fraud and five years and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy count. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of their criminal proceeds.
According to the indictment, Lauer, as founder and primary manager, formed and directed several hedge funds, collectively known as the Lancer Group hedge funds. From October 1999 to July 2003, Lauer and his co-defendants manipulated the closing market price of thinly-traded shell company securities to falsely inflate the value of the Lancer Group hedge funds. Lauer, Isaacson, and Barborosh identified “shell” companies, including ones owned by Barbarosh, in which the Lancer Group would buy large quantities of “restricted” stock at pennies per share in private transactions. Lauer, Garvey and Hauser next directed brokers to buy a small amount of the same securities for the Lancer Group at a much higher open market price and to make additional small purchases to drive up the price to a closing “target price.” Lauer then falsely valued all of the securities held by the Lancer Group, including those restricted shares obtained for pennies per share, at the much higher closing price, which falsely boosted the 20 percent performance fees paid to the management companies; induced new investors to buy into the funds; and kept existing investors in the funds.
To cover up and perpetuate the scheme, the indictment alleges, Lauer also created fake portfolios of the securities supposedly held by the Lancer Group and obtained falsely inflated appraisals of the shell companies through Isaacson and Barbarosh.
An indictment is merely a charge. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Jack Patrick, Senior Litigation Counsel in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and Harold Schimkat, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Florida.