Department of Justice Forfeits More Than $11 Million in Fraud Proceeds Located in Southern Florida on Behalf of an Australian Criminal Prosecution
WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice has forfeited cash and properties worth more than $11 million related to fraud proceeds located in the United States in connection with the conviction by Australian prosecutors of Rachel Cowen, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced today.
Cowen was convicted in Melbourne, Australia, for fraudulently acquiring and liquidating securities held by Computershare Limited, an Australian investment broker. This enforcement of the Australian forfeiture judgment marks the first time that the Department of Justice has sought and obtained a forfeiture judgment in a U.S. court under Section 2467 of Title 28 of the U.S. Code, which was amended in December 2010. This provision permits the enforcement of foreign restraining orders and forfeiture judgments against criminal proceeds by U.S. courts.
In granting the department’s request to enforce the Australian forfeiture judgment, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia authorized the forfeiture to the United States of a residence located in Miami-Dade County, Fla., appraised at $715,000, more than $4.9 million held in various bank accounts, precious metals accounts valued at approximately $5.5 million and two vehicles. U.S. Chief District Judge Lamberth granted the application and issued a final order enforcing the Australian judgment on Nov. 27, 2012. The U.S. Marshals executed the judgment against the bank and precious metals accounts today.
“This case demonstrates the Justice Department's resolve to prevent the United States from becoming a haven for criminal proceeds,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The department is committed to partnering with foreign law enforcement authorities to return the proceeds of crime to their rightful owners.”
According to court documents, in June 2008, Cowen defrauded a client of Computershare of more than 15 million Australian dollars by presenting false documents and fraudulently representing to Computershare that she had authority to obtain and liquidate securities. Accounts held by U.S. resident Raul Mari in Florida received wire transfers totaling 10.5 million Australian dollars from Australian accounts holding the fraud proceeds. Cowen was convicted in Australia of obtaining property by deception and sentenced to four years in prison, with three years suspended. The Supreme Court of Victoria at Melbourne subsequently issued a judgment forfeiting 15 assets controlled by Mari and located in the United States in connection with Cowen’s conviction.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Linda Samuel, Assistant Deputy Chief Jack de Kluiver and Trial Attorney Katharine Wagner of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section (AFMLS). Valuable assistance was provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs. The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service worked closely with AFMLS in this action. The United States worked with the Victoria Police and the Office of Public Prosecutions for the State of Victoria to execute the Australian forfeiture judgment.