Staten Island Man Who Defrauded Over 250 Victims Sentenced To 292 Months Of Imprisonment For Multi-Million Dollar Fraudulent Investment Scheme
Victim Losses Exceeded $15 Million
BROOKLYN, NY – Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Peter Liounis, a resident of Staten Island, was sentenced to 292 months in prison following his conviction on February 5, 2014, of six counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of wire and mail fraud conspiracy, and one count of securities fraud after a two-week trial. For nearly four years, Liounis and his co-conspirators ran three successive fraudulent investment schemes through which they obtained over $15 million from over 250 investors based on false promises about investment opportunities.
The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Philip R. Bartlett, Postal Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, New York Division; James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York; and Robert J. Sica, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Secret Service. The sentence was imposed by United States District Judge I. Leo Glasser.
“Peter Liounis hid behind assumed identities to fleece unsuspecting investors. His two prior convictions didn’t teach him respect for the law, as he continued to cheat hundreds of innocent victims of millions of dollars. Liounis thought his third time in court would be a charm. Instead a federal jury saw him for the inveterate fraudster and con man he really is,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “We will continue to pursue tirelessly those individuals who would victimize investors.”
At a pre-sentencing proceeding, Judge Glasser stated that the “scam was as sophisticated as any scam that I have had occasion to deal with in this courthouse in over 30 years.”
A. The Grayson Hewitt Scheme
As proven at trial, in March 2011, investors were contacted by a person identifying himself as “Mark Anderson from Grayson Hewitt.” “Anderson” told investors that Grayson Hewitt purchased plaintiffs’ rights to future recoveries in personal injury and other lawsuits, and promised a 15% return on their investments.
In a series of calls captured by a court-ordered wiretap, the son of an investor sought the return of his father’s money so that the son could place his father, who had suffered a heart attack, into an assisted living facility. Although the father had approximately $23,000 left in his Grayson Hewitt account, Liounis falsely told the son that his father had been depleting the account and had only $3,000 remaining. Liounis then sent the father and son a “get well fruit basket.” In another call, a Grayson Hewitt investor expressed skepticism about the company, noting, “I see this as a Bernie Madoff deal….” Liounis responded, “this is no way, no how, a Bernie Madoff … believe that! … You gotta understand, the amount of money we handle here, uh, we’d go away for a hell of a lot longer than Bernie did.”
The members of the scheme used investor funds to purchase gold, meals, clothing, and other consumer items. The Grayson Hewitt scheme resulted in over $4 million of losses to investors.
B. Prior Related Schemes
Liounis had also participated in two closely related prior schemes, as proven at a sentencing hearing.
From approximately December 2008 to November 2009, Liounis and his co-conspirators participated in a fraudulent investment scheme through a company called the Rockford Group. The Rockford Group marketed itself as a “leading private equity firm,” claimed to invest in plaintiffs’ rights to future recoveries in personal injury and other lawsuits, and promised a 15% return on their investments. The Rockford Group, however, never invested in any lawsuits. Instead, nearly all of the investor funds were wired to bank accounts overseas. Approximately 200 investors in the U.S. and Canada lost approximately $11 million as a result of this scheme.
In September 2010, an individual who had been solicited to invest in the Rockford Group by one of its representatives, “James Weston,” began receiving calls from someone who sounded like “Weston,” but was now identifying himself as “Andrew Black from UBS.” “Black” solicited multiple investors to invest in an initial public offering (IPO) of General Motors stock. Federal agents determined that there was no “Andrew Black” at UBS, and were able to halt this scheme in its early stages and return most of the investors’ funds.
Federal agents identified Liounis as the person who solicited the Rockford Group, General Motors IPO and Grayson Hewitt investors, using the names “James Weston,” “Andrew Black,” and “Mark Anderson.”
Prior to his most recent convictions at trial, Liounis had been convicted of federal fraud offenses three times before in 2001 and 2007.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Justin D. Lerer and Daniel A. Spector.
This prosecution was the result of efforts by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit http://www.StopFraud.gov.
Staten Island, NY
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 12-CR-350