Used the Stolen Funds to Purchase Luxury Vehicles, a Yacht, and to Fund a NASCAR Team
Baltimore, Maryland – Saleh Stevens, age 41, of Owings Mills, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to mail fraud, in connection with a scheme to embezzle over $3 million from the insurance company where he worked.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to Stevens’ plea agreement, from September 2011 through November 2013, Stevens, a licensed attorney, was employed as a senior claims adjuster and bond claim attorney for an insurance company with offices in Towson, Maryland. In this position, Stevens was responsible for reviewing and managing claims related to surety bonds, generally for construction projects. The insurance company also hired outside certified public accounting (CPA) firms to assist with claims processing.
Stevens admits that beginning in December 2011, he embezzled funds from the insurance company’s surety accounts. Stevens used his position as a bond claim attorney to direct the outside CPA firms to issue checks from the insurance company’s surety accounts to third-party bank accounts of entities controlled by Stevens, his friends, or family members. For example, Stevens paid a high school friend $40,000 in exchange for opening a nominee company with a bank account, and attempted to have a former law school classmate also open a bank account for a fictional company. In some instances, Stevens directed the owners of these accounts to issue checks to Stevens for his personal benefit or to send funds to other payees, such as credit card companies on Stevens’ behalf. In other instances, Stevens directed the CPA firms to issue checks to entities he controlled. Stevens also used his daughter and his former law school classmate to launder money, without explaining to them the source of the funds.
Stevens used the embezzled funds to purchase luxury automobiles, including a Maserati and a Mercedes; to fund a NASCAR racing team; to pay cash gifts to friends; to purchase a yacht, and to pay college tuition for his daughter.
Stevens also admits that he filed false individual tax returns for 2011, 2012 and 2013, failing to report a total of $3,119,129.22, the amount embezzled from the insurance company.
As part of his plea agreement, and as a condition of his supervised release, Stevens must pay the IRS all additional taxes, interest and penalties that he owes for tax years 2011 – 2013. In addition, Stevens has agreed to the entry of a restitution order for $3,119,129, the full amount of the insurance company’s loss, less any amount returned to the company prior to sentencing.
Saleh Stevens faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for mail fraud and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offense. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz has scheduled Stevens’ sentencing for November 12, 2014 at 9:15 a.m.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway 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. Since the inception of FFETF in November 2009, the Justice Department has filed more than 12,841 financial fraud cases against nearly 18,737 defendants including nearly 3,500 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI for its work in the investigation and thanked Assistant United States Attorney Gregory R. Bockin, who is prosecuting the case.