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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 14, 2014

Former Owner of Empire Towers Indicted in Fraudulent $7 Million Bond Scheme

 

Allegedly Misled Over 50 Individual Investors Who Bought Bonds

 


Baltimore, Maryland - A federal grand jury has indicted Wilfred T. Azar, III, age 53, formerly of Queenstown, Maryland, on charges of securities fraud. The indictment was returned on
November 4, 2014, and unsealed today.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Sharon B. Binger, Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Philadelphia Regional Office.

Empire Corporation owned Empire Towers Corporation. Empire Towers Corporation’s primary asset was Empire Towers, a 10 story office building in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Azar was president and majority owner of Empire Corporation and Empire Towers Corporation.

The indictment alleges that by January 2006, Empire Corporation could no longer pay its expenses and was effectively insolvent. By 2007, Empire Towers Corporation had exhausted its lines of credit from lending institutions.

From January 2006 to April 2010, Azar caused Empire Corporation to sell bonds to over 50 individual investors for more than $7 million. While many of the bonds were titled “registered,” the bonds were not registered with either the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the State of Maryland.

According to the indictment, Azar falsely told investors that Empire Corporation was in good financial health, and that the money would be used to renovate the Empire Towers office building. Azar failed to inform investors that he used most of the money raised from previous bond sales for his own personal purposes. Although the bonds were issued by Empire Corporation, Azar diverted millions of dollars of proceeds from the bond sales to his own bank account and the bank accounts of other companies that he controlled. He used the money to pay his personal expenses, including the purchase of luxury vehicles and vacations, as well as to finance his other real estate ventures and yacht brokerage business.

Azar faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. No court appearance has been scheduled.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

Also today, the SEC has filed a complaint against Azar and another individual in connection with the scheme.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI and SEC for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Gregory Bockin and Trial Attorney Kenneth Vert of the U.S. Justice Department, Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.

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Updated January 27, 2015