Three Men Sentenced In International Investment Fraud And Money Laundering Scheme
Tampa, Florida - U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven today sentenced Paul Robert Gunter (64, Odessa, Florida; originally of London) to 25 years in federal prison, Simon Andrew Odoni (56, originally of Hertfordshire, UK) to 13 years, 4 months in federal prison, and Richard Sinclair Pope (55, originally of Hertfordshire, UK) to 4 years, 9 months in federal prison for their respective roles in an international investment fraud and money laundering scheme. The court also ordered all three individuals to forfeit their interests in real property and bank accounts in the U.S. and abroad, an airplane, vessels, and vehicles purchased with proceeds of the fraud scheme.
As part of the investigation, federal agents seized nearly $5 million in U.S. currency. At the sentencing hearing, the court granted the government's request to use these assets to help compensate victims for their losses. In addition, the court entered money judgments in excess of $137 million against Paul Gunter and Simon Odoni.
On April 19, 2013, Paul Gunter and Simon Odoni were found guilty by a federal jury, following a 19-day trial. Specifically, the jury returned verdicts of guilty on three counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, as well as nineteen counts of mail and wire fraud, and fourteen counts of money laundering.
Prior to trial, on March 10, 2011, Richard Pope pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Pope cooperated with the government and testified at trial.
According to the evidence and testimony presented at trial, from at least as early as July 2004 through at least March 13, 2008, Gunter, Odoni, Pope and others engaged in a sophisticated investment fraud and money laundering scheme, in which worthless stock in hijacked dormant, publicly-traded companies in the United States was sold to victim-investors, primarily in the United Kingdom. The scheme used boiler room telemarketers, mostly in Spain, who employed high pressure and misleading sales techniques. The victim-investors wired more than $127 million to Gunter's bank accounts in the Middle District of Florida. The conspirators bilked victim-investors out of another $10 million via a FOREX currency trading scheme, which also utilized the boiler rooms in Spain.
Gunter, Odoni, Pope and their co-conspirators used the victim-investors' funds to perpetuate the fraud scheme and for their own personal enrichment. Victim-investors' funds were used to buy, among other things, an airplane, two vessels, vehicles, including a Ferrari, and real property in the Caribbean islands, England, and Florida.
In a related trial that took place in May 2012, Houston lawyers Roger Lee Shoss and Nicolette Loisel were convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with their participation in the corporate identity theft aspect of the scheme.
The case remains pending as to one individual, Lawrence S. Hartman, a/k/a Larry Hartman, a/k/a Larry Hart, a/k/a Lawrence Scott Hartman-Grosser (48, Costa Rica; a U.S. lawyer formerly of New York and Florida), who allegedly conspired with Gunter, Odoni, Pope and others in this case. In May 2013, Hartman was arrested on an immigration violation by Nicaraguan authorities. He was expelled and deported from Nicaragua and turned over to U.S. authorities to face the charges in this case. Hartman's apprehension and expulsion was achieved with the special assistance of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Embassy Managua, INTERPOL Washington, and the Nicaraguan National Police.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Tampa, Florida, as well as the U.S. Secret Service, Tampa, Florida and Newark, New Jersey Field Offices. The government received assistance from several other authorities, including the City of London Police, the UK's Serious Fraud Office and Norfolk Constabulary, the Spanish National Police, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Ontario Securities Commission, and the British Columbia Securities Commission.
“This investment fraud and money laundering scheme stretched across continents. The three defendants sentenced today had no qualms with preying on innocent victims – many of them elderly U.K. citizens – to further their own assets,” said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Tampa. “Let today’s sentences serve as notice to other fraudsters. HSI and our law enforcement partners will investigate and ensure that you are prosecuted for your crimes.” "This case is a great example of how law enforcement partnerships work on an international scale," said John Joyce, Special Agent in Charge Tampa. "The United States Attorney’s Office, HSI and the US Secret Service worked this case with their law enforcement partners from London to investigate, prosecute and convict Mr. Gunter, Mr. Odoni and Mr. Pope. Their sentences should send a clear message to other fraudsters."
"Unfortunately, this sentencing will not repair the huge damage they caused to the lives of thousands of people who were simply looking for a safe place to invest their money, but hopefully it will bring a measure of comfort and a sense of closure to those caught up in what was fraud committed on a truly significant scale. That Pope, Gunter and Odoni have now been successfully prosecuted is thanks to trans-Atlantic law enforcement cooperation, painstakingly piecing together this crime, insuring that those involved would one day face their day of reckoning," stated City of London Police Detective Inspector Kerrie Gower.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rachelle DesVaux Bedke and Kelley Howard-Allen.