Two Men Found Guilty In International Investment Fraud And Money Laundering Scheme
Tampa, Florida - United States Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that a federal jury today found United Kingdom citizens Paul R. Gunter (64, Odessa, Florida; originally of London), and Simon Andrew Odoni (56, Hertfordshire, UK) guilty of 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. Gunter and Odoni each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each of the conspiracy charges and each of the separate mail and wire fraud charges, and up to 10 years on each of the money laundering charges. Both individuals will also be ordered to forfeit real property, bank accounts, an airplane, vessels, and vehicles purchased with proceeds of the fraud scheme. As part of the investigation, federal agents seized nearly $5 million U.S. currency. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
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 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 was facilitated using 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, 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 March 2011, co-defendant Richard Sinclair Pope pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Pope faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
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. Shoss and Loisel stole the identities of dormant, publicly-traded companies, and used the corporate identities they had stolen to create fraudulent empty-shell companies, which had the appearance of being publicly-traded. The fraudulent empty-shell companies were sold to Gunter and his co-conspirators, who made them available to the boiler rooms in Spain and, through them, used the empty-shell companies to issue worthless shares of stock to the victim-investors. All four of the companies featured in the indictment – that is, Mobilestream, Inc., Regaltech, Inc., Nanoforce, Inc., and Rocky Mountain Gold Mining, Inc. – were created by Shoss and Loisel. According to the testimony at trial, Gunter and his co-conspirators paid Shoss a total of $800,000 for these empty-shell companies.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, Tampa, Florida, as well as the U.S. Secret Service, Tampa, Florida and Newark, New Jersey Field Offices. "These individuals conspired to make a profit through a complex, international money laundering scheme," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Tampa. "Our law enforcement partners across the globe helped us identify and prosecute these con-artists who preyed on the vulnerable. I urge investors to beware of similar scams – they know no borders."
"This case demonstrates the power that comes from law enforcement agencies pooling their assets and sharing critical information," said Special Agent in Charge John Joyce of the Tampa Field Office. "The U.S. Secret Service values the partnerships it has forged with other agencies in order to address criminal behavior, both domestically and internationally." 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. According to Detective Inspector Kerrie Gower of the City of London Police, "Odoni and Gunter were key operators in a criminal gang that ruthlessly targeted the elderly and vulnerable, defrauding them and then spending tens of millions of pounds that had been put aside to support people’s retirements. We now look forward to the sentencing of all those who played a part in this devastating crime and hope it will bring some comfort to their victims. This tragic story should act as warning to anyone who is considering putting their money into investment schemes offering massive returns."
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rachelle DesVaux Bedke and Kelley Howard-Allen.