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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

U.S. Lawyer Sentenced In International Investment Fraud And Money Laundering Scheme

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven yesterday sentenced 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), to 10 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. The court also ordered Hartman to forfeit his interest in his residence in Santa Ana, Costa Rica, a parcel of land located in Pasco County, several offshore entities, several foreign and domestic bank accounts, two vehicles (2009 Jaguar XKR; 2010 Genesis LX150ST3), three luxury watches, and more than $129,500 from the sale of a condominium – all of which are traceable to proceeds of the offense.  As part of his sentence, the court also entered a money judgment in the amount of $42.5 million, which represents proceeds of the mail and wire fraud conspiracy.

Hartman was charged in March 2009. In May 2013, he was arrested by Nicaraguan authorities. Hartman was deported from Nicaragua and turned over to U.S. authorities on May 15, 2013.  His apprehension and expulsion was achieved through the joint cooperation of various agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Embassy Managua, INTERPOL Washington, and the Nicaraguan National Police. He pleaded guilty on November 20, 2013.

According to evidence and testimony presented at the trials of Hartman’s co-conspirators, from at least as early as July 2004 through at least March 13, 2008, Hartman, along with Paul Robert Gunter (Odessa, Florida), Simon Andrew Odoni (originally of the UK), Richard Sinclair Pope (originally of the UK) and others, engaged in a sophisticated investment fraud and money laundering scheme.  The scheme involved worthless stock in hijacked dormant publicly-traded companies in the United States that 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. Hartman and his 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, luxury items including an airplane, two vessels, vehicles, including the Jaguar and a Ferrari, and real property in the Caribbean islands, England, and Florida.

Gunter and Odoni proceeded to trial in April 2013.  Both were convicted of multiple criminal offenses, following a 19-day jury trial.  On July 30, 2013, Gunter was sentenced to 25 years, and Odoni was sentenced to 13 years and 3 months in federal prison.  Pope, who pleaded guilty, cooperated and testified for the government, and was sentenced to 4 years and 9 months in prison.  The court also ordered all three individuals to forfeit their interests in real property and bank accounts in the U.S. and abroad, as well as other assets purchased with fraud proceeds.  

In another 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. As part of the investigation, federal agents seized nearly $5 million in U.S. currency. The court previously granted the government's request to use these assets, as well as those forfeited by Hartman, to help compensate victims for their losses. 

“This case truly demonstrates the collaborative effort of federal and international law enforcement partners throughout the world” said Shane Folden, Acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI Tampa. “HSI is committed to bring individuals like Hartman, who prey on some of our most vulnerable citizens, to justice.”

“Mr. Hartman is the last piece of this long term investigation,” said John W. Joyce, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Tampa Field Office. “Several agencies worked tirelessly for many years to bring Hartman and others to justice and to provide restitution to the victim investors in this case. These criminals will all serve just sentences for the fraudulent schemes they devised and live differently than the opulent lifestyles they grew accustomed to.”

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. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rachelle DesVaux Bedke and Kelley Howard-Allen.

Updated January 26, 2015