Portland, Maine: Two individuals were charged in an indictment filed today for their roles in a multimillion-dollar scheme involving purported investments in a start-up financial technology company.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank of the District of Maine, Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonta of the FBI’s Boston Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Kristina O’Connell of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) in Boston made the announcement.
Michael A. Liberty, 58, of Windermere, Florida, and Paul E. Hess, 63, of Braintree, Massachusetts, were each charged in an indictment filed in the District of Maine with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud and one count of securities fraud. In addition, Liberty was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and three counts of money laundering.
The indictment alleges that, beginning in 2010, Liberty and Hess solicited investments in Mozido, a privately held financial technology start-up company that offered users an ability to make payments using their mobile phones. Liberty and Hess allegedly raised millions of dollars from investors telling them, among other things, that their money would be used to fund Mozido’s business operations and that Hess was not being paid to raise the money. The indictment alleges that a substantial amount of the money did not go to Mozido, that a portion of the money was diverted to pay Liberty’s personal expenses, and that Hess received commissions and other payments in return for the money he raised from investors.
The defendants face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss on the wire fraud charges and up to 20 years in prison and a $5,000,000 fine on the securities fraud charge. Liberty faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the amount of criminally derived property involved in the transactions on the money laundering charges. The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI’s Portland, Maine Resident Agency and IRS-CI are investigating the case. Trial Attorneys Michelle Pascucci and Matthew Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark of the District of Maine are prosecuting the case.
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section plays a pivotal role in the Department of Justice’s fight against white collar crime around the country.
Individuals who believe they may be a victim in this case should contact the Victim Witness Services Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine at (207) 780-3257 for more information.