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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Kentucky Resident Sentenced To More Than Three Years In Prison For Wire Fraud Conspiracy And Money Laundering Scheme

Judge orders restitution of over $1.5 million and forfeiture of multiple parcels of real property.

SAN FRANCISCO – Bradley Howell was sentenced to 46 months in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, announced United States Attorney Alex G. Tse and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. The sentence was handed down today by the Honorable Susan Illston, United States District Judge.  

Howell, 34, of Louisville, Ky., pleaded guilty to the charges on July 18, 2018.  According to his plea agreement, from about April 2013 through March 2014, Howell and a co-conspirator devised a scheme in which they convinced potential investors the co-conspirators could help them receive millions of dollars’ worth of financial instruments (bank guarantees and standby letters of credit) in exchange for a much smaller down payment. Howell’s co-conspirator was an attorney licensed to practice in California.  Howell and his co-conspirator told the investors that the co-conspirator would serve as an escrow agent in the transactions and that after the investors wired money to an attorney-client trust account, the co-conspirator would notify them when the bank had issued a bank guarantee or standby letter of credit.  Howell admitted he was aware the investors’ money was not being held in escrow and that the co-conspirator did not obtain any of the financial instruments they promised the investors they would help them obtain.  Howell further admitted that he and his co- conspirator used the investors’ money for their own personal expenses.  

In his plea agreement, Howell described several instances in which he and his co- conspirator obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars from would-be investors in California.  For example, in July of 2013, the co-conspirator convinced an investor to wire $100,000 to the attorney trust account, supposedly to secure a $2,000,000 bond; by August of 2013, the co-conspirator convinced another three victims to provide $250,000, ostensibly to obtain a $4,000,000 financial instrument; and in February of 2014, the co-conspirator tricked three more victims into wiring $300,000, supposedly to finance a $20,000,000 project.  In sum, between May 2013 and February 2014, Howell admitted receiving over a $1 million from his co-conspirator pursuant to the scheme.
In addition, Howell admitted in his plea agreement that he was engaged in a money laundering scheme in Kentucky.  Specifically, Howell admitted that in 2012, he defrauded a steel company of $500,000, and in 2015, he defrauded a married couple of $100,000.  

On September 17, 2015, federal grand jury in the Northern District of California indicted Howell, charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, and nine counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.  In addition, on March 8, 2017, a federal grand jury in the Western District of Kentucky indicted Howell, charging him with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1957.  Based on the consent of both districts, the Kentucky proceedings were transferred to the Northern District of California.  Pursuant to his plea agreement, Howell pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and one of the Kentucky money laundering counts.  

In addition to the prison term, Judge Illston sentenced the defendant to a three-year period of supervised release and ordered him to pay $1,591,895 in restitution.  Judge also ordered forfeiture of four parcels of real property, a Lamborghini automobile and a Campagna T Rex motorcycle.  Howell has been in custody since May of 2018, and will begin serving his sentence immediately.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robin Harris and Chinhayi Cadet are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Bridget Kilkenny.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.

Financial Fraud
Updated November 1, 2018