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Justice News

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Additional Criminal Charges Have Been Filed Against A Cazenovia Man

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK - United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian announced today that additional criminal charges have been filed against a Cazenovia man already facing allegations of fraud and money laundering.

JAMES P. GRIFFIN, 70, is the Chief Executive Officer of several companies using a variation of the name 54 Freedom. These 54 Freedom companies are headquartered at 5 Ledyard Avenue, Cazenovia, New York. In July Griffin was indicted on charges that the 54 Freedom companies, marketed a financial product called the 54 Freedom Charitable Gift Annuity. This product purportedly allowed a person to make a gift to charity and still receive income for himself or others. The 54 Freedom Charitable Gift Annuity was represented to be backed by a highly rated major insurance carrier and would provide guaranteed life time income for the investor. It is alleged, however, that the monies invested by clients were not used to purchase annuities from A rated insurance companies, but rather were used by GRIFFIN for his own use and to pay expenses of the various 54 Freedom companies. The indictment charges that over $1.6 million was invested with the defendant to purchase 54 Freedom Charitable Gift Annuities. The investors initially received monthly payments as promised, but these regular payments stopped in approximately January 2013.

GRIFFIN was arrested on July 23, 2015 and appeared for arraignment before United States Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter in Syracuse. He pled not guilty to the charges.

On November 25, 2015 a federal grand jury in Syracuse returned a superseding indictment that charges Griffin with five additional counts of mail fraud. The new charges allege that Griffin fraudulently induced persons to invest in his companies by using funds withdrawn from tax sheltered retirement accounts upon the false promise that the investments would be profitable and the investment funds would be "rolled over" into another tax sheltered account or that Griffin would pay any tax or penalty due on the early distribution of the retirement account monies. The indictment alleges that the investments were not profitable and the funds were not rolled over into tax sheltered accounts, and as a result, the investors did not realize a profit but also suffered an early withdrawal tax penalty on the funds invested. It is alleged that Griffin received at least $370,000 from investors that had come from tax sheltered retirement plans.

GRIFFIN is now charged with ten counts of mail fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, and five counts of money laundering. He faces a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty years on each of the mail and wire fraud counts and ten years on the money laundering counts. Each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Edward R. Broton.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Financial Fraud
Updated November 30, 2015