Fugitive Lawyer Pleads Guilty in Connection with $21 Million Fraud Scheme
Michael R. Casey, 71, a fugitive for over four years, pled guilty today for his participation in a $21 million investment fraud scheme.
Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Gadyaces S. Serralta, U.S. Marshal, U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
Casey pled guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrea M. Simonton, to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349 (Case No. 12-20630-Cr-Lenard). Casey previously pled guilty to failing to appear in court in 2014 (Case No. 14-20619-Cr-Moreno). Casey is scheduled to be sentenced for both offenses of conviction on November 27, 2018, by Chief U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore.
According to the court record, Casey, originally of Fort Lauderdale, and co-defendants James C. Howard, III, of Parkland, Patricia S. Saa, of Tampa, and Louis N. Gallo, III, of Parkland, defrauded individuals who invested in Commodities Online LLC (COL). From approximately January 2010 through April 2011, Casey and his co-conspirators used material false and fraudulent representations and material omissions to obtain over $21 million from over 770 investors.
Casey and his co-conspirators used COL to sell: shares of ownership in COL; subscriptions to access the COL website and COL’s investment opportunities; and investments in purported transactions to buy and sell commodities, such as fish, iron ore and sugar. After receiving $2.2 million for the COL ownership shares in early 2010, Howard and Saa diverted $1.3 million of those funds for other purposes. By the summer of 2010, Casey learned that the funds had been diverted for other purposes, and did not disclose it to investors.
In addition to selling COL ownership units, Casey and his co-conspirators offered investors the opportunity to fund purported contracts to buy and sell commodities. Casey and his co-conspirators offered a stated percentage return on investment, such as 10% within 30 days or 20% within 70 days. However, the specific purported contracts – for which investors sent COL money – did not exist as represented to investors. Also, Casey and his co-conspirators represented to investors that COL had a track record of profits on these purported contracts. However, Casey and his co-conspirators knew that COL did not have profits.
Casey and his co-conspirators also made material misrepresentations and omissions about the leaders of COL. Howard, who was initially the President of COL, was arrested for a state fraud offense in March of 2010. As a result, Howard stepped down. Casey, who was initially outside counsel to COL, became the President of COL in May of 2010. From May 2010 to March 2011, Casey and his co-conspirators represented to investors that Howard was no longer managing COL, when in fact, Howard remained the top person in charge. Also, Casey and his co-conspirators did not disclose to investors that both Howard and Gallo had previously been convicted of felonies.
During the time COL was operating, COL paid about $3 million to investors using funds paid by later investors. The investors lost approximately $18,919,995.
On August 30, 2012, Casey was charged by indictment, along with Howard, Saa, and Gallo, with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and several counts of mail and wire fraud. Howard, Saa, Gallo, and another defendant, Rita Balbirer, were also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and various counts of money laundering.
In April of 2014, Casey failed to appear at a status hearing while pending trial. In August of 2014, Casey was indicted for bond jumping.
In September 2013, Howard pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. In December 2013, Howard was sentenced to 189 months in prison.
In August of 2014, Gallo pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. In October of 2014, Gallo was sentenced to 168 months in prison.
In July of 2014, Balbirer pled guilty to two counts of money laundering. In September of 2015, Balbirer was sentenced to 17 months in prison.
In addition, other co-conspirators in the COL fraud scheme were charged separately with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. In November 2013, three defendants pled guilty for their involvement in the scheme. In February 2015, Timothy Josselson was sentenced to 38 months in prison, in Case No. 13-20730-Cr-Altonaga. In February 2015, Kathryn Josselson was sentenced to 36 months in prison, in Case No. 13-20731-Cr-Moore. In March 2015, Robert Lananna was sentenced to 40 months in prison, in Case No. 13-20732-Cr-Ungaro.
U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commends the investigative efforts of the FBI and USMS in this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ana Maria Martinez and John Gonsoulin.