Brazilian Man Extradited From Switzerland For Defrauding Financial Institutions And Identity Theft
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today that MARCOS ELIAS, a Brazilian citizen and resident, was extradited from Switzerland. In June 2018, ELIAS traveled to Switzerland and was arrested on the basis of a provisional arrest warrant for participating in a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $750,000 at financial institutions headquartered in Manhattan using false representations and the stolen identities of Brazilian account holders at those institutions. ELIAS arrived in the Southern District of New York this afternoon, and will be presented today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara C. Moses.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As alleged, Brazilian Marcos Elias stole over $750,000 from a Manhattan financial institution through a sophisticated wire fraud scheme involving a front company in Panama and a bank account in Luxembourg. Thanks to the extraordinary work of the FBI, today’s extradition shows that defendants who target American financial institutions from abroad will be subject to the long arm of American justice.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “People all over the world fear having their identities stolen by criminals who use the information to break the law. Pretending to be an employee of the account holder, the suspect allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars that didn’t belong to him. He’s now been brought back to the United States to face justice, and return the money he stole.”
According to allegations in the Complaint and the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
Since at least 2012, a Brazilian company (the “Client”) held an account at a financial institution headquartered in Manhattan (the “Firm”). Beginning in June 2014, ELIAS was in correspondence with a Senior Vice President at the Firm (the “Firm Employee”) regarding the Client’s account. The Firm Employee then began receiving emails purportedly from an employee of the Client (the “Client”) instructing the Firm Employee to transfer the Client’s money to a bank account in Luxembourg (the “Luxembourg Account”) that appeared to be in the name of the Client. Those emails were later determined to have been sent from an email address created the same day that was never used by the Client Employee and contained bogus wire instructions with the forged signature of the Client Employee. As a result of the false documentation provided to the Firm Employee, on July 15, 2014, the Firm transferred the approximately $752,000 from the Client’s account at the Firm to the Luxembourg Account (the “Fraudulent Transfer”), believing it to be a legitimate transfer requested by the Client.
In actuality, the Client did not authorize the Fraudulent Transfer, did not have any bank or brokerage accounts in Luxembourg, and did not send the emails to the Firm Employee requesting the transfer. Instead, the Luxembourg Account that received the Fraudulent Transfer was beneficially owned by ELIAS and opened in the name of a company formed in Panama the week prior to the Fraudulent Transfer. The Luxembourg Account was held in the name of a company containing the name of the Client in order to create the false impression that the Client’s funds were being transferred to an account beneficially owned by the Client when in fact such account was beneficially owned by ELIAS.
In addition to the scheme to defraud the Firm, ELIAS also attempted to fraudulently obtain money from a second financial institution headquartered in Manhattan using the name and purported passport of an account holder without authority.
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ELIAS, 47, of São Paulo, Brazil, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years; one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years; one count of receipt of stolen property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years; and two counts of aggravated identity theft, which each carry a mandatory consecutive minimum sentence of two years. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI. Mr. Berman also thanked Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice and the Zurich Police (Kantonspolizei Zürich), and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, for their assistance with the extradition, and noted that the investigation is continuing.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Sagar K. Ravi is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint and Indictment are merely accusations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the Indictment and their description set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.