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Press Release

Brazilian Man Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud Conspiracy And Aggravated Identity Theft For Defrauding Manhattan Financial Institutions

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that MARCOS ELIAS, a Brazilian citizen and resident, pled guilty today to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft 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 was extradited from Switzerland to the Southern District of New York on August 28, 2018, and entered his pleas of guilty today in Manhattan federal court before U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As he admitted today, Marcos Elias engaged in a sophisticated fraud scheme from Brazil to steal over $750,000 from a Manhattan financial institution.  He committed this truly international crime through a front company in Panama, a bank account in Luxembourg, and by using the stolen identity of a Brazilian account holder.  Elias now awaits sentencing for his crimes.”

According to allegations in the Complaint and the Indictment:

Since at least 2012, a Brazilian company (the “Client”) held an account at a financial institution headquartered in Manhattan (the “Firm”).   Beginning in or about 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 Employee”) 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 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, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years, and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries 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.

ELIAS is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain on April 4, 2019, at 11:00 a.m.

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Mr. Berman also thanked Switzerland’s Federal Office of Justice, the Zurich Police (Kantonspolizei Zürich), and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their assistance with the extradition.

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.

Updated February 4, 2019

Press Release Number: 19-023