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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 22, 2018

Hawaii Man Arrested For Decade-Long Scheme To Defraud Banks And Investment Firms

Lawrence H. Wolf, a/k/a “Larry,” Allegedly Obtained and Spent More Than $12 Million in Victim Funds by Falsely Claiming Ownership Over Valuable Oil and Gas Assets

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that LAWRENCE H. WOLF, a/k/a “Larry,” was arrested yesterday for defrauding banks and financial institutions around the country.  WOLF was presented today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dena Hanovice Palermo.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, Lawrence Wolf swindled and attempted to swindle banks around the country out of millions of dollars while masquerading as an oil and gas tycoon.  Now, thanks to the dedicated work of our partners at the FBI, Wolf’s alleged scheme has finally run dry.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “In lieu of actual collateral, Wolf, as alleged, offered lies in exchange for multimillion-dollar loans and credit opportunities that served to advance his own interests. At the expense of the victim firms, Wolf made lavish purchases with this illicitly obtained money, ultimately owing one firm more than $13 million. Wolf’s arrest brings us one step closer to restoring assets to the victims of this fraud.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court:[1]

LAWRENCE H. WOLF defrauded, and attempted to defraud, financial institutions and an investment firm by engaging in a scheme (the “Oil Scheme”) to solicit multimillion-dollar loans and credit facilities by pledging oil and gas assets as collateral.  The assets WOLF typically pledged included interests in eight particular wells drilled into a subsurface oil and gas formation in Natrona and Fremont Counties in Wyoming (the “Wyoming Wells”).  Specifically, WOLF would pledge royalty interests in income from the extraction of oil and gas from the Wyoming Wells (the “Wyoming Wells Royalty Interests”). 

In truth, however, a family partnership (the “Family Partnership” or “Partnership”), not WOLF, owned the Wyoming Wells Royalty Interests.  WOLF did not have any interest in, or have legal association or business affiliation with, the Family Partnership.  

In investigating the Oil Scheme, the FBI has identified at least five different banking or investment firms (Victim Firms 1 through 5, collectively, the “Victim Firms”) that WOLF deceived as part of his scheme.  In connection with negotiations with the Victim Firms, WOLF repeatedly made false representations about his wealth or assets, and repeatedly transmitted to Victim Firms false and forged documents – ranging from bank account balance statements to tax filings to deed assignments – in furtherance of the Oil Scheme.  WOLF sought to avoid detection of the Oil Scheme by obtaining new funds to cover old liabilities.  Typically, as one loan approached maturity, WOLF approached another lender, expressed interest in moving his oil and gas business to a new bank, and negotiated another credit facility.

The Oil Scheme succeeded for years.  On or about June 5, 2008, WOLF executed a promissory note with Victim Firm-1 establishing an approximately $3.5 million credit facility. On or about March 27, 2014, WOLF executed a promissory note with Victim Firm-2 establishing an approximately $40 million line of credit.  On or about July 9, 2014, WOLF executed a credit agreement with Victim Firm-3 establishing an approximately $7 million credit facility.  On or about July 31, 2015, WOLF and Victim Firm-3 executed a revised credit agreement expanding the loan facility to $13 million.

In or about October 2016, WOLF attempted to continue the scheme by seeking a loan from Victim Firm-4.  After Victim Firm-4 caught WOLF misrepresenting his relationship to the Family Partnership, WOLF tried obtain credit financing from Victim Firm-5, a global investment firm headquartered in New York.  When Victim Firm-5 discovered WOLF’s reliance on forged documents, Victim Firm-5 contacted law enforcement.

WOLF utilized fraudulently obtained funds, in part, to spend on lavish personal expenses, including an approximately $63,000 purchase at an art gallery on August 3, 2015, an approximately $66,000 purchase on November 12, 2015, through a “VIP Concierge” service, an approximately $17,500 purchase on December 28, 2015, at Cartier, and numerous purchases of private jet services.

As of February 7, 2018, WOLF owed Victim Firm-3 more than approximately $13 million.

*                      *                      *

WOLF, 57, of Hawaii, is charged with one count of wire fraud affecting financial institutions and one count of aggravated identity theft.  The wire fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.  The aggravated identity theft count carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case 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 work of the FBI.

The prosecution of this case is being overseen by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Thomas is in charge of the case.

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

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation. 

Topic(s): 
Identity Theft
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud
Press Release Number: 
18-057
Updated February 22, 2018