Justice Department Using Undercover Agents To Battle White-Collar Criminals; Top Official Says Investigative Tactics Normally Used To Prosecute Organized Crime Figures Useful In Battling Fraud Epidemic
EDITOR’S NOTE: The remarks below are excerpted from a speech last week in New York by Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer. As the PP Blog has previously reported, the Justice Department and agencies such as the FBI and U.S. Secret Service have been using undercover operatives to infiltrate criminal operations and networks used by the criminals.
One of the FBI investigations Breuer referenced was the Trevor Cook Ponzi scheme in Minneapolis. The scheme consumed tens of millions of dollars, defrauding victims of at least $158 million. Many mysteries remain in the case.
Meanwhile, undercover operatives also recently were used to expose penny-stock schemes operating in Florida.
It also is known that the Secret Service used undercover operatives in the AdSurfDaily case, the INetGlobal case, the Regenesis 2×2 case, the Legisi case and a case involving alleged international fraudster Vladislav Horohorin, accused of using criminal forums to peddle stolen credit-card information.
Here, now, some excerpts from Breuer’s speech . . .
“Now, as I’m sure you know, financial criminals can be extraordinarily innovative, and they are often expert at covering their tracks. So we are always looking for creative ways to gather the evidence we need to bring financial criminals to justice. To that end, we have begun increasingly to rely, in white collar cases, on undercover investigative techniques that have perhaps been more commonly associated with the investigation of organized and violent crime.
“As part of this effort, we have significantly strengthened the Criminal Division’s Office of Enforcement Operations (known as OEO), which is the office in the Justice Department that reviews and approves all applications for federal wiretaps from across the country. We have a dynamic new OEO Director, Paul O’Brien, and we’ve substantially increased the number of attorneys at OEO who review these wiretap applications, adding to their ranks experienced prosecutors and recent graduates who have completed federal clerkships. As a result, the number of wiretaps we authorize – in all types of cases – has gone up.
“Let me give you just two examples of white collar cases in which we have used undercover techniques, both of which also highlight areas in which we have stepped up our white collar enforcement efforts more generally.
“The first example is the case of Trevor Cook, which was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis. Mr. Cook is just one of dozens of individuals whom we’ve prosecuted in recent months for participating in investment fraud schemes. Over the course of several years, Mr. Cook schemed to defraud at least 1,000 people out of approximately $190 million by pretending to sell them investments in a foreign currency trading program.
“In reality, he was pocketing the money or using it to pay off other investors. As was recently reported in the New York Times, we gathered evidence against Mr. Cook by using an undercover informant to record his transactions and conversations. [Cook] pleaded guilty earlier this year and was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“Trevor Cook is one of literally hundreds of financial criminals who have preyed upon vulnerable, individual investors and bilked them out of their savings using investment fraud schemes. And as with Mr. Cook, we have been prosecuting these people aggressively, all over the country – from New Jersey and Connecticut to Texas and California, and everywhere in between.
“The second example comes from our enhanced efforts in the area of FCPA enforcement. Earlier this year, as I’m sure many of you know, we indicted 22 defendants in the military and law enforcement products industry for their participation in widespread schemes to bribe foreign government officials. These indictments resulted from the Department’s most extensive use ever of undercover law enforcement techniques in an FCPA investigation, and they represent the single largest prosecution of individuals in the history of our FCPA enforcement efforts. In September, one of the defendants in the case, Richard Bistrong, pleaded guilty . . .
“Over the last 18 months, we’ve devoted significant additional resources to the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. We’ve recruited talent not only from white shoe law firms, but also from a deep pool of prosecutors around the country who bring with them extensive experience in prosecuting everyone from violent mobsters to dangerous terrorists. We are now bringing that extraordinary talent and experience to bear on prosecuting financial fraudsters.”
See related story on alleged Pathway To Prosperity Ponzi scheme.
See related story on alleged Legisi Ponzi scheme.
See related story on Matt Gagnon and Mazu.com.