U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION NOTES THE ARRESTS OF SEVERAL INDIVIDUALS BY THE STATE OF FLORIDA IN AN ALLEGED FOREIGN CURRENCY INVESTMENT FRAUD
CFTC Filed a Federal Civil Case in 2002 Based On Same Underlying Facts
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) noted today a series of arrests taking place in a criminal action brought by the State of Florida's Office of Statewide Prosecution resulting from cooperative law enforcement between the CFTC and the State of Florida Attorney General’s Office. Last week, the Florida Attorney General’s Office unsealed a 45-count criminal information charging ten individuals with racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and multiple counts of investment fraud, grand theft, unlicensed telemarketing and fraudulent transactions for their alleged roles in a foreign currency fraud by Offshore Financial Consultants of Florida, Inc. (Offshore), a Florida corporation, and interrelated companies. Florida prosecutors so far have announced the arrests of five of the ten individual defendants charged. In 2002, the CFTC brought its own action against Offshore and related persons based upon the same acts.
The information issued by the Office of Statewide Prosecution charges three principals of the alleged scheme -- Tony Russo a/k/a Teddy Connal, 43, of Pompano Beach, FL; Daniel Fasciano, 35, of Pompano Beach, FL; and James Sexton, 55, of Tallahassee, FL -- along with Paul Stanley, 29, of Boca Raton, FL; Stephen DeLong, 36, of North Lauderdale, FL; James Augello, 50, of Coconut Creek, FL; Elaine Kazanas a/k/a Lauren Roswell, a/k/a Joan Bennett, a/k/a Ann McCall, 49, of Oakland Park, FL; Thomas Destasio, 48, of Wilton Manors, FL; Ronald Catone, 49, of Davie, FL; and Anthony Garcia, a/k/a Michael Jacobs, a/k/a Peter Daniels, a/k/a Marshall Sheldon, 41, of Fort Lauderdale, FL. According to the information, these defendants acted through a group of related companies, including Offshore Financial Consultants of Florida, Inc., a Florida corporation; Offshore Financial Consultants of Georgia, Inc. and International Currency Merchants, Inc., Georgia corporations; Global Financial Consultants, Inc., a Louisiana corporation; and Coin Bank, a Montenegro, Yugoslavia offshore company, to defrauded dozens of individuals out of more than $1.1 million.
According to the charges in the information, the alleged fraud scheme worked as follows: the three principals owned and operated a group of related companies that sold fake foreign currency options to investors in Florida and throughout the nation; victims received unsolicited telephone calls from company representatives urging them to invest in foreign currency options; the representatives assured victims that there was little risk involved and asked them to wire money or send checks for foreign currency options with 30-day expiration dates; but when the options expired, victims were told that they had lost their “investments.” The information charges that in reality, there were no investments. If convicted of these crimes, the defendants face prison terms that range from 75 years for individual salesmen to over 300 years for each principal.
Based on the same underlying facts charged in the information, the CFTC, in June 2002, filed a civil complaint in a Florida federal district court, alleging that the Offshore Common Enterprise and individuals associated with it defrauded investors in the solicitation and sale of illegal foreign currency option contracts. (see CFTC News Release 4652-02, June 10, 2002). Following an amendment to the complaint, in August 2003, the federal district court entered a consent order of permanent injunction against six of thirteen defendants and seven of ten relief defendants named in the CFTC’s amended complaint. The August 2003 order required payments totaling more than 1.9 million in restitution and civil monetary penalties. (see CFTC News Release 4839-03, September 11, 2003).
The CFTC was assisted in its case by the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, the Florida Comptroller’s Office, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana Attorney General, the Louisiana Department of Justice, the Georgia Office of Consumer Affairs, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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