Sunday, February 3, 2008

MacLafferty Convicted - Sentenced For Failure to File Tax Returns! Evidence of What's to Come for Wesley Snipes?

Robert M. MacLafferty, age 46, of Portland, Tennessee was sentenced January 29th to serve 5 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release. His sentence also included the requirement to pay restitution to the IRS of $37 plus thousand.

According to the US Attorney's news release:

MacLafferty pled guilty on October 12, 2007, to five counts of income tax evasion. During his plea hearing, MacLafferty admitted that he earned income which required him to file federal income tax returns for years 1996 through 2003, however, he failed to file such a return in each of those years. MacLafferty also admitted that he had adjusted gross income totaling $227,993 from 2000 to 2003. During this period of time, MacLafferty provided false documents to his employer claiming he was not a citizen of the United States and therefore not liable to pay federal income taxes. MacLafferty also admitted that after the Internal Revenue Service filed a federal tax lien against his residence in Sumner County, he quitclaimed his interest in this property and another property to his wife.

Similarities? Let's see - Snipes claimed that he was not a citizen of the US and not liable to pay federal income taxes. Likewise, Snipes filed to file tax returns for a number of years during which he had approximately $37 million in earnings.

Possible Outcome! Snipes, due to "star power" avoids prison and makes right with the IRS and federal government. Or, Snipes gets a "hand slap" prison sentence like MacLafferty and is told to pay up for his misdeeds.

Since it will take time to see what the outcome is...want to weigh in with your thoughts.

Prison (light sentence) or freedom - which will the judge order?
Business ethics speaker, Chuck Gallagher, off for now...

White Collar Crime - Week In Review From South Carolina to California to Florida - Comments by Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

After reviewing the verdict in the Wesley Snipes case - both guilty and innocent - it makes sense to consider what else is taking place on the white collar crime front.

South Carolina: Christina J. Williams, age 32, of Conway, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court for aggravated identity theft and credit card fraud.

Williams worked as the office manager in a doctor’s office in Surfside Beach, South Carolina. From August 2003 to July 2004, Williams made unauthorized charges using the doctor’s personal and business credit cards, and used his personal information to secure a card for herself. Williams also embezzled money from the doctor’s office and had her name added to his cellular phone account. Investigators determined that Williams stole more than$104,000.00 during the course of the scheme.

Rhode Island: Cory Johnson, the former president of Mixitforme, a company that sold electronic devices over the Internet and by telephone, pleaded guilty today to fraud and money laundering. Johnson admitted that he defrauded a credit card processing firm out of about $2.2 million worth of customer orders that Mixitforme failed to fulfill.

Between November 2005 and March 2006, NOVA processed millions of dollars worth of credit card transactions on behalf of Mixitforme for orders the company received over the Internet and by telephone. In March 2006, Mixitforme ceased operations, and hundreds of customers subsequently complained to NOVA that their credit card accounts had been charged for orders to Mixitforme but the merchandise had not been delivered.

NOVA refunded customers a total of $3,178,347 in charges for unfulfilled orders. NOVA was able to recoup $954,460 from a bank, but was left with a net loss of $2,223,887.

Johnson, 29, of Morrisville, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of money laundering. He is free on bond pending sentencing, which Judge Smith scheduled for June 20. The maximum prison sentences are: conspiracy -- five years, and money laundering -- ten years. Each offense also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

Pennsylvania: William D. Edgar, a resident of Verona, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to 37 months of incarceration and five years supervised release on his conviction of Conspiracy, Bank Fraud, and Wire Fraud.

Edgar, who was a mortgage broker licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Banking, operated a mortgage brokerage business known as America's Mortgage Outlet in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. Between May 2001, and October 2003, Edgar participated with loan officers at America's Mortgage Outlet in a scheme to defraud banks and private lenders by making false representations in more than seventy mortgage loan applications submitted on behalf of his customers.

Two types of fraudulent schemes were used. One form was to falsely represent to the lenders that mortgage loan applications presented to the lenders were for refinance loans, when in actuality the applications were for purchase loans. The refinance scheme deceived the lenders into approving and funding loans on terms and conditions they would not have otherwise approved or funded.

Another form of the scheme was to accurately represent loans as purchase loans, but to falsely inflate the sale prices and values of real properties being purchased in order to cause the lenders to approve larger loans than they would have otherwise approved. This scheme deceived lenders into financing down payments and other cash disbursements from mortgage loan proceeds. In total, more than $3,000,000 worth of loans were issued in connection with this scheme.

California: BARRY HOLLAND, age 60, of Carmichael, entered a guilty plea to accepting unlawful bribes while serving as Superintendent for the City of Sacramento’s Water Distribution Branch. HOLLAND pled guilty to a one count information charging him with bribery in connection with a municipality that receives federal funds.

From at least 1999 through 2005, one Sheldon M. had an oral agreement with the Water Distribution Branch under which he would retrieve used meters from the Water Distribution Branch, transport the same to a recycler, and sell the same for profit. Sheldon M. would then keep a portion of the meter sale proceeds for himself as a fee and would maintain a separate portion of the meter sale proceeds in a “slush fund” which he later would disburse to certain employees of the Water Distribution Branch, including HOLLAND, or utilize to make purchases for the benefit of the Water Distribution Branch. Between October, 1999 and November, 2005, defendant HOLLAND accepted approximately 16 checks and cash totaling approximately $10,371 as rewards from Sheldon M. for allowing Sheldon M. to sell the water meters. HOLLAND also accepted various machinery (then retained by the Water Distribution Branch), including two air motors with a combined value of approximately $7,200, and a tapping machine with an approximate value of $8,000 to $9,000 from Sheldon M., also as rewards from Sheldon M. for allowing Sheldon M. to sell the water meters.

Florida: It was announced that owners of nine separate Miami-based health care corporations have been sentenced to prison terms within the past two weeks. Collectively, the nine defendants filed fraudulent claims with Medicare for $56,599,832 worth of unnecessary durable medical equipment (DME) and infusion therapy.

The nine defendants sentenced in Miami are: (1) Luis Soto, 41, sentenced to 87 months in prison; (2) Noel Rodriguez, 50, sentenced to 51 months in prison; (3) Rosabel Gonzalez, 32, sentenced to 30 months in prison; (4) Christian Vasquez, 22, sentenced to 41 months in prison; (5) Maria De La Serna, 55, sentenced to 19 months in prison; (6) Ariel Betancourt, 35, sentenced to 24 months in prison; (7) Jose Prieto, 58, sentenced to 41 months in prison; (8) Armando Jorge Herrera, 27, sentenced to 36 months in prison; and (9) Reinaldo Lopez, 40, sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Comments: First, as a business ethics speaker ( I often speak to groups about the Truth About Consequences. My workshops on white collar crime and fraud are well attended as it appears that anyone can get caught up in criminal activity - and I speak from experience - the consequences can be devastating.

The Florida issue clearly is one of pure greed and seemingly opportunity. Time after time people (especially in dealing with the government) think that the customer - US Government - is too big and would never catch their "slick" illegal scheme. And, more times than not - they do and the consequences are less than pleasant. Prison terms no matter their length are unpleasant.
In California we see an example of someone being found guilty for participating in a scheme. I would be that this person would have felt that it must be O.K., someone else is making the choice - he was just a recipient. Wrong! Illegal is illegal.

Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina - well that was just fraud pure and simple. Most of the time when a fraud is committed there are three components: (1) Need; (2) Opportunity and (3) Rationalization. While I don't know how the three came together in there can bet they did.

But, this week has past - Snipes has been found innocent and guilty - and we face another week. Perhaps, it would help if people understood two simple facts:
Every choice has a consequence! and You reap what you sow!

Your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wesley Snipes - Patriot or Plain Idiot?

How many times did I hear in federal prison, people convicted of tax fraud claiming that they were just patriots imprisoned by a government gone amok. Fact was - they were in prison for their misguided belief. Considering that today the closing arguments were being made in the Wesley Snipes tax fraud case, we will likely see either a conviction (my prediction) or the miracle of the century - Snipes acquittal.

Federal prosecutor M. Scotland Morris portrays Wesley Snipes as a common criminal with worked with idiots like Eddie Ray Kahn to defraud the government of their duties as a citizen to file and pay their taxes. While Robert Barnes, Snipes attorney, portrays Snipes as a patriotic American who was legitimately seeking information about his tax liability. (If the jury buys that one - well, there's some outstanding property in the Everglades for sale.)

According to Rick Cundiff with the Star-Banner:

Prosecutor Morris went first, telling jurors Snipes conspired with Kahn and Rosile to file a fraudulent refund claim for $7.3 million in taxes on his 1997 return, and sought to illegally deny his ongoing tax liability for 1999 through 2004.

"Nobody likes paying taxes. Nobody," Morris said. "But paying taxes is the privilege we pay to live in a civilized society ... That's what this case is about - three men who believe they are above the law. They're not above the law. Tell them that."

Barnes invoked the Founding Fathers and said the Internal Revenue Service deprived Snipes of his civil rights by not responding to his letters seeking information.

"It may have been protest," he said of filings by Snipes and by Kahn on Snipes' behalf. "Protest is not criminal. It may have been disagreement. Disagreement is not criminal. It may have been frivolous. Frivolous is not fraud."

Barnes urged jurors to acquit Snipes in the name of American freedoms.

In the name of American freedoms? What American freedom is it that allows us to avoid filing tax returns? What American freedom is it that allows us to avoid paying income taxes on the money we earn? What is Barnes talking about?

"The liberty to ask questions ... the liberty to challenge your government. The liberty to engage your government. These liberties are American liberties," Barnes said. "The Liberty Bell may be cracked in Philadelphia, but it can still be heard in Ocala."

The last time I checked, challenging your government was perfectly legal as long as it was done through the legal legislative or judicial process. Here Snipes is taking the judicial road to challenge something he will lose and ultimately end up paying the price with his freedom. Sorry, but that to me is the mark of a plain idiot.

Every choice has a consequence. Snipes (unless I'm dramatically wrong) will pay the price of his choices with his freedom and while he spends time in federal prison, perhaps will come the knowing that he was duped by the likes of Kahn. But, maybe not, maybe they'll share a cell together so they can experience the joy of knowing they took a stand for the civil liberties of us all.

For now, I'm going to do my tax return.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mortgage Fraud - Chuck Gallagher Ethics Speaker Discusses FBI Report

In an effort to deter mortgage fraud the FBI has listed (from their investigations) typical fraud schemes. Some are listed below:

Backward Applications: After identifying a property to purchase, a borrower customizes his/her income to meet the loan criteria.

In effect the borrowers determine from the lender what the criteria should be to qualify for the mortgage loan. Then income is "customized" or fabricated to meet the criteria. This sort of fraud is usually a single loan fraud. The fraud can involve others - as mortgage professionals may coach the borrower thus participating in the fraud.

In many cases, as I've addressed mortgage industry professionals, we find that such frauds involve the mortgage broker knowing that they are paid based on production and production can't take place without sufficient income.

Air Loans: These are non-existent property loans where there is usually no collateral. An example would be where a broker invents borrowers and properties, establishes accounts for payments and maintains custodial accounts for escrows. They may set up an office with a bank of telephones, each one used as the employer, appraiser, credit agency, etc. for verification purposes.

These loans represent a clear intent to commit fraud. Many convictions this past year have involved the complete creation of fabricated documentation. Other than "money for nothing" these frauds when caught will result in prison time.

While presentations to industry professionals focus on various types of frauds and the consequences that follow...rarely have I seen this other than from experienced criminals.

The last fraud scheme identified by the FBI that will be reviewed in this blog is:

Silent Seconds: The buyer of a property borrows the down payment from the seller through the issuance of a non-disclosed second mortgage. The primary lender believes the borrower has invested his own money in the down payment, when in fact, it is borrowed. The second mortgage may not be recorded to further conceal its status from the primary lender.

This fraud is common especially with first time home buyers, low income buyers or those who are new at investing in real estate for profit. In some cases, borrowers don't see the fraud involved in this scheme. Based on experience there are two types of people involved: (1) folks who, as first time buyers, borrow the money from relatives and knowingly don't disclose to the lender (otherwise they wouldn't qualify) or (2) folks who clearly don't have the fund to purchase the real estate and use funds (401(k) loans, personal loans from relatives or friends. or personal loans from undisclosed lenders.

For information about presentations related to ethics choices and mortgage fraud contact Chuck Gallagher at

Mortgage Fraud - Prison and 1.2 Million in Restitution - Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher Comments

Manager of Nations Title Agency of Florida, Robert W. Hulbert, Jr., age 46, was sentenced to three years in prison, 4 years supervised release upon release from prison, restitution of $1.2 million and forfeiture of more than $4 million of assets.

Not only was Hulbert manager of Nations Title where several mortgage frauds were obtained, but he was personally involved in obtaining fraudulent loans on two properties he acquired in his name.

According to the Mortgage Fraud Blog (an excellent source for up to date material on mortgage frauds):

According to court documents, the scheme operated this way: Conspirators negotiated to buy residential real estate at a given price. A conspirator who was a licensed real estate appraiser then fraudulently appraised the property for a substantially higher amount than the actual negotiated price. Documents reflecting the inflated appraisal price were submitted to a lender, along with other fraudulent documents, to obtain first and second mortgage loans on the property. The total amount of the loans was at or near the inflated price.

At the closing on the property, the difference between the actual sales price and the inflated appraisal price—the proceeds of the fraud—was disbursed to one or more of the conspirators as an “assignment fee” or “payoff of third mortgage” that did not exist. During the course of the scheme, the conspirators obtained a total of about $17.7 million in mortgage loans, which would not have been approved but for the fraudulent documents. The conspirators received approximately $4.024 million in proceeds from the fraudulent transactions.

As a business ethics speaker, I am finding that mortgage fraud (of one sort or another) is capturing the attention of law enforcement as the housing market declines. More and more institutions are finding it necessary to reinforce their ethical rules as it relates to this kind of business.

Every choice has a consequence. Having spent time in federal prison for unethical conduct, I understand how easy it is to become embroiled in unethical activity. Today I speak to groups about the Truth About Consequences.

As a result of unethical behavior Hulbert will find his life will dramatically change. He will get up early - go to work (in prison) - be back at 3:30 and be standing for one of the six or so times a day he will be counted. He will walk into prison a nobody and will be treated as such till he leaves. Once out, he will be branded a "convicted felon" and find it hard to regain a normal life. There will be times (many times in fact) while in prison he will wonder if the temporary enjoyment he received from his ill gotten gains was worth it. And, he will emerge a changed man.

Feel free to comment.

If you've been the victim of a mortgage fraud - fell free to share your experience.

If you've perpetrated a mortgage fraud, feel free to share your experience on the price you've had to pay.

Business Ethics Speaker - Chuck Gallagher signing off.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Not Now Senator Grassley...Not Now! Hinn Delays Response. Business Ethics Speaker Gallagher Reviews

Several months ago Senator Charles Grassley, R Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent questionnaires to six ministries asking numerous financial questions - probing whether the pastors and their ministries were complying with IRS rules related to their tax exempt work.

The deadline was today and it appears that Binny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine (Grapevine, TX) and Benny Hinn World Healing Center Church, Inc. have stated that they will not respond to Grassley's inquiry until next year (2008).

According to the Associated Press:

"A lawyer for preacher Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta had said Wednesday that the investigation should be referred to the IRS or the Senate panel should get a subpoena for the documents."

"Only Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo., has provided the detailed financial and board oversight information sought by Grassley."

Several questions have been raised by both sides. Many of the ministries through their spokes persons have taken the position that they comply with the law and the IRS is the watchdog. Hence, they feel that Grassley has overstepped his bounds by making such a broad request.

Again, according to the Associated Press in a report in the Dallas Morning News:

"Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in a Wednesday conference call with reporters that he "can't be impressed" by the argument from some of the preachers that the IRS already monitors them, because his past inquiries have unearthed information that the IRS never knew.

Grassley has insisted his investigation "has nothing to do with church doctrine" and is strictly concerned with making sure nonprofit groups are following the law."

Some of the ministries have suggested that Grassley get a subpoena if he plans on capturing the information he's requested. Should the ministries refuse to turn over the information, a very interesting court fight could ensue.

"Hopefully these organizations will work with us," said Grassley, who has been investigating nonprofit compliance with IRS rules for years. "I don't think I've had to issue a single subpoena in the five years that I've been trying to get cooperation from organizations."

So here are the questions and your comments are welcome:

What does not complying to Grassley's request mean to the ministries?

If one believed that they were fully compliant, would it be best to turn over the records or stand on principle (perhaps the belief that Grassley over reached)?

Since the IRS rules provide that a tax-exempt organization cannot be a conduit for excessive personal gain, is it possible to define that in a highly successful ministry?

For the record, the ministries targeted by Grassley's requests were, in addition to Hinn: Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, GA; Randy and Paula White of Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, FL; Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, MO; Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International in Atlanta, GA; and Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, TX.

Every choice has a consequence. In fact, in Galatians it states, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." As this unfolds the truth will be revealed...whatever that truth may be.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Which Cities Top The List For Corporate Crime? Business Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher Comments

The Corporate Crime Reporter, a print weekly legal newsletter based in Washington, D.C., released a report on November 27th, 2007 naming Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and Newark are the corporate crime capitals of the United States.

“Every year, the FBI releases its Crime in the United States report,” said Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter. “This report is misnamed. It is actually a report on street crime in the United States. It ignores corporate crime. So, while the Crime in the United States report documents rape, robbery, murder, robbery and assault – it ignores health care fraud, bribery, environmental crimes, and other major corporate crime prosecutions.”

“We believe that America deserves to know not only where most of the street crime is – but also where most of the corporate crime is being prosecuted,” Mokhiber said.

The Corporate Crime Reporter conducted a survey of 2006 prosecutions, settlements and sentences and the results identified the top six corporate crime capitals of the US.

“These are the cities where most of the corporate crimes are being prosecuted,” Mokhiber said. “New York is an obvious hub – that’s where Wall Street is and that’s where the money is. Washington is also an obvious contender – corporations rip off the government and government prosecutors act to recover the defrauded funds.”

“Federal prosecutors in Boston have developed perhaps the premiere health care fraud prosecution team in the country – outside of Washington,” Mokhiber said. “The U.S. Attorneys’ offices in Los Angeles and Philadelphia have both developed white collar and corporate crime expertise.”

Several interesting facts arose from the study. What is most obvious is that corporate crime is centered in our largest cities and money hubs. It would be no surprise that New York, Los Angeles and Washington are there based on their sheer size and the consolidation of business and power. What I don't see is a relationship between number of cases (prosecuted or settled) and size of the location. It would be interesting to see the top areas as a percentage not just by number.

Another issue is location and interest of federal prosecutors. As stated in the report, Mokhiber acknowledges that Boston and Washington focus on health care fraud while L.A. and Philly have developed white collar expertise. Again, is crime in these cities higher or is it that the prosecution effort is more focused?

As a business ethics speaker, I know, from presentations nationwide, that issues with ethics breeches and crime don't seem to be strongly centered in one geographic region or another. I fully recognize that larger metropolitan areas have more, just by the sheer numbers, but where people are gathered, when the components for crime exist (need, opportunity and rationalization) - there will be crime.

Do you believe that crime is centered in these cities (predominately) or do you think that corporate crime is alive and well where you are. Feel free to respond with your thoughts.