Articles Tagged with fraud

In a scheme that bilked an elderly man out of over a quarter million dollars, a Broward jury found Matthew Stevens not guilty of the crime after deliberating for only a little more than five hours. This was Stevens’ second trial for the crime, the first one resulting in a hung jury.

But here’s the rub. Gina Stevens, the defendant’s common law wife under their shared Gypsy culture tradition who had three children with the defendant did not fare as well as her husband, once he was acquitted of the crime. They were both charged with grand theft but Mrs. Steven’s had no deal in place for testifying against her husband.

Broward Circuit Judge Barbara McCarthy sentenced Gina Stevens to 56 months in prison with 627 days credit for time served. She also ordered her to pay restitution of the $270,000 that was fleeced from the elderly victim.

The jury concluded that the victim, Charles Haas, a 91 year old World War II veteran from Hollywood was conned into giving the money to Mrs. Stevens under false pretenses. However, they apparently didn’t believe that her husband was the mastermind of the plot.

According to the prosecution as well as Mrs. Stevens’ testimony, her husband was the architect of the scam.

Gina befriended Haas in 2012, telling him she was a single mother of three who was recently widowed when her husband was killed in a car accident in Michigan. She claimed her name was Tiffany Williams. She told him she owned property in Chicago which was under government liens. Haas agreed to give her the money to pay off the holds on the property and testified in court that he expected to have the money returned to him after she sold the real estate.

Haas also testified that he previously helped secure an apartment for “Tiffany” in 2013 because she led him to believe that her landlord was increasing her rent by one hundred percent. He also bought her clothing and jewelry. It was around that time that he was introduced to Matthew Stevens who she deceptively told him was her cousin, also convincing him that he was gay.

As it turned out, the property in Chicago never existed; as was emphasized by the prosecution in their closing arguments, also declaring that Mrs. Stevens separated Haas from his entire life savings in the amount of approximately $280,000. The entire time period that all these events transpired was under four months.

But Mr. Steven’s defense lawyer told the jury that the facts showed that the prosecution had failed to prove a crime was even committed. He pointed out that Haas was of sound mind and body when he “lent” the money to his client’s wife, pointing out that he had no history of diminished mental capacity or dementia, and furnished the money eagerly, believing his generosity was advancing a romance with a younger woman. It was summed up by the defense as “a loan that didn’t work out”. He also went on to say that even if the jury concluded a crime was committed there was no proof that Mr. Stevens was aware of his wife’s actions and that the proceeds were given to Mrs. Steven’s mother and sister and not Mr. Stevens, according to his defense attorney.

The prosecutor responded to the defense attorney’s assertion by proclaiming to the jury “If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn… or a property in Chicago.”

In the end, the jury did believe a crime was perpetrated but could not connect the dots to convict Mr. Stevens of any wrongdoing for the second time. During the first trial he testified that he didn’t even know how much money his wife received from the victim.

But Mrs. Steven’s testimony/confession sealed her fate.

The money hasn’t been recovered and Haas doesn’t expect he’ll ever see the restitution ordered by the judge. When he took the stand he told the court that Gina Stevens ruined him financially and is bitter that Mr. Steven’s was not convicted the first time. His final beseeching words after the hearing were “I’m broke. I’m living in poverty… So how do I get welfare?” Haas’ daughter Mona was quoted as saying “People have to be vigilant… They can’t be so trusting.”

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In the real world, it seems the more effort put into constructing locks and security systems to safeguard our possessions; lawbreakers develop abilities to build enhanced keys, and a superior illicit method to gain access to what is being guarded. Protecting the contents of our homes, cash and valuables is an ever-present, unending challenge. But in the Cyber world the level of sophistication reached by criminals responsible for computer incursions and hacking activities is constantly tested by our ability to thwart their entry.

The phenomena of modern technology has grown exponentially over the past have century. And most individuals use the Internet for a variety of purposes. For the most part when we visit our online banking or brokerage accounts the belief is that the transactions that are processed are secure, encrypted, and veiled from prying eyes.

But clever cyber-crooks are always out there, lurking in the shadows constantly attempting to find ways to cash in on activities in this virtual world.

Petr Murmylyuk, a.k.a. Dmitry Tokar, a Russian National who made his home in Brooklyn, NY is one of those shadow lurkers.

Murmylyuk’s cultivated knowledge in the workings of computers was substantiated by his arrest in November, 2011 when he was caught red-handed with a laptop in his possession containing more than enough evidence to implicate him in a substantial scam, along with his accomplices.

The Complaint against Murmylyuk asserts that he, along with an accomplice recruited Russian, as well as other foreign nationals in an online stock rigging scheme. The foreigners were either already living in the United States, or were visiting. Some were students. Three residents of Houston, Texas: Mikhail Shatov, Anton Mezentsev and Galina Korelina were among them as well as other unnamed participants. The group was instructed to open new bank accounts where illegal profits resultant from the proposed operation would be deposited.

Murmylyuk’s hacking abilities allowed him to gain illegal entry to online accounts of brokerage firm customer accounts at Fidelity, Scottrade, E-Trade, and Schwab among other brokerage firms not specifically listed. Telephone numbers and email addresses of the owners were then altered giving the group complete control of the hacked accounts. He and his connections then used identities that were originally illegally obtained or stolen to open new accounts at other brokerage houses. These accounts were termed “Profit Accounts” in the Information. After this method was introduced, they then made irrational and unprofitable trades using the victimized accounts leading to losses in the victims’ accounts and gains in the “Profit Accounts”.

An example of the swindle involved initiating trades that sold options contracts directly to the “Profit Accounts”. After the trade was offered the same contracts were specifically purchased back minutes later for “at times” almost ten times the original price. They also used “short selling” to achieve the same results. (Selling an issue short is a sale of stock that a shareholder doesn’t actually own, but instead borrows from an investor willing to do so with the hope of eventually returning it after the stock price drops resulting in a profit to the original shareholder who “sold it short”.)

This was done by using the “Profit Accounts” offering a short sale of a stock at a worth grossly inflated above the market price for that particular day for the given stock. Moments after the offering was proposed on the open market from the Hackers Accounts, the Hackers used their ability over the Victim Accounts to purchase the shares of the stock at the inflated price, which resulted in a profit for the owner of the “Profit Account” at the Victim Account’s expense. Murmylyuk and/or his associates then covered the falsified short sale by re-purchasing the security which was borrowed at the lower market price.

All proceeds were then transferred from the “Profit Accounts” into the new accounts and then transmitted to the bank accounts that were opened by Mezentsev, Korelina and Shatov as well as others involved in the scheme.

The profits received by Murmylyuk and his associates, generated by the scam, resulted in combined losses of roughly $1 million to the three named major brokerage houses as well as others.

Mikhail Shatov, Anton Mezentsev and Galina Korelina were previously charged in New Jersey and convicted for charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. U. S. District Judge Esther Salas sentenced Mezentsev to 27 months in federal prison. Korelina and Shatov were sentenced to14 months each, earlier in 2012.

Murmylyuk was formally charged in April, 2012, charged with unauthorized access to computers, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and securities fraud. The SEC is also filing a comparable civil action. He is currently in state custody looking at charges from a separate investigation directed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office where he is charged with identity theft of more than three-hundred individuals that were unemployed. He then allegedly collected bogus tax returns using their names and information.

Murmylyuk has pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to commit securities fraud charge. He pleaded guilty to identity theft and tax fraud charges earlier. He’ll face a $250,000 fine and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the New Jersey case and fifteen years in prison for the case against him brought forward by the Manhattan district attorney. Sentencing is scheduled for November 12 for the securities fraud case.

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