Ameriquest Mortgage offers settlement to consumers

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Ameriquest Mortgage Co. has offered $325 million to settle accusations of predatory lending in 49 states. Consumers in Wisconsin will receive over $2.7 million of the total. The company was accused of using high-pressure tactics and deception to sell mortgages to homeowners interested in refinancing.

Ameriquest is the nation’s largest sub-prime lender, offering loans to consumers with poor credit. Those mortgages are usually at higher interest rates.

Ameriquest has denied all allegations, but is agreeing to new standards that are meant to prevent the alleged unfair and deceptive practices. The new standards include not paying incentives to employees who secure mortgages with prepayment penalties or other fees.

The settlement must still be approved by the state courts.

Milwaukee Fraud: Voter suppression

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Four men pleaded guilty last week Friday to misdemeanor charges of property damage for their participation in the Election Day 2004 tire-slashing. The defendants were all workers for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, and the 40 tires they slashed were on 25 vans rented by the Republican party to transport inner-city voters to the polls.

The guilty men include:

  • Lavelle Mohammed, 26
  • Lewis G. Caldwell, 29
  • Sowande Omokunde, 26, son of U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.)
  • Michael Pratt, 33, son of former acting Milwaukee Mayor, Marvin Pratt

The four men must collectively pay approximately $5,300 in restitution prior to their sentencing on April 26. In exchange, the District Attorney will recommend they only get probation. The charges carry a maximum possible penalty of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

The guilty pleas came while the jury deliberated in their trial on felony charges. The defendants claimed that the Democratic party set up the defendants to take the rap for the crime.

No estimate has been made of the number of inner-city voters who were disenfranchised because they were unable to get to the polls.

Survivor winner Richard Hatch goes to trial on tax evasion charges

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The first winner of my all-time favorite television show, Survivor, is on trial for alleged tax evasion. Richard Hatch is accused of not reporting to the IRS his earnings from Survivor, as well as not paying taxes on other income.

In a strange twist, Hatch’s attorney has stated that the Survivor producers made a deal with Hatch to pay the taxes on his winnings if he didn’t spill the beans about contestants whose friends were sneaking food to them on the island. It is not clear whether or not Hatch will testify about the alleged deal.

United States releases U.S. Money Laundering Threat Assessment (MLTA)

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A government-wide analysis of the threat of money laundering in the United States has been released. Sixteen government agencies participated in assembling the data, including the Departments of Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the United States Postal Service.

Government is focusing on money laundering because of the concern that illicit money flowing into the U.S. may facilitate terrorism and other criminal activities. The MLTA outlines traditional methods of money laundering including money transmitters, casinos, and trade-based money laundering. It also highlights emerging industries that are ripe for money laundering, such as online payment systems and stored value cards. The MLTA also includes information on each method as it relates to regulations, known patterns of abuse, and geographic concentrations.

Read the press release.

Green Bay Packers Fraud: Brett Favre’s Identity Theft

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William Joachim of West Phoenix had been arrested on suspicion of using Brett Favre’s credit card over 40 times. He was arrest on four felony charges related to identity theft. Two other men were also arrested in the case, and have been booked on forgery charges.

The 40 unauthorized charges happened in Maricopa County, and totaled more than $10,000. It is believed that Favre’s card was part of larger compromise of personal information, which has lead to the theft of dozens of identities. The investigation began after the National Football League notified the Attorney General’s office that Favre’s credit card had been used in Maricopa County without authorization.

CPA Sleuths: Bringing the Truth to Light

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On Balance – The Magazine for Wisconsin CPAs – January/February 2006
By Colleen Smith

Like a Perry Mason movie brought to life is the way some forensic accountants describe their jobs. Investigations and courtrooms are part of their everyday lives, but the glamour is an illusion.

“I spend lots of time digging through boxes, getting dirty, making copies and doing other less-than-desirable tasks,” says Tracy L. Coenen , CPA, MBA, CFE, of Sequence Inc. in Milwaukee. Continue reading

Office Piracy: A Trusted Employee Becomes a Worst Enemy

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Written by Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, CFF

On Balance – The Magazine for Wisconsin CPAs – January/February 2006

It felt like my gut had been ripped out. Fifteen years of our lives went down the drain. He took our trust and forever altered the way we view the world.

Thief on board
After 10 years in business we decided to grow our company. To do this, we needed to hire someone with financial expertise. I’m an engineer, not an accountant, so we hired a CFO named David and trusted him to protect our money. Continue reading

Charbucks, anyone?

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After 10 long years, a small company in New Hampshire has been cleared to continue using the name Charbucks for its coffee. The New York federal court ruled that the market would not be confused between Starbucks and Charbucks, and that Starbucks hadn’t proven that the other name tarnished its brand.

Hmmmm…wonder how their coffee stacks up?

Fraud Prevention 101

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Written by Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, CFF

Wisconsin Law Journal

Reprinted in Kansas City Daily Record and St. Louis Daily Record

Fraud is an industry unto itself, causing annual losses to United States companies totaling at least $660 billion. While it’s easy to focus on the big losses incurred by the likes of Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom, no company is immune to the problem. Companies of all sizes are vulnerable, even though their risks may be different. Continue reading

Urban Legend: Mouse Fire House Fire

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Yesterday it was reported that a man in New Mexico caught a mouse in his house, threw it on a pile of burning leaves, and the flaming mouse ran back into the house. The house completely burned down.

Today it has been reported by WSB-TV in Atlanta that it didn’t really happen that way. The homeowner is quoted as saying that the mouse was actually dead when he threw it on the pile of burning leaves. The house caught fire due to high winds, it seems.