Crime and Punishment: Sentencing in Financial Fraud Cases

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While investigating fraud for more than a decade, I have consistently been amazed by the disparity among criminal sentences in financial fraud cases. Of course, there are many facts that go into a sentencing decision, and so it is difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison of sentences between cases.

However, it’s clear to me that there is a wide range of sentences that are not necessarily fair to either the victims or the fraud perpetrators. We can’t discount the fact that determining a sentence is a complex process. There are many factors that come into play, so simply assessing the number of years at the end of the process is a little simplistic.

Yet the fact remains that disparities in sentencing should be examined closer. Lawmakers, judges, and prosecutors owe it to consumer and victims to work toward a system that is fair and equitable to all parties. Continue reading

Executive Prison Sentences and Fraud Deterrence

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One of the key parts of Sarbanes-Oxley, the legislation created to address the problem of massive financial statement fraud at public companies like Enron and WorldCom, was the increased prison sentences for executives participating in fraud.

Supporters of the legislation cheered harsher potential punishment for executives as one of the keys that would help prevent fraud.

Others weren’t so sure that longer prison sentences would really do anything to deter executives who want to commit fraud. If you’ve studied corporate fraud for any length of time, you have seen that fraud by executives is often fueled by feelings of arrogance and entitlement. These are important pieces of the fraud puzzle for executives, and they are part of the reason why executives may be unphased by penalties for committing fraud. Continue reading

Lifestyle Analysis in Criminal Cases: Proving Income Without Full Documentation

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Both civil and criminal cases often involve an element of proving or disproving income of an individual or business. It is not unusual for a divorce case to include allegations of hidden income or assets. In contract disputes alleging the loss of sales or profits, an accurate determination of income is critical.

In criminal cases, the issues surrounding the income of an individual or business have even higher stakes. These cases are quite often tax-related matters, but cases involving white collar crimes and drug trafficking usually include questions about income too. Continue reading

Barry Minkow Sentenced to Five Years’ Imprisonment on Stock Manipulation Conspiracy

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United States Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida
July 21, 2011 Press Release

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced that defendant Barry Minkow, 44, of San Diego, California, was sentenced today on one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, for his participation in a scheme to manipulate the stock price of Lennar Corporation (Lennar) through false and misleading statements about Lennar’s business operations and management. At today’s hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Patricia A. Seitz sentenced Minkow to five years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In addition, the Court ordered Minkow to pay $583,573,600 in restitution. Continue reading

Implied Credibility Given to White Collar Criminals (and Others!)

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Yesterday Reuters Insider published a video of an interview with Sam Antar, former CFO of fraudulent Crazy Eddie, talking about the efforts of the FBI to profile white collar criminals. The starting point for the interview was this article about the FBI applying techniques which were successful in profiling serial killers to profiling white collar criminals.

It’s a good idea, and it is true that there are some distinctive characteristics that white collar criminals exhibit, especially upper management defrauders. I discuss “People Who Commit Fraud” in my book Essentials of Corporate Fraud, and you can see a few examples on this webpage. Continue reading

Webcast: Follow the Money – Using Technology to Find Fraud or Defend Financial Investigations

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Last week I presented a webcast for Securities Docket, Follow the Money – Using Technology to Find Fraud or Defend Financial Investigations. In this presentation geared toward attorneys, I gave an overview of some of the technology tools I’m currently using in my practice to provide better, faster financial investigations.

We looked at the process I’m using, as well as some of the results I’ve gotten for clients. This process is ideal for attorneys working on cases involving securities fraud, Ponzi schemes, white collar crime, divorce, tax fraud, and corporate fraud. The archived version of the webcast is available for viewing below. Continue reading

This Is Why I Do White Collar Criminal Defense Work

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I read a very interesting article yesterday on NYTimes.com, by John Kinnucan of Broadband Research. The FBI “invited” him to wear a wire and essentially entrap clients. He said no, and he told his clients about the FBI’s request. Of course, some are skeptical about his FBI story, but it makes for interesting reading and raises some good points pertinent to my forensic accounting practice.

Some may say that if Kinnucan was innocent, he should have just worn the wire to prove he was on the up-and-up. His article explains that it wasn’t quite so simple. The FBI said they believe Kinnucan and his clients were guilty, and they threatened to arrest him immediately. Continue reading

Sam Antar dishes out some free advice on staying out of prison

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In today’s post entitled Advice from a convicted felon: How the government investigates and prosecutes white collar criminal cases, Sam Antar gives us an education on how the federal government goes after the “fish” in a criminal case.

And Sam should know. After all, he’s the former CFO of Crazy Eddie and has years of experience related to government criminal investigations. He refers to the big fish (someone like the CEO or President or majority owner of the company), the middle fish (middle management) and the small fish (non-management employees). Continue reading