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Gilbert and Carl Fiorentino, two brothers from Coral Gables, Florida, were charged in federal court this week with operating a scheme to acquire $9 million in kickbacks and other benefits to conceal their illicit profits from the IRS during their tenure as senior executives at Systemax Inc. and its TigerDirect Inc. subsidiary. The brothers were charged with receiving millions of dollars of kickbacks from suppliers, which they used to buy luxury homes, furniture, and yacht equipment.

Allegedly, the brothers completed false conflict of interest questionnaires for the two companies. The charges also state that Carl Fiorentino completed a fraudulent tax return, underreporting his taxable income by $4 million. Specifically, Carl was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of tax evasion. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment. Gilbert was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and to impede the lawful functions of the IRS. He has a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

“Gilbert and Carl Fiorentino put their financial gain and lavish lifestyle ahead of their responsibilities as corporate officers and directors,” Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in a news release. “They accepted kickbacks, driving up the price of the consumer electronics and passing the price increase to customers.”

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit

Six banks–Citibank, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, RBS, Bank of America, and UBS–will pay, as a group, $1.4 billion to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and roughly $1.75 billion (£1.1 billion) to the U.K’s Financial Conduct Authority. UBS will additionally make a payment to Switzerland. The British regulator has never before levied such large fines and says that the investigation into possible wrongdoing at Barclays is ongoing. The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency stated that Citbank, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase will pay a total of $950 million in fines.

From 2008 and 2013, relaxed controls at the banks made it possible for traders to share confidential information and collude with those at other institutions in order to fix rates and increase profits. According to the regulators, traders utilized private chatrooms online to arrange their buying and selling to shift currency prices in their favor with the goal of turning a profit for their employer banks at the expense of their clients.

The traders went by the monikers of “the players,” “the 3 musketeers,” and “the A-team.” The group made agreements to take certain positions in order the manipulate what is known as the 4 p.m. fix, which is a one-minute snapshot of afternoon trading in London that is used as the basis of a vastly used benchmark.

The Financial Conduct Authority stated that the banks did not manage blatant risks and that traders were allowed to continue their misconduct. The banks and the employees who engaged in this scheme will possibly face criminal charges in both the United Kingdom and the United States for attempting to manipulate rates.

Reportedly, all of the banks have cooperated in the investigations and a few have even taken preventive measures to ensure this does not happen again.

The banks’ fines will be distributed as such: JPMorgan Chase and Citibank will each pay $1 billion, UBS will pay $800 million, RBS will pay $634 million, HSBC will pay $618 million, and Bank of America will pay $250 million.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit

Earlier this week, a federal judge in Sacramento, California sentenced James Berghuis for operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked friends, family, and others out of over $2.7 million. Berghuis was found guilty of four counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, and one count of money laundering in connection with the operation.

According to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, Berghuis persuaded investors to take out home-equity loans to make investments from 2005 to 2008, claiming that he would use the funds to invest in real estate. He also offered several victims a deed of trust on his commercial property, promising each that they would be in second position on the title. However, Berghuis never used the money for his stated purposes and instead used funds from new investors to pay back earlier investors, the classic element of a Ponzi scheme, as well as to purchase luxury items for himself.

Berghuis would make a series of excuses to investors as to why he could not pay them back on the promised dates. Some victims lost their homes or continue to pay on mortgages they took out to make their investments with Berghuis.

On one occasion, Berghuis used a check acquired from an investor to purchase a $200,000 Mercedes Benz later on that same day.

The case resulted from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit

Last week, an Alabama judge dismissed securities fraud charges against Gregory Aziz, the CEO of a Canadian company, after Aziz agreed to pay $21 million in damages to the Retirement Systems of Alabama, which had invested in the company’s plans to build a railcar plant in Colbert County. The RSA, which now owns the plant, invested half a billion dollars to build it.

District Attorney Bryce Graham and Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg requested the dismissal after they had reached a settlement with Aziz, and Colbert County Circuit Judge Jacqueline M. Hatcher granted the dismissal.

In addition to paying $21 million to the RSA, Aziz will also pay back the securities commission and the Colbert County District Attorney’s Office for costs associated with investigating the case.

Aziz, who remains listed as Chairman and CEO of National Steel Car, was charged in November of last year with securities fraud for making misrepresentations in order to make the RSA invest in the construction of a plant to build railcars in Colbert County, which would have provided 2,200 jobs to the area. The RSA subsequently gave Aziz a three year loan of $350 million to build the plant, and Aziz was supposed to have paid interest on the loan at nine percent.

Aziz, however, failed to reveal to the RSA that before he spent any of the original loan proceeds he knew that the plant would cost well over $350 million, that his company had incurred over $100 million in long-term debt, that he no longer had the $100 million line of credit he told the RSA he had, and that his company had granted liens on the railcar patent rights which would have required him to get permission from a third party to build the railcars in Alabama.

The RSA was forced to spend an extra $215 million to complete construction of the plant. The $21 million paid to the RSA in damages includes reimbursement of the $11.4 million Aziz and others were paid to oversee construction and the remainder is damages. The $21 million will be transferred back to the retirement funds managed by RSA on behalf of teachers and state employees.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit

Donald Ray Babb of Merritt Island, Florida and Ralph Ruth of Melbourne, Florida pleaded guilty earlier this week to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection to a Ponzi scheme they ran that defrauded local investors out of almost $19 million. The alleged co-conspirators each face a maximum sentence of twenty years in federal prison.

Babb and Ruth are alleged to have collected cash to pay other investors as well as purchasing real estate and other luxury items for themselves. The U.S. Department of Justice is asking for restitution in the amount of $18.7 million and the forfeiture of a number of properties, including houses in Melbourne, Merritt Island, and North Carolina.

The co-conspirators are believed to have done business as Southeast Mutual Insurance and Investment LLC, Capstar Industries LLC, and First Merchant Capital LLC and falsely represented their businesses as licensed financial institutions whose deposits were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The two used these businesses to advertise risk-free certificates of deposit investment opportunities that yielded high rates of return. Yet, neither of the two bought any such certificates.

Prosecutors believe that the scheme started in June 2006 and continued until December 2013 and that the scheme primarily targeted elderly investors. In total, 181 victims lost $18.7 million with a number of victims losing their entire life’s savings.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit

James Peister, an investment fund manager from St. James, New York, pleaded guilty in federal court this week to securities fraud, having run a Ponzi scheme that lasted almost a decade and bilked investors out of over $17 million. Peister will pay $9.6 million in restitution to his victims and will concede $17.9 million in assets, including his home and a Hummer.

According to Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, “For nearly a decade, rather than make sound investment decisions as he had promised, James Peister fleeced dozens of investors and used their money to fund his own lavish lifestyle.”

Prosecutors believe that Peister defrauded more than 74 investors between January 2000 and June 2009 through a number of investment funds, including Northstar International Group, Inc., North American Globex Group, and North American Globex Fund, LP.

Peister represented to his victims that they would be investing in stocks, futures, and fixed income instruments. Rather, Peister is believed to have used money from new investors to pay back earlier investors, the defining element of a Ponzi scheme. Peister also allegedly used the funds to finance his business and to pay for his house and Hummer.

Peister was able to keep the scheme running for so long because he gave false financial statements to investors and auditors that exaggerated the value of his clients’ assets. The scheme finally unraveled when the economy collapsed in 2008.

Peister will be sentenced on March 6, 2015 and faces up to twenty years imprisonment.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit

Luis Serna, formerly a pastor at Zion Living Word Christian Center in San Fernando, California, was sentenced today to over ten years in a federal prison for operating a $7 million Ponzi scheme that congregants, community members, and their families were duped into funding. In whole, 82 victims were bilked out of about $4.6 million over three years.

Serna is believed to have used his position as pastor to prey on low income, Spanish-speaking victims. He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in August and noted in his plea deal that in or around 2006 he started soliciting loans from his congregation and the community through his company, Architects of the Future Investments. He represented to his victims that he was a successful investor in foreign currencies and offered them returns between four and twenty percent annually for giving him their life savings and mortgaging their homes.

In reality, Serna invested little of the money, if any at all. The first victims were paid from funds given to Serna by newer victims, the defining element of a Ponzi scheme, but eventually the checks started to bounce, Serna stopped returning investors’ phone calls, and investors’ lives were ruined.

Serna was sentenced to 121 months imprisonment and ordered to pay $4.6 million in restitution, but prosecutors doubt that Serna will ever repay the money.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit

Takata Corp.

Takata Corp. is in the midst of recalling approximately twelve million automobiles worldwide for faulty airbags. The Japanese manufacturer’s airbags have been linked to injuries and deaths that resulted from a number of bag defects, including a faulty inflator that can explode too forcefully and project shrapnel at high speeds toward drivers and their passengers.

Eight million of the recalls are in the United States, including automobiles manufactured by Honda, Toyota, and General Motors among others. General Motors and Toyota have gone as far as warning owners of recalled models to ban passengers from the front seat, where they are closest to the possibly defective Takata bags. Toyota is telling dealers who do not have replacement parts to disable the passenger-side front bag and put a warning label on the dashboard.

Nissan announced Saturday that it is recalling more than 52, 000 vehicles with Takata airbags. The newly recalled vehicles were sold or registered in twelve high-humidity states and territories as humidity can cause the airbag propellant to burn too fast and potentially blow apart the metal canisters. Affected states and territories include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas as well as the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Saipan, Guam and American Samoa.

Honda too is adding hundreds of thousands of vehicles in those same states to an earlier announced recall, including older versions of the company’s three most popular models: the Accord, Civic, and CR-V. The company had already recalled approximately five million vehicles in the United States for issues with Takata airbags.

A number of lawsuits have already been filed against Takata and the automobile manufacturers who use Takata airbags in their cars. If you own any of the models listed below and would like to speak to an attorney about your potential legal remedies, please contact the Frankowski Firm at (888) 390-0036 or visit

2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible

2004 – Ranger
2005 – 2006 GT
2005 – 2007 Mustang

2004 – 2005 Lancer
2006 – 2007 Raider

2001 – 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2004 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2004 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2004 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 – 2005 Infiniti FX35/FX45

2001 – 2007 Honda Accord)
2001 – 2002 Honda Accord
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 – 2007 Honda Pilot
2006 – Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 – 2003 Acura TL/CL
2005 – Acura RL

2003 – 2007 Mazda6
2006 – 2007 MazdaSpeed6
2004 – 2008 Mazda RX-8
2004 – 2005 MPV
2004 – B-Series Truck

2003 – 2005 Baja
2003 – 2005 Legacy
2003 – 2005 Outback
2004 – 2005 Impreza

2002 – 2005 Lexus SC
2002 – 2005 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2005 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2005 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2005 Toyota Tundra

Trendon Shavers of McKinney, Texas, operator of Bitcoin Savings and Trust, was charged yesterday with defrauding investors in what authorities are calling the first federal criminal securities fraud case arising from a bitcoin-related Ponzi scheme. Shavers is charged with misappropriating roughly 146,000 of 764,000 bitcoins, at the time worth over $4.5 million, which he had accrued between September 2011 and September 2012 by promising “absurdly high” interest rates, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Shavers’ criminal case follows on the heels of a September 18 order by a Texas federal judge that Shavers forfeit $40.7 million in illicit gains, interest, and fines in a related civil case brought by the SEC.

Under the online moniker “pirateat40″ Shavers is believed to have gained control of seven percent of the bitcoin market by promising investors as much as seven percent weekly interest, or 3,641 percent annualized, based on his ability to trade the currency and the fact that he promised investors that he would return their money any time they requested it. Authorities allege, however, that Shavers used new bitcoins to pay back previous investors, add to his account at the now-defunct Mt. Gox exchange, and fund expenses that included a used BMW M5 sedan, spa treatments, casino visits, and a $1,000 dinner at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in Las Vegas.

Roughly half of the investors in Bitcoin Savings and Trust lost part or all of their investments.

According to Bharara, “Trendon Shavers managed to combine financial and cyber fraud into a bitcoin Ponzi scheme that offered absurdly high interest payments, and ultimately cheated his investors out of their bitcoin investments. This case, the first of its kind, should serve as a warning to those looking to make a quick buck with unsecured currency.”

Shavers was charged with securities fraud and wire fraud. He faces a potential maximum sentence of twenty years imprisonment on each count if convicted.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit

David Topping, 19, of Oak Island, North Carolina has been charged with securities fraud after being accused of defrauding investors, including a number of retirees, out of over $130,000. The teen was arrested by law enforcement agents with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Securities Division and is charged with obtaining property by false pretense, solicitation to obtain property by false pretense, and felony securities fraud.

Authorities believe that Topping solicited about twenty investors to invest in Stark Innovations, LLC through the use of Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. The teen is alleged to have told the investors that he bought and shipped electronic consumer goods in bulk from overseas and sold them at a markup in the United States. According to the investors, they were told that they could earn 6.5% interest per month with no risk to their principal.

Topping, however, was not registered to sell securities in North Carolina, failed to inform the investors of that fact, and is currently facing other criminal charges as well. He is currently being held under a $250,000 bond.

If you or someone you know has lost money as a result of an investment or Ponzi scheme, please contact Richard Frankowski at 888-390-0036 to discuss your potential legal remedies or visit