Fraud Friday: The Room Where It Happens

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Today’s Fraud Friday has a theme: Public-Sector Shenanigans.

Given the subject, it seems most appropriate to quote the ol’ Ten Dollar Founding Father himself, A. Ham, from The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 3 [1791]: Hamilton was nothing if not verbose, and the prose here is, let’s be honest, very purple. But damn if he doesn’t nail the human condition:

“With some men the hardest thing to forgive is the demonstration of their errors,—the manifestation that they are not infallible. Mortified vanity is one of the most corroding emotions of the human mind; one of the most unextinguishable sources of animosity and hatred.

It was equally to have been foreseen, that personal disappointments would be likely to alienate from the government some individuals who had at first advocated its adoption, perhaps from motives not the most patriotic or commendable; that personal rivalships and competitions would throw others into an opposition to its measures, without much regard to their intrinsic merits or demerits; and that a third class would embrace the path of opposition as the supposed road to popularity and preferment, raising upon every colorable pretext the cry of danger to liberty, and endeavoring to disseminate among the people false terrors and ill-grounded alarms.

Phenomena like these have deformed the political horizon, and testify the depravity of mankind, in all countries and at all times.

It was likewise to have been expected that among the well-meaning friends of the government, there would be a part, competent to the proper management of the affairs of the Union, who, sensible from experience of the insufficiency of the former system, gave their assent to the substitute offered to their choice, rather from general impressions of the necessity of a change, than from an accurate view of the necessary compass of the authorities which ought to constitute it.

When they came to witness the exercise of those authorities upon a scale more comprehensive than they had contemplated, and to hear the incendiary comments of those who will ever be on the watch for pretexts to brand the proceedings of the government with imputations of usurpation and tyranny, and the factious and indiscreet clamors of those who, in and out of the Legislature, with too much levity, torture the Constitution into objections to measures which they deem inexpedient;—it was to have been expected, I say, that some such men might be carried away by transient anxieties and apprehensions, and might for a moment add weight to an opposition which could not fail to grow out of other causes, and the real objects of which they would abhor.

There is yet another class of men, who, in all the stages of our republican system, either from desperate circumstances, or irregular ambition, or a mixture of both, will labor incessantly to keep the government in a troubled and unsettled state, to sow disquietudes in the minds of the people, and to promote confusion and change. Every republic at all times has its Catilines and its Cæsars.

Men of this stamp, while in their hearts they scoff at the principles of liberty, while in their real characters they are arbitrary, persecuting, and intolerant, are in all their harangues and professions the most zealous; nay, if they are to be believed, the only friends to liberty. Mercenary and corrupt themselves, they are continually making a parade of their purity and disinterestedness, and heaping upon others charges of peculation and corruption. Extravagant and dissipated in their own affairs, they are always prating about public economy, and railing at the government for its pretended profusion. Conscious that as long as the confidence of the people shall be maintained in their tried and faithful servants, in men of real integrity and patriotism, their ambitious projects can never succeed, they leave no artifice unessayed, they spare no pains to destroy that confidence, and blacken the characters that stand in their way.

Convinced that as long as order and system in the public affairs can be maintained, their schemes can never be realized, they are constantly representing the means of that order and system as chains forged for the people. Themselves the only plotters and conspirators, they are for ever spreading tales of plots and conspiracies; always talking of the republican cause, and meaning nothing but the cause of themselves and their party; virtue and liberty constantly on their lips, fraud, usurpation, and tyranny in their hearts.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Ham-bone. Food for thought. Now, let’s get on with the show!


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust (Washington Post)

“JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formally charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust on Thursday, making him the first Israeli premier to be indicted while in office and sending Israel’s already stalemated political system into further disarray.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit capped almost three years of investigation and months of speculation by issuing a 63-page indictment against the country’s longest-serving prime minister and its center of political gravity for the last decade.

The cases against Netanyahu center on allegations that the prime minister and his wife, Sara, accepted more than $260,000 worth of luxury goods in exchange for political favors and that Netanyahu interceded with regulators and lawmakers on behalf of two media companies in exchange for positive news stories.

Netanyahu, 70, has steadfastly denied wrongdoing during a wide-ranging probe that he has dismissed as a politically motivated ‘witch hunt.'”

Hmmmm…That last sentence sounds…familiar.


Former Baltimore Mayor Pleads Guilty to Fraud and Tax Evasion Charges (CBS News)

Former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh pleaded guilty Thursday to four charges of federal conspiracy and tax evasion in the ‘Healthy Holly’ book scandal. In the 11-count indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors said Pugh defrauded purchasers of her self-published ‘Healthy Holly’ children’s book series and used the money to fund her mayoral campaign.

Pugh, 69, pleaded not guilty to seven other charges involving wire fraud. 

In court on Thursday, Hugh showed little emotion as she admitted to taking $100,000 from a connected businessman under the guise of ‘Healthy Holly’ payments to buy herself a bigger house for entertaining once she became mayor, CBS Baltimore reported.  She also admitted to funneling ‘Healthy Holly’ money to her campaign out of fear she’d appear desperate if the public learned she was giving so much money to her campaign.

Pugh faces 35 years in prison. She is set to be sentenced in February. 

U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said Pugh’s guilty plea shows she betrayed the trust placed in her by the public.

Well, Mayor Pugh will have plenty of time to get healthy in the fedeal pen, it would appear…


Mayor of Muncie, Indiana, indicted for allegedly accepting $5,000 bribe (CNN)

“Dennis Tyler, the Democratic mayor of Muncie, Indiana, was indicted Monday on a charge of accepting a $5,000 bribe, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
Tyler accepted the bribe in exchange for awarding contracts to a company from Gaston, Indiana, that performs demolition, excavation and construction projects for Muncie, according to the indictment. The mayor faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted.
‘Tyler not only betrayed the trust of his community, but violated federal law, and all in an effort to serve his own personal interests,’ said Josh J. Minkler, acting US attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.
Authorities arrested Tyler, 76, at his home Monday morning, according to the FBI.
He is currently in FBI custody, according to Chris Bavender, spokeswoman with the FBI in Indianapolis. Tyler made a court appearance Monday afternoon in a federal courtroom in Indiana, a US Attorney’s office news release said.
CNN has reached out to Tyler’s attorney, but has not heard back.
Tyler’s arrest is part of a ‘multi-year and on-going investigation’ by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service looking into the payment of kickbacks in exchange for public works projects and other corruption-related matters in Muncie, the release said.”

$5K? That’s all this dude could shake down out of a crooked contractor? It’s a sad day in Whoville when people are willing to go to prison for a bribe that won’t even buy a decent Hawaian vacation or pay off a season’s worth of football bookie debt…

Alright, until next time. Have a great Thanksgiving and don’t get trampled on Black Friday!

Malfeasance Monday – Under Armour Gets Probed, WeWork CEO Gets Away With It, and Ex-CEO of Woodbridge Gets 25 Years in the Pen.

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Have I got a deal for you on some synthetic fabric underwear and a million square feet of new-age office space!

Happy Monday, fellow fraud-connoisseurs! Much like the falling leaves of Autumn, the waning year brings us no shortage of falling stock prices, falling investment valuations, and C-suite executives taking falls. Let’s dive right in…


Under Armour faces federal investigation over its accounting practices (CNBC)

Under Armour is the subject of federal investigations by the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission over its accounting practices, the company confirmed Sunday. 

Under Armour began responding in July 2017 to requests for documents and information related to its accounting practices and related disclosures. Under Armour is cooperating with both investigations and believes its accounting practices and disclosures were appropriate, a company spokesperson said. 

The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation and is coordinating with civil investigators at the SEC, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story. The SEC declined to comment. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Under Armour has struggled on its home turf as of late in the face of stiff competition from Nike, Adidas and Lululemon. Its sales in North America dropped 2% in 2018 to $3.7 billion. Analysts say the retailers’ “performance” focused gear, like sweat-proof shirts, does not resonate with as many shoppers. 

Under Armour has also faced turmoil in its executive ranks. The company went through three CFOs in the period between 2016-2017 and is currently in the midst of a transition in its management.

CEO and founder Kevin Plank plans to step down from the top job on Jan. 1, and will be replaced by COO Patrik Frisk. Plank plans to stay on at the company as executive chairman and brand chief.

Plank said the change was part of the company’s succession planning.

There has also been public controversy over Under Armour’s work culture. Employees reportedly charged visits to strip clubs on their corporate cards to win over athletes. Under Armour ended the practice and Plank promised to build a “diverse” and “inclusive” environment at the company in the wake of the controversy.  

The company’s stock closed up 2.37% at $21.41 Friday. Under Armour’s stock is down nearly 11% over the past 12 months.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/03/under-armour-is-the-subject-of-a-federal-accounting-probe-wsj-reports.html


Too White To Catch: NYU Professor Says WeWork Is Like Theranos Fraud (The Mogouldon Nation)

One of our favorite reads is NYU Marketing Professor Scott Galloway’s Blog No Mercy/No Malice. If all Prof. Galloway had ever accomplished was coining the business term “Yogababble,” That would have been enough in my book to elect him to the business-blogger Hall of Fame (if such a thing existed. Get on it, WordPress!). However, he’s done much more than that. Back in August, he called the WeWork debacle before it all came crashing down. He also rightly identified it for what it was – a scam, specifically a scam perpetrated by founder Adam Neumann. Galloway predicted that Neumann would bail when the house of cards he had built started to collapse, and would take an ungodly sum of cash with him when he left, essentially leaving investors and employees holding the bag.

Now, Isheka N. Harrison has expanded on Prof. Galloway’s thesis, and made the case for why Neumann will very likely get away absolutely scot-free. It’s hard to argue against the benefits of Upper Middle Class Pseudo Hippie Sociopath White Privilege when confronted with the We Work story. It’s a crazy one, and worth diving into!

https://www.profgalloway.com/wewtf

https://moguldom.com/229869/too-white-to-catch-nyu-professor-says-wework-is-like-theranos-fraud/


Is There a Wine Cellar in Federal Prison? Former Woodbridge Group CEO gets 25 years in $1.3-billion fraud (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Robert Shapiro, the former chief executive of Woodbridge Group of Cos., received the maximum sentence of 25 years in prison for running a $1.3-billion fraud that caused more than 7,000 retirees and other investors to lose money.

Shapiro, 61, of Sherman Oaks, promised returns as high as 10% from investments in loans to property developers. Instead, he used money from new investors to repay earlier ones and used $36 million to buy luxury homes, wines, paintings and custom jewelry for his wife.

U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga in Miami sentenced Shapiro on Tuesday, giving him twice the amount of prison time suggested by his lawyers, according to court records.

Shapiro’s team argued that he’s in poor health and that the 25-year term recommended by prosecutors is harsher than the sentence he would probably have gotten for armed bank robbery, hijacking an airplane, sexual abuse of a child or even murder.

Prosecutors said Shapiro moved money through a network of 270 limited liability companies that he controlled. Investors lost $450 million, according to the government.

The scam ran from July 2012 until December 2017, when Woodbridge filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Shapiro pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion in August. In November 2018, he agreed to pay $120 million to resolve related civil claims by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Two alleged co-conspirators are scheduled for trial in June.

Prosecutors said Shapiro used investor money for his $6.7-million home and $3.1 million for chartering planes and personal travel. He agreed to forfeit artworks by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Marc Chagall and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; 603 bottles of wine; numerous pieces of luxury jewelry; and a 1969 Mercury convertible.”

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/story/2019-10-16/former-woodbridge-group-ceo-gets-25-years-in-1-3-billion-fraud


See you on Whistleblower Wednesday!

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