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Miami appraiser pleads guilty to fraud scheme
Court Issues | 2008/03/11 16:58

A Miami real estate appraiser has pleaded guilty to wire fraud for her involvement in the Southwest Ranches-area fraud scheme in Broward County, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida said.

Martine Yanisse Castrillon is one of 15 defendants charged with buying homes through straw buyers at an inflated price, and then getting cash back at the closings. So far, nine defendants have pleaded guilty to various federal charges in the indictment.

Castrillon admitted that she did fraudulent appraisals -- valuing the properties at the amount requested by another defendant, not the true market price -- and forged the name of the certified appraiser who was to review her work.

According to the indictment, co-defendants Lazara Villalba and Henry Quintero-Lopez would offer the owner's full asking price and then inflate the contract purchase price to allow their companies, New World International and D&H Investments of South Florida, to receive a finder's fee, assignment fee or additional funds to allegedly construct improvements to the properties. They would then recruit individuals, who, for a fee, acted as straw buyers of the properties. Villalba and a co-defendant would obtain fraudulent pay stubs, IRS documents, verification of employment and verification of deposit forms; documents would be submitted to cooperating mortgage brokers and the loans were approved to purchase the properties.

Castrillon faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of the wire fraud counts and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count. Sentencing is scheduled for May 22.



Health-Care Fraud: Keep an Eye on the Small Fry
Legal Opinions | 2008/03/11 13:01

You might have been afraid to attend the American Bar Association’s white-collar crime conference last week. But the Health Blog, armed with the First Amendment, endured the topic and the tropical clime of Miami to check out a panel on health-care fraud.

The government and the corporate defenders were there. Big Pharma bogeywoman Susan Winkler, chief of the health-care fraud unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Boston office, shared the dais with defense attorneys Ty Cobb, Nicholas C. Theodorou, Katherine Lauer and Thomas Dwyer.

The group ran though the health-fraud hit parade: off-label marketing, assessing the value of a case and how a company, once cornered, can strike a productive note with the feds.

But the thing that jumped out at us was the group’s consensus that smaller companies–biotechs and device companies—are expected to be the next big hunting ground for fraud and wrong-doing. “Small cap companies, biotech and medical device companies, their resources are limited in terms of compliance,” Theodorou said. And, he added, “they’re very sales and marketing driven.”

Winkler agreed, saying, “We’re going to see more and more off-label with medical devices.” The U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston has been a leader in rooting out health- care fraud, including cases against a host of drug companies. Sketchy pricing schemes and off-label marketing, or pitching a drug for uses beyond those approved by FDA, have been regular fraud fodder.

But Big Pharma, said the panel, has learned from its lumps after battling government investigations and charges. “There are a lot of drug executives walking around with huge dents in their heads,” Cobb said. “They’ve been beaten with rules and compliance.” It’s the little guys, particularly single-product companies, who don’t have the resources and infrastructure to set up checks and balances. The legal stakes can break a company, Cobb said. “I got a case where the first person I called wasn’t the forensics guy, but the bankruptcy guy.”





Man in Iced Body Probe Pleads Not Guilty
Law Firm News | 2008/03/11 11:00
A man arrested after police found a woman's body packed in dry ice in his hotel room pleaded not guilty Monday to two drug-related charges.

Stephen David Royds, 46, is charged with one count each of the sale or transport of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. A prosecutor said the substance was cocaine.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson set Royds' bail at $1 million.

Royds was arrested Thursday after police found the body of Monique Trepp packed in dry ice in a large Rubbermaid container in his hotel room. Police had obtained a warrant to search Royds' room for drugs.

An autopsy concluded that Trepp's death was not a homicide and Royds has not been charged with killing her. Toxicology reports were pending, but Dennis Conway, an Orange County assistant district attorney, said it appeared the 33-year-old died of an overdose.

Royds' court-appointed public defender, Richard Carmona, did not make himself available to reporters after the brief hearing and didn't immediately return a call for comment.

In addition to finding Trepp's body, investigators found drug paraphernalia, drugs and Christmas presents in Royds' room, Conway said.

Police and prosecutors have released few other details about the case, including how long Trepp's body was kept in the room. Conway said she had been dating Royds.

Royds has a prior drug conviction in Orange County in 2002, but did not appear for sentencing. Even if he were to post the $1 million bail on the new charges, he would be held with no bail on the older case, Conway said.



US cracks multimillion-dollar piracy ring
Law Firm News | 2008/03/10 16:25

Two brothers in the US have been given lengthy jail terms for selling large amounts of pirated computer software. A federal court in Alexandria, Virginia sentenced Maurice Robberson, 48, to three years in prison and ordered him to pay $855,917 in restitution.

His brother Thomas Robberson, 55, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $151,488 in restitution. Maurice Robberson pleaded guilty to conspiracy and felony copyright infringement, while his brother Thomas Robberson pleaded guilty to a single count of felony copyright infringement.

Thomas Robberson grossed more than $150,000 selling software with a retail value of nearly $1m by operating Bestvalueshoppe.com and TheDealDepot.net.

Maurice Robberson grossed more than $855,000 selling software with a retail value of nearly $5.6m through CDsalesUSA.com and AmericanSoftwareSales.com. Both brothers have agreed to forfeit all proceeds from the illegal businesses.

"People who steal the intellectual property of others for their personal financial gain, while defrauding consumers who think they are buying legitimate products, will be punished for their crimes, as today's sentences prove," said Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher.



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