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Financial Fraud Law

Two Alleged Financial Frauds: One 21st Century, One 19th Century

 Technology can be useful in today’s financial frauds. But that does not mean that the only frauds today are high tech, sophisticated ones. Let’s compare two recent alleged frauds to see that. 

Federal officials announced that a Serbian national living in Chicago’s north suburbs has been arrested on charges that he attempted to purchase a device commonly used for ATM skimming. Louis Sokolovic, also known as Ljubisa Sokolovic, was charged in a criminal complaint with one count of attempting to obtain device-making equipment with intent to defraud, which is a felony offense. According to the complaint, beginning in July 2008, Sokolovic began negotiating to purchase a device commonly used to “skim” account information from the users of ATMs.
According to the government, unbeknownst to Sokolovic, the individual with whom he was negotiating was secretly working for the FBI. During the course of the investigation, Sokolovic was alleged to have made frequent mention that the device would be used to capture account information and PINs from unsuspecting ATM customers, which he then would use to steal funds from the victims' accounts.
The government alleged that Sokolovic purchased the equipment necessary to build the ATM skimmer, but the finished skimming device was never provided to him for his use. If convicted of the charge filed against him, Sokolovic faces a possible sentence of up to 10 years' incarceration.
Now, let’s look to the allegations in a case brought across the country. Here, Nicholas Acosta of Baltimore pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. OK, not quite what one thinks of when thinking about 19th century crimes. But Acosta's fraud involved pawnshops. Yes, pawnshops.
According to his plea agreement, from 2007 to March 2010, Acosta conspired with others to conduct monetary transactions involving the sale of mass quantities of stolen over-the-counter medications, health and beauty aid products, gift cards, DVDs, tools and other merchandise. Shoplifters stole products from Target, Safeway, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and other retailers in Maryland and other states. Pawnshops bought large amounts of stolen items from these thieves. Acosta and others were responsible for receiving some of the stolen products at We Buy Pawn Shop. Acosta assisted in cleaning the stolen items by removing the security labels and retail tags from the stolen products. Acosta knew that many of his codefendants and others participated in the scheme. Some of the defendants also had on-line auctions sites, such as eBay and, where they would sell the stolen products far below normal retail value. The stolen products were then delivered to unsuspecting customers via the United States mail. The defendants received payment back by interstate wire transfers using PayPal accounts and through various financial institutions in Maryland. 
On March 25, 2010, agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Baltimore County Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed search warrants at several pawnshops and related locations. Agents recovered well over $1 million in stolen merchandise, approximately $1 million in bank accounts and over $140,000 in cash, and 44 firearms. Although the entire conspiracy involved approximately $20 million in stolen merchandise, at least $400,000 but less than $1 million in stolen product was reasonably foreseeable to Acosta.
Acosta face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg has scheduled sentencing for Acosta on September 29, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.
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