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Financial Crimes
04/19/2013

2 guilty in international investment fraud and money laundering scheme

TAMPA, Fla. — A federal jury found two citizens of the United Kingdom guilty Friday for their role in an international investment fraud and money laundering scheme following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Secret Service.

Paul R. Gunter, 64, of Odessa, Fla., and Simon Andrew Odoni, 56, of Hertfordshire, U.K., were found guilty of three counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering; 19 counts of mail and wire fraud; and 14 counts of money laundering.

They face up to 20 years in federal prison on each of the conspiracy charges and 10 years in federal prison on each of the money laundering charges. They also face 20 years in prison on the mail and wire fraud charges.

"These individuals conspired to make a profit through a complex, international money laundering scheme," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. "Our law enforcement partners across the globe helped us identify and prosecute these con-artists who preyed on the vulnerable. I urge investors to beware of similar scams – they know no borders."

According to evidence and testimony presented at trial, from at least July 2004 through March 13, 2008, Gunter, Odoni and others sold worthless stock in dormant, publicly-traded U.S. companies to victim-investors, primarily in the United Kingdom.

The scheme was facilitated using telemarketers, mostly in Spain, who employed high pressure and misleading sales techniques. This resulted in victim-investors wiring more than $127 million to Gunter's bank accounts in central Florida.

The conspirators bilked victim-investors out of another $10 million via a FOREX currency trading scheme, which also utilized the telemarketers in Spain.

To date, HSI special agents have seized nearly $5 million in U.S. currency tied to the scheme.

"This case demonstrates the power that comes from law enforcement agencies pooling their assets and sharing critical information," said John Joyce, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service Tampa Field Office. "The U.S. Secret Service values the partnerships it has forged with other agencies in order to address criminal behavior, both domestically and internationally."

Gunter, Odoni and their co-conspirators used the victim-investors' funds to perpetuate the fraud scheme and for their own personal enrichment. Victim-investors' funds were used to purchase, among other things, an airplane, two boats, vehicles and real property in the Caribbean islands, England and Florida.

"Odoni and Gunter were key operators in a criminal gang that ruthlessly targeted the elderly and vulnerable, defrauding them and then spending tens of millions of pounds that had been put aside to support people's retirements," said Kerrie Gower, detective inspector with the City of London Police. "We now look forward to the sentencing of all those who played a part in this devastating crime and hope it will bring some comfort to their victims. This tragic story should act as warning to anyone who is considering putting their money into investment schemes offering massive returns."

At sentencing, which has not been scheduled, both individuals will be ordered to forfeit real property, bank accounts, an airplane, boats and vehicles purchased with proceeds of the fraud scheme.

In March 2011, Richard Sinclair Pope, a co-defendant, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Pope faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

In a related trial that took place in May 2012, Houston lawyers Roger Lee Shoss and Nicolette Loisel were convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with their participation in the corporate identity theft aspect of the scheme. Shoss and Loisel stole the identities of dormant, publicly-traded companies.

Then, they used those identities to create fraudulent, empty-shell companies that appeared to be publicly-traded. They, in turn, sold these companies to Gunter and his co-conspirators for $800,000. Gunter and his co-conspirators used the companies to issue worthless shares of stock to the victim-investors via a telemarketing scheme.

All four of the companies featured in the indictment-Mobilestream Inc., Regaltech Inc., Nanoforce Inc. and Rocky Mountain Gold Mining Inc. – were created by Shoss and Loisel.

HSI and the U.S. Secret Service received assistance from several agencies during this investigation, including: the City of London Police, the U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office and Norfolk Constabulary, the Spanish National Police, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Ontario Securities Commission and the British Columbia Securities Commission.