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Financial Crimes

Fugitive US lawyer expelled from Nicaragua to face investment fraud and money laundering charges

TAMPA, Fla. – Nicaraguan authorities expelled a U.S. citizen wanted in the United States on investment fraud and money laundering charges Wednesday. The man was subsequently turned over to U.S. authorities upon his arrival in Miami. His apprehension and expulsion was achieved through the joint cooperation of several agencies, including: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Service, the U.S. Embassy in Managua, Interpol Washington and the Nicaraguan National Police.

Lawrence S. Hartman, 47, aka Larry Hartman, Larry Hart and Lawrence Scott Hartman-Grosser, is a U.S. lawyer, formerly of New York and Florida. Nicaraguan authorities arrested him on an immigration violation when he tried to fraudulently enter the country from Costa Rica, where he was residing.

In the United States, Hartman faces mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering charges, as well as conspiracy to commit those charges. The charges stem from his role in an international investment fraud and money laundering scheme that resulted in victim-investor losses in excess of $137 million. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the money laundering charges and 20 years in prison on each of the three conspiracy, mail and wire fraud offenses.

To date, juries have found four of Hartman's co-defendants guilty of the fraud scheme, and another co-defendant pleaded guilty. On April 19, a federal jury found Paul R. Gunter, 64, of Odessa, and Simon Andrew Odoni, 56, of Hertfordshire, U.K., guilty of three counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, as well as 19 counts of mail and wire fraud and 14 counts of money laundering. Gunter and Odoni each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each of the conspiracy charges and each of the mail and wire fraud charges. They also face up to 10 years in federal prison on each of the money laundering charges. Both individuals will also be ordered to forfeit real property, bank accounts, an airplane, vessels and vehicles purchased with proceeds of the fraud scheme.

Gunter and Odoni are scheduled to be sentenced on July 23.

As part of the investigation, federal agents seized nearly $5 million in U.S. currency.

In March 2011, co-defendant Richard Sinclair Pope 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.

The case was investigated by HSI Tampa and the U.S. Secret Service’s Tampa and Newark, N.J offices. 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 assisted with the investigation.