Amir Anjum Shamim
The promises that came out of Amir Anjum Shamim's mouth should have come across as unbelievable, a federal judge said Monday. The Forest Grove man, who presented himself as an Arabian horse dealer, talked of gold investment pools in which $20,000 stakes would multiply into $300,000 windfalls in two months.
But Shamim, 37, a sporadic landscaper and handyman, was able to secure thousands of dollars at a time from at least six willing investors, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Bounds. Shamim borrowed even more with ginned-up stories including one about needing $24,500 to buy a special Arabian horse embryo as a surprise for his wife, Earlene, Bounds said.
Senior U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones questioned how someone could fall for Shamim's investment scams. But victims' credulity aside, Shamim committed fraud, said Jones, as he handed down a sentence of three years and five months in prison for his three counts of wire fraud. Shamim was also ordered to pay $251,100 in restitution, although it is unlikely he will ever be able to pay it off, the judge acknowledged.
Jones bypassed the joint recommendation from the prosecution and defense, who negotiated a lower term as part of a plea agreement. Although the recommendation is not binding on a judge, Shamim's court-appointed attorney, Francesca Freccero vehemently opposed a higher sentence. She said Shamim has cooperated throughout the case and argued that Bounds was including unproved allegations in his sentencing presentation in a backhanded argument for a higher sentence. It's too much of a trick, Judge," Freccero said. She argued that the recommended term of two years and nine months is a long prison sentence, particularly for a man like Shamim who has young children.
Jones brushed aside her arguments, saying the sentence was necessary to punish and deter Shamim, who has four previous felony convictions for theft and other offenses in Washington state and Oregon. When Shamim told Jones that he had "made a big mistake," Jones interrupted, thundering that the defendant's actions were not "any mistake."
"You have lied and lied and lied throughout your adult life," Jones said.
Jones' sentence came after testimony by two investors in Shamim's scams. Rita Brandin gave Shamim, whom she met at an Arabian horse show, $190,000 over a five-month period – including money for the mythical embryo.
She acknowledged her embarrassment, saying she tried "to figure out how I got swept into the scam." But she had a lifelong dream to own an Arabian horse and to be a part of that world where "everyone was bigger than life," she said, her voice cracking with emotion. "Shame on me," she said.
But it was Brandin's determination that brought about the criminal case, Bounds said in court. Brandin, an executive with a real estate development firm, hired a private investigative firm, Specialty Resources Group, in Texas to investigate Shamim's record and reach out to other victims. Shamim conversations and emails were documented and evidence was gathered before presenting the information to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon.
Walter Pavlo, Jr. was a young MBA rising quickly through the finance ranks at the nation’s second largest telecom company, MCI. With a beautiful wife, two kids and a promising career, he epitomized the American dream. Pavlo’s life took a dark turn when he became a willing participant in the company’s efforts to hide from investors and potential acquirers a mountain of bad debt run up by mobsters and other unsavory customers. Encouraged by higher-ups, Pavlo became accomplished at accounting gimmickry. Then the jaded young executive consorted with a colorful scam artist and others to use some of the same ploys he’d devised for his employer to enrich himself at its expense. A ruse born of disillusionment and greed turned into a nightmare for Pavlo after he was caught and forced to choose--rat on his buddies or spend decades rotting in prison. His crimes ultimately cost Pavlo his freedom, family, reputation and self-respect. Only later did he recognize that his original sins were part and parcel of the corruption that led to an historic collapse for his company, his industry and of public confidence in corporate America. Watch this insightful video for a glimpse into Palvo's mindset!
The case of Allen Stanford, a former billionaire who once allegedly sealed a deal with blood and is currently serving a 110-year federal prison sentence, could soon be back in the headlines. A federal judge ruled last month that investors could proceed with a lawsuit that alleges the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was negligent in its handling of the fraud.
Texas-born Robert Allen Stanford exuded wealth. At his height in 2008, he was one of the richest men in America, listed on the Forbes 400, and worth an estimated $2.2 billion. He defined conspicuous consumption. In one three year period alone, he spent $100 million on aircraft, which included helicopters and private Lear Jets. He even spent $12 million lengthening his yacht by just 6 feet. As it happened, however, Stanford indulged in these perks with ill-gotten gains. In early 2009, the scale and scope of Stanford’s extravagances finally caught up to him. Stanford was eventually convicted of selling fraudulent certificates of deposit from his offshore bank on the island of Antigua in an international $7 billion Ponzi scheme, a case that drew comparisons to disgraced broker Bernie Madoff’s multibillion dollar fraud. To date, none of the more than 20,000 investors he bilked have recovered any money. In their lawsuit, the investors claim that on four instances and as early as 1997, the SEC determined that Stanford was running a Ponzi scheme. Still, the agency did not act accordingly and failed to notify the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. Investigators did not bring charges against Stanford until 2009, in the wake of the global financial crisis. The government moved to dismiss the case, but U.S. District Judge Robert Scola rejected the motion. He ruled that if the SEC knew Stanford was running a Ponzi scheme as alleged by plaintiffs, the agency was obligated to report it. Scola added that the government could argue that it did not know Stanford was running a fraud if and when the case moved to summary judgment.
A federal jury on Tuesday convicted R. Allen Stanford, a Texas financier, on 13 out of 14 counts of fraud in connection with a worldwide scheme that lasted more than two decades and involved more than $7 billion in investments. Stanford was sentenced to a term of 110 years in Federal prison.
To see the full episode about Allen Stanford on American Greed, click the Play Button: