Former SEC lawyer convicted, jailed on securities fraud charges

A former lawyer for the Securities and Exchange Commission has been found guilty of conspiracy and wire and securities fraud.

U.S. authorities said Phillip Offill Jr. was convicted and immediately sent to prison following the verdict. He is scheduled for sentencing in April and faces a lengthy prison sentence.

Offill worked with a Phoenix lawyer, David Stocker, in a scam known as “pump and dump.” The pair inflated the value of securities in certain companies and then dumped the stock. They did the “pumping” through spam emails and misleading and deceptive press releases.

To further the deception, Offill and Stocker avoided stock registration requirements so they didn’t have to report the true financial condition of their securities.

Cuomo subpoenas companies offering Internet discount clubs

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is warning Internet discount clubs and the mega-retailers supplying them with information that they’re under investigation for fraud.

Cuomo said his office has received thousands of consumer complaints about companies that sign-up people for discount clubs when they purchase a different product online.

When people go online to buy things like movie tickets, flowers or other products, they often sign-up for offers connected to that purchase. Consumers clicked links offering cash back on their current purchase and without reading fine print, were signed on for a club with a monthly service fee.

Cuomo has subpoenaed records of Affinion, Vertrue and Webloyalty, the companies accused of drawing monthly fees from consumer credit cards. The AG also wants records from 22 more well-known businesses: Barnes & Noble, Orbitz,, Ticketmaster,,, Shutterfly,, Avon, Budget, Staples, Priceline, GMAC Mortgage,, Travelocity, Vistaprint, Intelius, Hotwire, Expedia,, Columbia House, Pizza Hut and Gamestop/EB Games. They are allowing the previous companies to piggyback their sales to make their offers.

Cuomo said this business practice is “classic consumer fraud.”

Each of the three companies offering these discount clubs have been sued and have paid heavy fines for their business practices in the past.

Indoor Tanning Faces FTC, Health Insurance Scrutiny

The Federal Trade Commission has announced it is cracking down on the indoor tanning industry.

In a settlement that was agreed upon by the FTC and the Indoor Tanning Association, indoor tanning ads will be prohibited from making misleading and unsubstantiated statements.

Tanning locations will also have to prominently display two notices warning that ultraviolet radiation may increase cancer risks and cause eye injuries.

Those who utilize the facilities regularly should be sure their health insurance coverage will cover any potential costs that may come with related health troubles.

Haitian Embassy says alternative ways to rescue quake survivors are scams

Haitian Americans living in the U.S. seeking to rescue loved ones from the earthquake-ravaged nation need to be aware of an ongoing scam.

A company is promising to deliver loved ones from Haiti to the U.S. without going through the official documentation process. They tell customers to wire $500 in exchange for documents and a confirmation number which allows them to fly to Haiti and get five family members out of the country.

This claim is completely false and Haitians must complete the Citizenship or some other Immigration program paperwork to leave Haiti. Haitian Americans are encouraged to contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if they’d like to rescue family members from the country.

This scam was reported to and by the Haitian Embassy located in Washington, D.C., and the Greater Washingtion Haiti Relief Committee.

Prison Inmate Sentenced for Identity Theft from Behind Bars

A California state prison inmate serving time for identity theft has been sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison.

37-year-old Morocco Curry, also known as Monica Dupree, plead guilty to identity theft and organizing a bank fraud scheme while behind bars.

While serving time at Centinela state prison, Curry obtained credit card numbers and other information on at least four victims.

Curry then made three-way telephone calls to conspirators outside the prison, and they contacted credit card issuers and asked them to send replacement credit cards.

Prosecutors say credit card companies lost more than $139,000 from the scheme.

FCC proposes new rules covering robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed new rules to regulate businesses using robocalls.

Robocalls are automated outgoing phone calls made usually to make a sales pitch to consumers. These calls are often disruptive and seek personal information which could be used for identity theft or could unknowingly subscribe customers for services they never ordered.

Under new rules, companies using robocalls would have to get written consent from a consumer to contact them using that feature. Currently, any time a consumer makes any type of inquiry about a service with a company, that is a considered a business relationship, and they may contact you with robocalls if you’ve submitted a telephone number.

Similar rules passed by the Federal Trade Commission last year did not include several major industries which use these calls heavily at times: banks, politicians, charities and telephone companies. The FCC rules would cover these businesses.

Another proposed FCC change would require consumers to be given an option to not get future offers via robocalls.

Identity Fraud on Rise

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has a survey page with pointers to published studies and point-form summaries of their findings in regards to identity theft.

PRC is a “nonprofit consumer organization with a two-part mission — consumer information and consumer advocacy”.

The data suggest that the number of people reporting identity theft to has risen roughly five-fold over the last decade.

Almost 10 million Americans learned they were victims of identity fraud in 2008, up from 8.1 million victims in 2007.

Rent-A-Husband Owner Arraigned for Fraud

A Maine man who turned his Rent-A-Husband home-repair company into a nationally recognized business has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and theft charges.

Kaile Warren of Windham has been charged with securities fraud, theft by deception and sale of unregistered securities.

Prosecutors say Warren misled investors by taking their money when he knew his company was failing.

An indictment says he spent some of the money on personal expenses.

General Re to Pay $92M to Settle AIG Charges

General Re has agreed to pay $92 million to settle federal charges that it helped American International Group orchestrate its massive fraud of 2006.

General Re, a reinsurer owned by Berkshire Hathaway, admitted that between 2000 and 2004 top executives engaged in fake reinsurance deals to artificially inflate AIG’s loss reserves.

A federal court previously concluded that the fraud cost AIG’s shareholders up to $600 million.

The firm previously paid $5 million to settle an earlier case.

At odds, Obama and Dodd meet on proposed consumer protection agency

President Barack Obama has again declared his support for an independent regulatory agency aimed at protecting consumers from fraud.

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency is the idea of Obama as part of his overhaul of both the regulatory systems and of the financial sector. Though his successes in each are difficult to measure, he’s firm in his stance that this agency in particular, is a must.

Unfortunately, Obama’s receiving resistance to this measure from inside the Democrats, namely Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Christopher Dodd, of Connecticut.

Dodd has recently announced that he’s leaving politics as an elected official and will not seek re-election, but has been as staunch as the President in being against this particular regulatory arm.

The two were scheduled to meet this week in Washington, and this topic was on Obama’s agenda.

White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said, “The President’s viewpoint on this is quite clear. We have to have a strong independent voice on behalf of consumers.”