Posts tagged DR. RICHARD SENNA




The questions remain, beyond Karadžić. Why Charles Taylor and not Blair, Bush or the Israeli bomber command that targeted schools in Lebanon and civilian shelters in Gaza? At what point does the ICC address environmental or corporate crime: mining companies before which entire communities in Africa and Latin America vanish, or banks involved in systematic laundering of the profits of drug cartels?


There he was, on the other side of the bullet-proof glass: Radovan Karadžić himself, inches away, accused of genocide and other war crimes across Bosnia during the 1990s. He saluted me with an entwinement of avuncular cordiality and cold-like-ice.

This was an “interview” to which Karadžić, defendant at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, is entitled before his prosecutors called me as a witness, back in 2010. During cross-examination, Karadžić posited the bizarre notion that only ONE person had died in the infamousconcentration camp at Omarska it had been my curse to uncover in 1992.

This week, nearly five years after his trial began, come the closing arguments that will lead either to Karadžić’s acquittal or conviction for ordering the hurricane of violence he himself called ethnic cleansing between 1992 and 1995.

If nothing else, the prosecution will serve to remind us that carnage of that kind is still possible in modern Europe: death, torture, mass rape and mutilation in the camps; the siege and torture of a great European capital, Sarajevo; the summary massacre of 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica. Karadžić has asked for 17 hours to outline his explanation for all this, under his alleged command.

Karadžić was political commissar of the Bosnian Serb project for a racially “pure” state during those years and, along with the verdict on his military counterpart, General Ratko Mladic, the outcome will be the highwater mark of the two-decade enterprise in what was to be groundbreaking international law enforcement by the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The man leading the Karadžić prosecution, Alan Tieger, was there at the outset prosecuting its first defendant in 1996, a parish-pump sadist and murderer called Dusko Tadic, now free after serving his sentence.

I was called by the tribunal in the early days, when it was lean, keen and felt right on its side. The court had been established in 1993 through both contrition and ambition. Contrition, because the UN had already become inept and cynical to the point of complicity in the slaughter it now sought to prosecute (though ironically, the worst was yet to come in 1995, when Dutch troops delivered the “safe area” of Srebrenica to the slaughter). Ambition, because the ICTY was seen as putting into action a brave new world of human rights, whereby the bullies of history would be held to account.

A lot can happen to a UN organism in 20 years. I testified in eight trials, have given months of work to the tribunal, and watched it bloat: heard clear language of law and liability replaced by jargon and anagrams; watched communication become a logjam of bureaucracy and hierarchy; listened to the wretched survivors summoned to testify, and wonder how much money was being made in their name. Answer: one hell of a lot.

But more important clouds have gathered over the ICTY. One concerns the promise – oft-spoken and crucial to the Hague’s raison d’etre – that its existence would deter mass murderers of the future. President Assad of Syria shows no sign of such quaking in his shoes.

A second was the tribunal’s extra-judicial brief: that it not only judge those accused, but also promote reconciliation. One of the tribunal’s major achievements has indeed been that the narrative of the war was told from witness chairs during “victim testimony”– the voices of the survivors. But there has been no reconciliation.

Bosnia is a living example, because there has been no reckoning. Reckoning, a prerequisite to reconciliation, is a harsher word which entails coming to terms with the calamity, staring at oneself in the mirror, and making amends – historical, political and material. This has not happened in a land still riven by partition as dictated by the vanities of the Dayton peace agreement, which ended the war by rewarding Karadžić’s project and granting his “Republika Srpska”, where children attend two schools under the same roof, where denial of the massacre at Srebrenica and concentration camps is still de rigeur and a means of maintaining power.

To this reality even 20 years on, the ICTY has added little or nothing: one could argue that more community-level bonding between ethnicities resulted last year from protests against privatisation, flooding, and the qualification of Bosnia’s football team for the World Cup in Brazil.

And doubts raised by recent verdicts have seemed to unravel the ICTY’s own work. Two rulings in the appeals chamber in 2012 and 2013 overturned the crucial convictions of the Croatian general Ante Gotovinaand the commander of the Serbian (Yugoslav) army Momčilo Perišić. Chaired on both occasions by Judge Theodor Meron – a Holocaust survivor, former Israeli diplomat and US citizen – a majority of judges ruled that the evidence lacked “specific direction” to the troops under the generals’ command to commit atrocities. In other words, the buck stops short of the top, even when we all know war crimes have been committed.

This was galling for prosecutors because once the dramatic “victim testimony” was entered against small fry like Tadic, the hard, drier, work had been to establish chains of command that connected the political and military leaderships to the atrocities. For instance – in a tip to President Assad – the bench under Judge Meron deemed that to shell a community into the rubble until the survivors flee does not constitute deportation, since the emptying out of population was not “specifically directed”.

There were vehement dissenters from the bench in both cases: but back home, to illustrate the point about reconciliation, Bosnian Croats whooped and celebrated the liberty of Gotovina while spitting their outrage at that of Perišić; Bosnian Serbs did exactly the reverse. One’s own side cannot commit a war crime, it seems – only the enemy – in the land of un-reckoning.

But the most severe doubt about the ICTY, which does not concern its remit so much as its legacy, is who gets prosecuted in the brave new world of human rights. When Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in the Observer that former British prime minister Tony Blair should be indicted for war crimes in Iraq, he raised the question: how high are future indictments at the permanent international criminal court or other ad-hoc tribunals like the ICTY going to aim? So far, the ICC has failed to indict a single person who is white. It staunchly resisted calls for an indictment for General August Pinochet of Chile; Blair is not even on its radar screen, for all the archbishop’s pleading.

The questions remain, beyond Karadžić. Why Charles Taylor and not Blair, Bush or the Israeli bomber command that targeted schools in Lebanon and civilian shelters in Gaza? At what point does the ICC address environmental or corporate crime: mining companies before which entire communities in Africa and Latin America vanish, or banks involved in systematic laundering of the profits of drug cartels?

Legal philosopher Costas Douzinas has written a book daring to suggest that “human rights” are becoming tools of the powerful nations, more than sacrosanct principles as defined by his ancestors in Greece, the French revolutionaries and Tom Paine.

It has been a long, worthwhile haul from the Tadic trial to that of Karadžić, and an acquittal over “specific direction” would be grotesque while the earth still gives up its dead around Srebrenica and the camps. But after that, for Douzinas to be proved wrong, the lucrative carousel of international justice needs to raise, not lower, its sights.





Antonio Cavalcante had a candidate for governor successfully barred after proving he had embezzled millions of dollars while he was a state legislator.


It’s election season in Brazil, and a group of young women hold up placards outside the Cuiaba airport in support of their candidate. The capitol of the central Brazilian state of Mato Grosso is best known for its cattle ranching and agriculture. It is the Texas of Brazil — big, flat and hot with people who moved here from all over the country as kind of frontiersmen.

For the last two decades, one man has politically loomed above them all. His name is Jose Riva. He’s been a politician in the state for 20 years, presiding over the state legislature in one form or another.

The general opinion as one resident told me is that “he’s dirtier than the floor of a chicken coup.”

In 2002, the federal police accused Riva of embezzlement and money laundering — public money under his control was being handed over to shell companies who were often headed by people who had recently died.

Over the years there have been almost 200 legal proceedings against Riva, accusing him of all manner of crimes including vote buying. In the press, he’s regularly described as having the dirtiest record in the country, which is no small thing.

For example, almost 200 of Brazil’s federal congressmen have been charged with some sort or crime — from murder, to slavery to embezzlement. That’s one-third of the nation’s highest politicians according to the Brazilian watchdog group Congresso em Foco.

This year, despite his many legal troubles, Riva was going to run for governor and it looked like he had a good chance of winning.

This where a chauffeur called Antonio Cavalcante come in.

Cavalcante is a short man, 5-foot-7, with a stubbly salt-and-pepper beard wearing a flat cap. He says he’s nervous talking into the microphone — he doesn’t like the spotlight. While timid in person he’s described as a lion by fellow activists who fought for years alone to change the way things are done in Brazil.

Cavalcante says his interest in Riva began after the federal money laundering probe failed to knock Riva from office.

“As a citizen you feel impotent, powerless to do anything in the face of so many corruption scandals,” Cavalcante says.

Part of the problem, he explains, is the legal system here. It’s highly inefficient, and highly corrupt. Court cases take years — decades even — to be resolved.

Cavalcante also says Riva had friends in important places. A group of 10 judges were stopping any case against Riva from advancing.

Cavalcante got proof that the judges were misusing funds and public materials by diverting them from a new court that was being built in Cuiaba to a masonic temple. The judges were all masons, Cavalcante explains.

Cavalcante, along with the NGO Moral, exposed them and in a case that made national headlines, the judges were all kicked out of office. It was a huge victory.

“Riva’s power broke in the moment when the judges were removed,” Cavalcante says.

Cavalcante pushed to get a law drafted that set up a special court to deal with crimes to do with public money. He became the go-to person for whistleblowers who wanted to expose political corruption.

The vice president of the anti-corruption NGO Moral Elda Fim says it took her a long time to get Cavalcante to trust her and work with the organization.

“He did this practically alone, pointing out what was wrong. Everybody used to say, ‘Give up! You are mad!’ ” she says.

It came at a price. First came the lawsuits. Then, things got uglier.

“All these years we’ve been fighting. We’ve suffered blackmail, my house was broken into, my wife was beaten, my children,” Cavalcante says.

He begins to cry.

“I’ve gotten death threats. All kinds of things. But I am happy because I am exercising the right of citizenship,” he says.

The payoff came only a few weeks ago.

Cavalcante became one of the local forces behind a national law called the Ficha Limpa or “clean record law.” This is the first election it’s been used and already it has been a game-changer, advocates say. Up until now, there were no legal tools to bar people like Riva from running for office. The law has led to hundreds of candidates being excluded across the country.

Riva was among them, after being found guilty of four counts of embezzlement.​ He is being allowed to finish his term of office in the state legislature.

But Cavalcante says “his political career is over. It’s no small thing.”

Still, Riva’s daughter — a political novice — has taken over his spot on the ballot running for state legislature. And his wife Janet is running for governor in his stead. We went to Jose and Janet Riva’s lush estate in Cuiaba. She was busy recording a television spot urging people to vote for her. She denied that she is being used as a proxy for her husband. Jose Riva has said publically that he is the victim of a political witch hunt.

I ask Cavalcante if he ever despairs.

“There is a saying in Brazil that he who steals a little is a thief but he who steals a lot is a baron. Brazil was always like that. But today we can see it is it worth to persist, to fight. So at least our grandchildren can live in a better country,” Cavalcante says.






Cartels are first and foremost businesses
1) They must find ways to obscure their illicit gains
2) Oftentimes, banks are complicit in this process


The recent L.A. fashion district bust, where federal agents seized approximately $100 million in cartel cash, has put money laundering back in the global spotlight. The case is the latest in a long list of incidents displaying the business savvy of narco-traffickers.

Drug cartels have remained at the forefront of money laundering. Like any business, they must adapt to a changing marketplace, clients and regulators. We’ve compiled a list of cases that at times blur the line between organized crime, governments, financial and law enforcement institutions. Collectively, this compendium can be read as a kind of encyclopedia on cleaning dirty drug money.

A presidential sibling and Citibank

In July 2013, a federal judge in Mexico exonerated Raul Salinas from illicit enrichment. Mexicans saw the brother of ex-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) walk away with a reinstituted fortune of 41 real estate properties and approximately $17 million. Back in 1995, Raul’s scheme was discovered when his wife and brother-in-law were trying to withdraw millions from a Swiss bank account under his name.


1998 U.S. General Accounting Office report found the following: “Mr. Salinas was able to transfer $90 million to $100 million between 1992 and 1994 by using a private banking relationship formed by Citibank New York [and] the funds where  [sic] transferred through Citibank Mexico and Citibank New York to private investment accounts in Citibank London and Citibank Switzerland.” According to the U.S. investigation, the bank argued it had only violated one clause of its customer policy — not performing a background check. The Department of Justice was unable to verify whether bank officials had conspired.

The figure below simplifies how Raul used his wife, Paulina, to carry out the job, according to the Department of Justice. Paulina allegedly would withdraw the funds from five Mexican banks, depositing the checks under an alias at Citibank Mexico. This process is the first step in traditional money laundering schemes, known as placement. Once placed, the cash would be converted to dollars before being wired to the institution’s U.S. and European branches–the second step, designed to obscure ownership and origin of the money, known as layering. The final step, integration, occurred when Salinas would purchase real estate or any other valuable goods, reintroducing the illicit cash into the financial system in the form of legit investments.

Andres Oppenheimer, a renowned Argentine journalist who covered the events, says Raul was known as “Mr. 10 percent” because of his rampant corruption, but Oppenheimer “never saw any concrete evidence linking him to drug trafficking.” However, incriminating testimonies surfaced in U.S. Senate hearings and the Mexican press. In 2009 former Mexican president Miguel de la Madrid (1982-1988) publicly stated Raul had ties with drug lords; days later he retracted his comments, attributing them to his own declining health.

Juan Miguel Ponce Edmondson, who served as director of Interpol Mexico from 1990-1992 and from 1997-2002, conducted a full investigation on Raul Salinas. He tells Fusion he never found a connection to drug trafficking.

“In the strict sense of the word, it wasn’t even laundering, it was occulting illicit money,” he says, claiming the DEA spread those rumors to justify its own role in the investigation. “The cartel money laundering allegations are a DEA lie, they had to justify going after him because that’s their modus operandi: go into anything that can give them publicity.”

In 2000, Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni, a top police commander during Salinas’ presidency, gave an interview to PBS where he alleged a connection between the ex-president, his brother, and drug capos Miguel Felix Gallardo of the Guadalajara cartel and Juan Garcia Abrego of the Gulf cartel. He was ordered by Mexican prosecutor Cuevo Trejo to pursue Abrego, to convince him to turn himself in.

He said that upon hearing the request Abrego asked: “Why are they chasing me if I served Salinas?” Calderoni said he fled Mexico because the FBI alerted the president that one of his commanders was talking too much. He lamented that his accusations had not changed anything. “They don’t want to listen to me,” he said. On February 2003, a gunman murdered Calderoni at his residence in McAllen, Texas.

Undercover DEA agents do the laundering

In 2011 the New York Times reported DEA agents who had infiltrated Mexico’s cartels “handled shipments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal cash across borders.”

“Drug trafficking profits are impossible to manage,” Michael Vigil, former DEA Chief of International Operations, tells Fusion. “Pablo Escobar’s brother claimed their cartel would lose 10 percent to rats that were eating the cash they hid in walls.” Vigil says that in the 1980s the Medellin cartel was spending $3,000 a year on rubber bands to tie bill bundles. He says drug money has to be laundered eventually through legitimate financial institutions; in fact it has been laundered through entire cities. “A clear example is Miami, which was primarily built with cocaine money.”

Vigil says the process has not changed and that it is only a daunting task because of the huge volumes of cash a cartel produces, not because regulations have been substantially tightened.

“When I was in the DEA we infiltrated many cartels and, yes, we did launder certain quantities.” Vigil says this is a common practice. “You follow the money and it leads to other organized crime members.” Vigil claims that during his watch they never lost track of a transaction.

Wachovia bank and the Sinaloa cartel

In March 2010 Wells Fargo-owned and Miami-based Wachovia bank agreed to pay $160 million in fines after it facilitated to be laundering money through Mexican currency exchange houses by failing to apply an “effective anti-money laundering policy or procedure to monitor these transactions to detect and report potential money laundering activity,” according to a DEA press release.

Federal prosecutor Jeffrey Sloman said: “Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations by laundering at least $110 million in drug proceeds.” The penalty was hailed as justice served.

Wachovia entered into a deferred prosecution agreement. Prosecutors could not conclude if Wells Fargo’s anti-money laundering policies were also deficient. Nevertheless, Wells Fargo failed to efficiently monitor Wachovia.The Guardian reports that on March 24, 2010 just one week after the bank agreed to the settlement, Wells Fargo stock rose by 1 percent.

The Deferred Prosecution Agreement document can be viewed here.

Zetas at the horse races and Bank of America

In 2012 the FBI found that the brutal Zetas cartel used Bank of America accounts to launder millions at horse races in New Mexico.

The FBI affidavit shows the investigation centered on Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, known as “Zeta 40,” and his brother Jose. The affidavit says the Zetas funneled an estimate of $1 million a month into the purchase of horses.

Jose Treviño used intermediaries to buy the horses at auctions in Oklahoma, New Mexico and California. According to the document “after the horses were purchased ownership would be placed in various nominee names” and the animals were scattered across different ranches. When certain horses became “profitable” they would be transferred to Treviño or other businesses under his name. He would buy these horses at very low prices. Yet the invoicing paperwork would have false dates to convey he had bought the animal before it entered a winning streak.

The document says Treviño’s earnings were deposited at a Bank of America account ending in 5000. Illicit wire transfers were then made through Mexican currency exchange houses. The investigation did not find Bank of America liable for any wrongdoing.

Marty Schladen, a reporter for El Paso Times who covered the case and sentencing, says he spoke to the feds and “they said a confidential informant had told them the Zetas were actively fixing races at the All American Futurity,” the biggest quarter horse racing event in the world.

Francisco Colorado Cessa, one of the individuals convicted, was accused by the feds on the second day of the sentencing of trying to bribe a federal judge with $1 million to get a reduced sentence. Schladen says, Robert Pitman, U.S. Attorney for the Western district said: “it’s important to show these guys this isn’t Mexico; justice is not for sale.”

An HSBC whistleblower

HSBC will have to pay $1.92 billion in fines and penalties to U.S. authorities for laundering Sinaloa cartel money and engaging in several banking law violations. The mechanisms of the scheme were unveiled after Everett Stern, an HSBC employee turned whistleblower, was hired in October 2010 as an anti-money laundering compliance officer and reported the information to the CIA and FBI.

Stern told Fusion that he immediately noticed these alleged anti-money laundering employees were unqualified to fulfill their duties. He details this in a document he submitted to the bank’s legal counsel where he states this was a measure “to fill the cubicles in its AML compliance program and to dupe the federal government into believing it was complying with the October 2010 Cease and Desist orders.” He explains HSBC hired debt collectors with no anti-money laundering experience and often lacking degrees.

These compliance officers would clear red flags to “close any inquiry into the underlying transaction,” according to Stern. HSBC would put “tremendous pressure and offered promotions and salary incentives for AML officers to close as many alerts as quickly as possible.” In short, “the goal was to close the Alerts and green-light the underlying transactions and avoid elevating the Alert to a Suspicious Activity Report.”

In December 2012, the Justice Department charged HSBC with several crimes. One of them, according to the document provided to Fusion by Mr. Stern: “severely understaffing its AML compliance function and failing to implement an anti-money laundering program capable of monitoring suspicious transactions and activities from HSBC Group Affiliates, particularly HSBC Mexico” from 2006 to 2010. The Sinaloa cartel was laundering millions through the Mexican branch.

“There is no question they hired me because of my inexperience,” Stern tells Fusion. At the time, he was 25-years-old, a fresh MBA grad. “There was no training, no tests, no nothing, I was sat in front of computer and shown what to type up.” Stern says he was three weeks into the job when he figured out what was going on. He says these debt collectors, posing as anti-laundering officers, would add dashes to the wire filters so they wouldn’t match and therefore the money would go through unnoticed. “Cartels were paying people at HSBC, they were walking into HSBC with cases full of cash and then the money would be withdrawn from U.S. accounts.” He says the bank “was actively enrolled” in the act.

Everett Stern submission to 5 government agencies  

Everett Stern’s report on HSBC violations to the CIA

Redacted email from Everett Stern alleging money laundering violations at HSBC

Stern says that aside from the fines and penalties, the Department of Justice “doesn’t want to arrest people.” He believes they are afraid of triggering a financial crisis.

Stern claims he went to the CIA first because HSBC had actually hired a former FBI agent to supervise the programs. The Guardian reports that when US authorities announced they would fine HSBC, “its shares on the London stock exchange rose by 2.8p to 644p.”

Money laundering at large

Security analyst Alejandro Hope says the money laundering headline is often blown out of proportion. “I have come to believe most of the cash remains dirty and is reinvested into the illegal market.” In short, most cartel proceeds are used to corrupt officials and purchase weapons and drugs; the smaller percentage is laundered through legitimate business and institutions.

Hope mentions a 2007 Mexico City bust, where over 200 million in cash was found at the mansion of Chinese businessman Zhenli Ye Gon. He says these cash discoveries could indicate cartels are not as likely to launder their profits through legal channels as they are made out to be. Hope emphasizes, however, that when it comes to the formal market, cars constitute a big portion of narco investment decommissions. When drug lord Joaquin ‘Chapo’ Guzman was apprehended, the Mexican government seized 43 vehicles, their sum valued at $1.6 million. Cars, real estate, banks, entire cities, it is impossible to pinpoint were all that narco money ends up.

Former Mexico Interpol director Juan Miguel Ponce Edmondson concludes that “the easiest and most effective way to go after cartels is to hit their capital.” He believes financial institutions are increasingly tightening restrictions “which implies that there is a complicity with some banks or bankers” when this happens. He emphasizes it is not only the cartels we need to worry about and points out to the Oceanografia oil company case that involves Citigroup in a $400 million fraud in Mexico.

In spite of all these known injustices, Ponce Edmondson says we can expect more of the same. “It is not in the interest of banks to apply more restrictions, because that also affects their VIP clients which deposit a lot of money.” The system seems to be engineered in a way that it simply makes money laundering inherent and inevitable. To Edmondson it is logical, “if you have a restaurant you are not going to ask your customers if they washed their hands.” In the same way, we can continue to expect financial institutions not to ask too many questions when someone walks into their premises with a large sum of cash.









Name: Devon N. Harrison

Position: Managing Director, President

Professional Experience:

Visionary Founder of Northern & Western Insurance Company, Ltd. (NWIC), Mrs. Devon Harrison has twenty years of Property and Casualty Insurance experience and currently holds her Texas License for P & C, Life and Health Insurance. She has spent the past twelve years as the President and Managing Director for NWIC. Mrs. Harrison secured the company’s first license in June of 2000 and has continued to guide the company through its growth stages including its redomicle from the Turks and Caicos Islands to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis in 2004.While she over sees all departments of the company her primary areas of responsibility are the company’s various investment programs and banking connections.

This includes trade platform selection, contract negotiation, proper bank reporting and the general daily oversight of investment performance. In conjunction with this she also oversees NWIC’s Humanitarian and charitable contributions activities on a global basis, including project selection, contract review, budget approval, funding guidelines and auditing the performance of such projects.


07215.SJohnson.SFA_LOI (1).--01 NWIC Letter of Interest - MTN 20B-95 Inclusive.-01 NWIC Letter of Interest - MTN 20B-95 Inclusive.-02



Former Maryland Resident Sentenced for His Role in $3.7 Million Advance Fee Scheme and Tax Evasion
Victimized Religious Groups as Part of the Scam


U.S. Department of JusticeSeptember 08, 2014
  • Office of Public Affairs(202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-1888



Victimized Religious Groups as Part of the Scam

(Sept. 9, 2014) A Corona, California, man was sentenced yesterday to serve six years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release in connection with a fraudulent advance fee scheme and tax evasion, reports the FBI.

Shannon Johnson, 51, formerly of Laytonsville, Maryland, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, who also entered an order that Johnson forfeit $3.7 million, and as a special condition of his supervised release, cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in determining all taxes owed for tax years 2002 through 2009, and to pay the IRS all additional taxes, interest and penalties.

The sentence was announced by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ronald Cimino of the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division; U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein for the District of Maryland;; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Kelly of the IRS—Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C., Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the FBI.

Johnson admitted that he ran a fraudulent advance fee scheme from 2006 to 2009, wherein Johnson presented himself as a wealthy international investment banker who could provide millions of dollars and euros in financing to businesses and individuals.

In return for substantial advance banking fees, Johnson and his wife, Yvette, promised to provide investors with money which they claimed they held in an overseas bank account. Shannon Johnson provided these businesses and investors with false documents purporting to be from the overseas bank to authenticate the funds. The Johnsons developed relationships with pastors, ministers and religious-based organizations to sell themselves as philanthropists on a humanitarian mission.

Shannon Johnson received payments and gifts from pastors and ministers who believed substantial donations would be made to their churches. Businesses and individuals wired and mailed the advance fees to multiple bank accounts controlled by the Johnsons in different states. Yvette Johnson opened bank accounts and conducted financial transactions using proceeds obtained from the Johnsons’ business activities.

According to his plea agreement, despite receiving approximately $3.7 million in advance fees from individuals and businesses, Shannon Johnson never provided the promised financing. Instead, the Johnsons used the money to support their lifestyle, which the indictment alleges included the purchase of Bentley, Mercedes Benz and BMW automobiles, the leasing of a $3.5 million residence in California for $18,000 a month, travel on private jets and the funding of the mortgage on their Laytonsville residence. Johnson admitted that he obtained $3.7 million by victimizing at least 11 individuals and businesses.

The Johnsons also evaded taxes on millions of dollars in income they earned from the advance fee scheme. The Johnsons admitted that they filed individual tax returns for tax years 1998 through 2001 using false Forms W-2 to fraudulently generate a total of $66,097 in refund claims; evaded the payment of their 2002 through 2006 corporate and individual taxes totaling $98,220; and evaded the assessment of their 2007 through 2009 taxes. The Johnsons attempted to conceal their income and assets from the IRS by selling assets in their own names, titling assets in the names of nominees, using multiple bank accounts across three states to disperse and conceal income, using nominees and fraudulent taxpayer identification numbers to open and maintain bank accounts and using multiple business names to conduct business.

Shannon Johnson’s bail was revoked in September 2013 after the court found that there was probable cause to believe that he attempted to commit another fraud while on pre-trial release for the pending charges in this case.

Yvette Johnson, 52, of Corona, California, previously pleaded guilty to her participation in the fraud scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 29.

This case was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation and the FBI, and was prosecuted by Assistant Chief John N. Kane of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Sullivan for the District of Maryland.