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Friday, May 20, 2011

Law Partner Pleads Guilty to $837 Million Investment Fraud Scheme

Viaticals lawyer Michael McNerney pleads guilty
The Sun-Sentinel by Jay Weaver-  May 19, 2011

A prominent attorney whose fortunes rose with a Fort Lauderdale viatical insurance company at the center of a $1.25 billion investment fraud case pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single conspiracy charge, marking a major development in the long-running prosecution of executives and others at Mutual Benefits Corp.  Michael McNerney, 62, of Fort Lauderdale, admitted that as its lawyer, he helped the now-defunct company lure thousands of investors worldwide into buying dubious life insurance policies held mostly in the names of people dying of AIDS.  His role was part of an alleged investment scam lasting from 1995 to 2004 that authorities say rivals the $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme of disbarred Fort Lauderdale lawyer Scott Rothstein, convicted last year of selling fabricated legal settlements in a separate criminal case.  As part of his deal, McNerney will cooperate with prosecutors on how the alleged life settlement racket was directed by Mutual Benefits' senior executives.

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Department of Justice Press Release

For Immediate Release
May 19, 2011 United States Attorney's Office
Southern District of Florida  -  Contact: (305) 961-9000

Former Founding Partner of Ft. Lauderdale Law Firm Pleads Guilty to $837 Million Investment Fraud Scheme

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Miami Field Office, announce that defendant Michael J. McNerney, a founding partner of the Ft. Lauderdale law firm formerly known as Brinkley, McNerney, Morgan, Solomon & Tatum, LLP, pled guilty on May 18, 2011, to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud investors in the Mutual Benefits Corporation (“MBC”). As part of his plea agreement, McNerney agreed to be responsible for $837 million in restitution to the investors who were victims of this fraud.  Sentencing has been scheduled for August 26, 2011 before U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan. At sentencing, McNerney faces a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison.  For almost 10 years, from about October 1994 through at least May 2004, McNerney was the lead outside lawyer for MBC, and participated in a scheme through which MBC sold investment interests in viatical and life settlement insurance policies to the general public, raising more than $1.25 billion from approximately 30,000 investors worldwide. A viatical settlement is a transaction in which a terminally ill person sells the death benefit of his or her life insurance policy to a third party in return for a lump-sum cash payment, which is a discounted percentage of the policy’s face value. A life settlement is similar to a viatical settlement, except the seller is not terminally ill, but is a senior citizen. In the sale of viatical or life settlements, an investor would realize a profit if, when the insured dies and the policy matures, the policy benefit is more than the price paid for policy. Any profit realized would be decreased by additional out-of-pocket costs, such as premium payments.  As charged in the information, McNerney, as outside counsel for MBC, made and caused others to make, knowingly misleading representations concerning such matters as the management of MBC and its related entities and the sufficiency of the funds set aside to make premium payments on the investors’ policies. For example, among the misrepresentations made to investors, MBC’s sales agents falsely promised a “fixed return” on investments and falsely represented that MBC had a strong track record of accurately predicting life expectancies. In addition, McNerney and his conspirators concealed from investors and regulators the fact that Joel Steinger, a convicted felon, was the key decision maker at MBC. Through these and other misrepresentations, MBC engaged in an unsustainable Ponzi scheme, in which it used new investors’ monies to pay previous investors.  United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Attorneys hold a position of trust in our society. As such, they are expected to deal honestly and truthfully with their clients and the general public in the exercise of their duties. This attorney breached that duty and defrauded investors by providing “legal cover” to what was essentially nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. McNerney abused his position of trust and used his law license to help commit this massive fraud. Such abuse will not be tolerated.”  “This is another case about an attorney who instead of doing the right thing was motivated by his personal greed and defrauded thousands of investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies. “McNerney’s actions were illegal and unethical and those who engage in such behavior need to know that they will be brought to justice, regardless of how elaborate or complex they think their scheme is.”  Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the Southeast Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which previously brought a civil action against MBC and its principals. The matter is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerrob Duffy.  A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

3 comments:

Corrupt Courts Administrator said...

FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – A founding partner of the Ft. Lauderdale law firm Brinkley, McNerney, Morgan, Solomon & Tatum, LLP has pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud for his part in a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme. As part of his plea, Michael McNerney agreed to pay $837 million in restitution to those he bilked. From October 1994 through at least May 2004, McNerney was the lead outside lawyer for Mutual Benefits Corp. and sold investment interests in viatical and life settlement insurance policies.
In a viatical settlement, a terminally ill person sells the death benefit of his or her life insurance policy to a third party for a discounted percentage of its value. In return they receive a lump-sum cash payment. A life settlement is similar to a viatical settlement, except the seller is not terminally ill, but is a senior citizen. In both cases, an investor would only make a profit when the insured person died, when the policy matured, or when the policy benefit was more than the price paid for policy. Any profit would be decreased by additional out-of-pocket costs, such as premium payments. Prosecuturs say McNerney promised guaranteed returns on life insurance policies and MBC was a Ponzi scheme that raised more than $1.25 billion from approximately 30 thousand investor worldwide using fraudulent claims. Sentencing has been scheduled for August 26th; McNerney faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

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See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:


               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
         
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2