Las Vegas executives face criminal, civil charges in fraud case

Six people have been indicted by a Las Vegas federal grand jury in a multimillion-dollar, international investment scheme that stretched to Switzerland.

Those charged are Anthony Brandel, 46, and Joseph Micelli, 59, both of Las Vegas; James Warras, 67, of Waterford, Wis.; Sean Finn, 44, of Whitefish, Mont.; and Martin Schlaepfer, 55, and Hans-Jurg Lips, 50, both of Zurich.

The 24-count indictment was unsealed late last week after Brandel and Micelli were arrested in Las Vegas and Warras was taken into custody in Wisconsin. Finn, Schlaepfer and Lips remain at large, according to the Justice Department in Washington.

All six defendants face conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud charges.

From October 2009 through October 2013, the indictment alleges, the defendants used a Swiss corporation known as Malom Group AG to promote investments in European equities and debt offerings, which they said would yield high rates of return.

In a separate civil filing Monday, lawyers with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged the Malom Group was an acronym for “make-a-lot of money” and defrauded more than 30 investors out of $11 million.

“Orchestrating the fraud from Switzerland and Las Vegas, the defendants lured investors into agreements and transactions with Malom that involved fictitious ‘prime bank’ instruments and exotic high-yield trading programs,” the SEC lawyers wrote.

“In fact, Malom was nothing more than a sham company, and the investments the defendants peddled were nothing more than vehicles used to steal investors’ money.”

Federal prosecutors are seeking to recover $5.6 million from the defendants in the criminal case.

The indictment alleges the defendants provided investors with fake bank statements representing that the Malom Group had large deposit balances at prominent European banks.

The defendants collected payments of between $200,000 and $1.2 million per investor but did not put the funds toward the advertised investments, the indictment said. Instead, the defendants used the money for their own purposes, the indictment said.

Court documents allege Brandel, Micelli, Finn and Warras attempted to conceal the proceeds of the conspiracy by not filing tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the indictment, the investments the defendants promoted did not yield any returns to their victims.

When victims complained, according to the indictment, the defendants told investors the Malom Group would refund their money with the proceeds of pending transactions the defendants knew were fictitious.

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