73-Year-Old Dallas Man Convicted In International Telecom Swindle Worth $60 Mil
The way the U.S. Attorney's Office lays out the complicated deal, it sounds like something right out of the movies -- fake passports, private banks run by money launderers, loot divvied up and scattered across the globe, code names uttered over pre-paid "bat phones," recorded phone conversations, conspirators turned informants and packages full of money passed at the valet stand and concierge desk at a downtown Dallas hotel. The feds outline the scheme, which involved ripping off British Telecom and the former MCI, after the jump. But: Who plays Signoretto in the movie?
FEDERAL JURY CONVICTS DALLAS MAN IN INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS FRAUD
Fraud Extended to United Kingdom, Spain, Lebanon, France and the United Arab Emirates
DALLAS -- Following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Jorge A. Solis, a federal jury has convicted Michael Signoretto, 73, of Dallas, on two counts of an indictment charging offenses related to his role in defrauding two British telecommunications companies of more than $60 million. The announcement was made today by U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña, of the Northern District of Texas.
Specifically, the jury convicted Signoretto on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to obstruct official an official proceeding. The maximum statutory sentence for each of the counts is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing will be set at a later date.
The government presented evidence at trial, including voluminous bank/ financial records from multiple countries and intercepted telephone communications, that Signoretto and his co-conspirators, Steven Roy Jamieson, of Plano, Texas; Robert William Moore, a United Kingdom (U.K.) citizen who resided in Poland and Dubai; David William Price, a U.K. citizen; Thomas Francis Quinn, a U.S. citizen who resided in France and maintained residences in other foreign countries; Jeffrey John Hemmer, of Dallas; and others, ran a conspiracy to defraud two British telecommunications companies, British Telecom (BT) and MCI (now Verizon) out of more than $60 million. Defendants Jamieson, Moore, Quinn and Hemmer have pleaded guilty to their roles in the fraud and are awaiting sentencing. Defendants Moore and Quinn are in custody; defendant Price remains a fugitive.
According to the trial evidence, Signoretto and his co-defendants committed the fraud by purchasing a London business, London Digital Limited (LDL), that had pre-existing contracts and favorable credit terms with BT and MCI. Over an 18-month period from late 2003 to June 2005, the conspirators used LDL to quickly buy increasing amounts of "air time" from the telecom companies that they would sell at a loss to other wholesale companies, and then, when they were doing more than $20 million per month in business, put their London company into bankruptcy and walked away with three months' worth of revenues that should have been paid to the telecom companies.
The conspirators created two shell companies, Nationwide Call Company (NCC) in Dallas and FOCOS Electronics in Marbella, Spain, to covertly move the proceeds of their fraud to Aston Rothbury, a private "bank" in London operated by a convicted money launderer. From London, the conspirators had their fraud proceeds directed to three bank accounts in Beirut, Lebanon, and from there the funds were disbursed to accounts in numerous countries, including France, Kenya, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Poland, the United States, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. As part of their plan to keep the fraud secret, the conspirators utilized fake passports, spoke about the fraud on prepaid "bat phones," and referred to each other with predetermined code names.
In late 2005, the victim companies brought a federal civil action in Hammond, Indiana, in an attempt to uncover the truth of what was behind the suspicious bankruptcy of LDL. As part of the federal case, the victim companies took the deposition of Jeffrey Hemmer on four occasions between late 2005 and late 2008. Behind the scenes, Signoretto and his co-conspirators waged a prolonged effort to obstruct this federal civil case in order to prevent the victims from exposing the criminal conspiracy and everyone involved in it. Starting with a meeting of the conspirators in a Paris hotel, there was a concerted effort to get Hemmer to lie under oath in the Indiana proceedings or "take a vacation" -- the conspirators' code for fleeing the United States -- so that he could not give deposition testimony.
On four occasions between July and December 2008, Signoretto dropped four packages containing thousands of dollars at the concierge desk and valet stand at a downtown Dallas hotel, for pickup by Hemmer. Unbeknownst to the conspirators, however, Hemmer had begun cooperating with the FBI and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation agents investigating the LDL case. Beginning with consensual recordings of Hemmer's telephone calls, the investigating agents eventually obtained court-ordered wiretap interceptions of the telephones of Jamieson and Signoretto. These intercepted calls clearly implicated Signoretto and his co-conspirators in the effort to obstruct the Indiana federal case, as well as the underlying LDL fraud.