The U.S. Attorney's office today announced the indictment of three oil traders accused of running an $80 million scam against LyondellBasell, and the most entertaining part was what the trio spent their alleged ill-gotten gains on.
Jonathan Paul Barnes, 55, of Bellaire, Texas; Clyde Meltzer, 64, of Livingston, New Jersey; and Bernard Langley, 53, of the United Kingdom were indicted on 12 counts for overcharging LyondellBasell for transporting oil from Venezuela.
The indictment listed some of what they bought with the money, including a 1957 Cadillac once owned by Frank Sinatra, 11 Mercedes-Benzes (none of which, alas, once belonged to Frank Sinatra), lavish homes and lots and lots of jewelry.
Among the property purchased by Barnes was a River Oaks home. The indictment doesn't specify things further, but the Houston Chronicle reports the home was purchased for Leslie Tyler Fink, a much-talked-about member of Houston's wealthy circles.
U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno actually used the word "besmirch" in touting the indictments.
"Houston continues to be a global center in the energy industry," he said. "Fraud that threatens the integrity of the industry must be rooted out and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We cannot allow the greed of unethical operators to besmirch an entire industry."
Gary Barksdale of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service also chimed in.
"Employees have the inside track and understand how a business works, which allows them more opportunity to commit fraud," said Barksdale. "When criminals use the mail to commit fraud, Postal Inspectors will aggressively investigate to obtain justice."
Among the jewelry listed in the indictment as being eligible for forfeiture are two sets of diamond earrings, a "silver diamond pendant necklace," a "gold 'Cartier Roadster' watch," a silver Rolex and "a silver diamond and ruby necklace, bracelet and earrings set."
What do the three defendants face if convicted?
Barnes, Meltzer and Langley are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, two substantive counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit international money laundering and four substantive counts of international money laundering. In addition, Barnes is charged with passport fraud and bulk cash smuggling.
The fraud and money laundering offenses carry a prison term of up to 20 years imprisonment on each count, the passport fraud carries a prison term of up to 10 years and the bulk cash smuggling charge carries a prison term of up to five years. All the offenses carry a fine of up to $250,000, except for the money laundering offenses which carry a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds, whichever is greater.
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