Monday, January 25, 2021

Former Vikings investor Reginald Fowler faces new wire fraud charge in crypto case

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An Arizona businessman who once owned a stake in the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings was accused of fraud relating to another sports league as he prepares to go on trial for allegedly running a shadow bank for cryptocurrency traders.

Reginald Fowler was charged Friday in federal court in Manhattan with defrauding individuals associated with a professional sports league by using illegally obtained funds to try to buy an ownership stake. Though prosecutors didn’t identify the league, the timing and details match up with Fowler’s reported investment in the Alliance of American Football, an upstart rival to the NFL that shut down in April 2019 after only eight weeks of play.

Fowler is already facing trial in April on charges that he and an Israeli woman, Ravid Yosef, operated an unlicensed banking operation tied to virtual currency trading. According to prosecutors, Fowler and Yosef lied to banks to open accounts and funnel hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of cryptocurrency exchanges. The arrangement allowed them to avoid money-laundering safeguards that apply to licensed financial institutions.

James McGovern, Fowler’s lawyer, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Last month Fowler rejected a deal that would have allowed him to plead guilty to a single count. The deal unraveled when the government insisted he forfeit as much as $371 million held in more than 50 accounts, while Fowler did not want to commit to a specific sum.

Fowler, of Chandler, Arizona, is better known for his ties to professional football than his involvement with cryptocurrencies. In 2005, he tried to buy the Vikings for $600 million but had to settle for minority ownership when he couldn’t come up with the cash. His involvement with the team ended in 2014.

Fowler and a firm identified in the indictment have direct ties to a Panamanian company, Crypto Capital Corp., people familiar with the matter said in May 2019. Crypto Capital’s name surfaced in April when New York Attorney General Letitia James accused the companies behind the cryptocurrency Tether and digital exchange Bitfinex of covering up the loss of about $850 million in client and corporate funds.

Those companies in turn said the money had been deposited with Crypto Capital, where it was seized by authorities in the U.S., Poland and Portugal.

Yosef and another Crypto Capital principal, Oz Yosef, also known as Oz Joseph, who was indicted in October on similar charges, both remain at large.

The case is U.S. v. Fowler, 19-cr-254, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Original article on bloomberg

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