Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Sarasota lawyer sentenced to 10 years in prison for role in $72M fraud scheme

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A Sarasota man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for playing a key role with a local investment firm that prosecutors say operated a large-scale Ponzi scheme.

Joseph S. Anile II also was ordered to pay $3.2 million, the amount that he received from the Oasis International Group scam that bilked $72 million from investors.

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Anile, a licensed attorney who was a co-founder and president at Longboat Key-based Oasis, pleaded guilty in September 2019 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, money laundering and filing a false income tax return.

He faced more than 30 years in prison, but prosecutors recommended a lesser sentence for the guilty plea and cooperation.

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Anile, 56, was the first person to admit being part of the foreign exchange trading scam that burned at least 700 investors.

U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven on Wednesday also ordered Anile to forfeit his interest in multiple pieces of real property, including a luxury residence in Sarasota, high-end vehicles, currency, gold coins and silver bars, all that he purchased with money from the fraud. The judge also ordered him to pay $53.27 million in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa.

Anile’s actions with Oasis destroyed the lives of his investor victims, said Brian Payne, special agent in charge at IRS Criminal Investigation.

“Oasis International not only fraudulently depleted the life savings of its investors, many of them seniors, but also caused their victims and families untold mental anguish, emotional distress and broken trust,” Payne stated in a news release. “These offenses are most heinous, and we are proud to stand with our law enforcement partners to bring these crooks to task.”

Federal regulators shut down the Oasis operation in April 2019, claiming CEO Michael J. DaCorta, Anile and others fraudulently misappropriated the majority of the $72 million they raised from investors, and lost the rest in forex trading.

They are accused of using investors’ funds to pay for homes, exotic vacations, sports tickets, pet supplies, loans to family members, and college and study-abroad tuition.

Court documents state $28.9 million was used for Ponzi payments, or fresh investor funds paid to earlier clients who wanted to withdraw money. Some $7.8 million purchased homes in Lakewood Ranch for DaCorta, Anile and Oasis principal Francisco “Frank” Duran, and for the office on Longboat Key. Another $6.9 million covered such personal expenses as private plane charters, luxury automobiles, gold coins and silver ingots.

DaCorta was charged with fraud crimes in December. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in May 2021, court records show.

The Oasis fraud ranks near the top among the numerous Ponzi-type scams that cheated Southwest Florida investors in recent years.

Arthur Nadel, probably the most notorious local scammer, cost his clients more than $160 million. Sarasota’s Beau Diamond, a foreign exchange trader, took $7 million from clients and lost another $22 million in trading. Money managers John and Marian Morgan of Sarasota were convicted of stealing $28 million from 87 victims. Gary and Todd Smith, two former advertising executives from North Carolina, were sentenced to prison terms for swindling $63 million from investors in Sarasota and elsewhere.

Oasis told clients their money was invested risk free and would yield a minimum 12% per year. The two Oasis pools claimed returns of 21% in 2018, but they actually lost 96% of their value, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission stated in a civil enforcement action it filed in April 2019.

A court-appointed received has been seizing assets from Oasis and its principals to recover money for investors.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Anile created offshore entities, secured broker-dealer licenses, drafted promissory notes and disclosures, monitored incoming wire transactions, directed outgoing wire transactions and interacted with victim-investors to help carry out the scheme. He and other conspirators also developed and administered a “back office” operation – a secure website that falsely depicted account balances and earnings – to convince victim-investors that their principal balances were safe and earning money.

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