Deported to U.S. Following Arrest in Thailand, Defendant Posed as Securities Broker, U.S. Regulator, and Attorney
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the sentencing of THEODORE ANDREW WERNER, 48, to 3-to-9 years in state prison for international securities fraud and money laundering. On April 27, 2016, the defendant pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to all of the charges in the indictment against him, including Grand Larceny in the Second and Third Degrees, Money Laundering in the Second and Third Degrees, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.
“Modern scammers can operate seamlessly across the globe, with serious consequences for victims, whose contact with a perpetrator may begin with a seemingly innocuous phone call or email,” said District Attorney Vance. “I encourage members of the public to be skeptical of unsolicited requests or demands for funds, which may be part of a larger criminal scheme to steal money and information. In this case, the defendant, who was based in Thailand, participated in the theft of tens of thousands of dollars from victims abroad while laundering the proceeds through banks in the United States.”
As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea, WERNER, a U.S. citizen living abroad in Bangkok, Thailand, participated in the theft of tens of thousands of dollars from the victims of an international securities fraud and money laundering scheme. Beginning in 2014, victims were contacted by phone and email by an individual falsely claiming to be a securities broker. In some instances, victims were led to believe that they had the opportunity to invest in non-public securities shortly before a public offering. In other instances, victims were deceived into believing that they owned highly valuable, desirable stocks and stood to gain significant returns by paying fees to lift restrictions and exercise stock options. Based on these misrepresentations, victims—who were mainly from New Zealand and Australia—wired money to foreign banks, including several based in the U.S.
Once the victims wired their funds, WERNER and co-conspirators—posing as U.S. regulators—informed the victims that they were required to pay U.S. withholding taxes before they could receive their returns. The victims then received falsified documents purportedly sent from legitimate securities brokers and regulators.
None of the victims’ money was used as represented, and instead, the funds were withdrawn from banks by co-conspirators with access to the accounts, or by WERNER after the money was wired to personal bank accounts in Asia and elsewhere that the defendant and others controlled.
In some cases, WERNER also attempted to deceive his victims into paying additional fees by posing as an attorney at a Hong-Kong based law firm and offering to help them recover the money they had lost in the very scheme that he orchestrated.
Assistant District Attorney Vimi Bhatia, Senior Investigative Counsel, and Assistant District Attorney Marc Scholl, Senior Investigative Counsel and Counsel to the Investigation Division, handled the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Julieta Lozano, Deputy Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy, Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division. The following individuals also provided additional assistance with the case: Senior Rackets Investigators Matthew Winters and Andrew Lee, and Supervising Rackets Investigator Gregory Dunlavey, under the supervision of Assistant Chief Rackets Investigator Michael Wigdor and Chief Investigator Walter Alexander; Senior Financial Investigator Wei Man Tang, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Irene Serrapica and Chief Robert Demarest, all of the Forensic Accounting and Financial Investigations Bureau; and Investigative Analyst Kate Fisch.
District Attorney Vance also thanked the following individuals and agencies for their assistance with the investigation: Special Agent John M. Kirk and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration; Brian M. Pearce of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs; Edward Y. Ng, Attaché-IRS Criminal Investigation Division U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong; U.S. Department of State Regional Security Officer Thomas R. VanDenBrink and the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand; Maj. General and Deputy Chief Charn Wimolsri and the Royal Thai Police Central Investigation Bureau; Senior Investigator Wendy Riach, of the Christchurch, New Zealand Police Department; Special Agent David M. Roberts and the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Marshal Service; the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; and the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission.