US wants a return of its refund to convicted financier

Published: Sunday | July 7, 2013 Comments 0

United States prosecutors want a Venezuelan-American financier to hand over a large tax refund while he awaits sentencing in a massive Connecticut-based fraud scheme, saying he misused an earlier refund and faces paying restitution that could be hundreds of millions of dollars.

Prosecutors say they believe the refund cheque to Francisco Illarramendi and his wife is for more than US$2 million, and want it deposited with the court pending his sentencing in September.

Illarramendi pleaded guilty in 2011 to several counts of fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice in a scheme to conceal huge losses.

Illarramendi ran unregistered hedge funds out of offices in Stamford. His biggest client was a pension fund for state oil workers in Venezuela.

Prosecutors say Illarramendi transferred money among investment accounts without telling clients, falsified documents to deceive investors, and used money provided by new investors to pay out returns he promised to earlier investors.

Illarramendi had been under house arrest in New Canaan, Connecticut, since entering the guilty plea, but a judge ordered him detained in January.

The sentencing had been postponed several times as Illarramendi changed attorneys.

Prosecutors said in a court motion on June 27 that the cheque is with an attorney for Illarramendi's wife. That attorney, Lindy Urso, said that he intended to file the cheque with a judge overseeing a lawsuit in the case, as required, and that he would be seeking a portion of the money to pay his client's living expenses. He said she's been forced to put herself and her children on state medical insurance and food stamps.

"She's now essentially a single mom trying to support a family with young children, with no income whatsoever," Urso said in an interview.

Prosecutors say they can't offer assurances that Illarramendi's wife would be given a portion of the cheque for living expenses. They said Illarramendi spent a state tax refund, leading them last year to ask that his bail be revoked.

Illarramendi is subject to an "enormous" restitution order that could be hundreds of millions of dollars, prosecutors said, arguing the court should take custody of the tax refund until the amount of the restitution is determined.

Prosecutors also questioned whether Illarramendi and his wife are entitled to any of the tax refund and said there's an asset freeze in place.

Stephan Seeger, Illarramendi's attorney, said he didn't object to the court deposit, but he disputes the government's loss figures.

"We hope to illustrate the difference to the court at our first opportunity, and until then, Mr. Illarramendi's claims to his income tax return, or any asset unrelated to his charged conduct, are preserved and he will assert them in the normal course," Seeger wrote in an email. "Depending upon how the law is applied in this case, the loss to victims could actually be zero."

- AP


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