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Archive for the ‘fraud’ Category

Service of Process By E-Mail?

Posted by Bill on January 2, 2009

av_bryan_federal_courthouse

 

 

 

  Earlier this month The Virginia Lawyers Weekly reported that an Australian attorney attempted service of process via a Facebook account (see  Click Here.  Of course, this is a unique way to serve a lawsuit since most service of process is by personal service, publication, posting or via mail. 

Now the Virginia Lawyers Weekly reports that a similar situation is happening in Federal District Court in Virginia.  Virginiaattorneys for indicted US Representative Willian J. Jefferson, D-La., asked US District Judge T.S. Ellis III to allow service of prcess by e-mail to an elusive international witness.  Read the whole story:  Click Here  Go directly to the motion filed Here.

Happy New Year to all.

Bill Lowrance
www.lowrancelaw.com

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FBI Warns Holiday Cyber Scammers

Posted by Bill on December 2, 2008

FBI alert

The FBI is reminding people this holiday season that cyber criminals continue to aggressively seek ways to steal money and personal information. Scammers are using several techniques to fool potential victims including sending unsolicited e-mails that contain attachments such as electronic greeting cards containing malware (malicious software), setting up spoofing websites that look like legitimate commercial sites, and unleashing phishing and vishing attacks where individuals receive e-mails asking for personal data.

“These cyber scammers will do whatever they can to steal your money and personal information this holiday season and are trying many different ways to commit these crimes. The best way to protect yourself is to report these scams to law enforcement or the Internet Crime Complaint Center, IC3,” said Shawn Henry, Assistant Director, FBI Cyber Division, Washington, D.C.  Read Story Here

Bill Lowrance

Attorney at Law
www.lowrancelaw.com

Posted in crime, FBI, fraud, Investigations, law enforcement, PI Chatter, private detective, private investigations, private investigators | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Fraud Criminals 1 FBI Fraud Investigators 0

Posted by Bill on October 21, 2008

NY Times reports that the FBI, our good friends, does not have the resources to investigate “criminal wrongdoings tied to the country’s economic crisis.”  Click Here Times Article

Notes from the article:

The bureau slashed its criminal investigative work force to expand its national security role after the Sept. 11 attacks, shifting more than 1,800 agents, or nearly one-third of all agents in criminal programs, to terrorism and intelligence duties. Current and former officials say the cutbacks have left the bureau seriously exposed in investigating areas like white-collar crime, which has taken on urgent importance in recent weeks because of the nation’s economic woes.

So depleted are the ranks of the F.B.I.’s white-collar investigators that executives in the private sector say they have had difficulty attracting the bureau’s attention in cases involving possible frauds of millions of dollars.

Since 2004, F.B.I. officials have warned that mortgage fraud posed a looming threat, and the bureau has repeatedly asked the Bush administration for more money to replenish the ranks of agents handling nonterrorism investigations, according to records and interviews. But each year, the requests have been denied, with no new agents approved for financial crimes, as policy makers focused on counterterrorism.

Bill Lowrance
www.lowrancelaw.com
Attorney & Private Investigator

Posted in crime, FBI, fraud, Investigations, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Offshore Accounts Tax Evasion and The IRS

Posted by Bill on October 5, 2008

 How much money do you have in your offshore bank account?  That’s right.  Some people attempt to hide money and other assets in foreign countries–out of the US and, supposedly, hidden from the IRS.

Many private investigators and attorneys search for hidden, offshore accounts.  Sometimes the money or other assets are hidden from a spouse in preparatin for a divorce.  Sometimes money is shuffled offshore to evade taxes.  Tax evasion is a federal crime, as we all know.  It is even a felony, too. 

Helio Castroneves, a U.S. resident and two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, was recently indicted by a grand jury  on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States of income taxes and with six separate counts of income tax evasion for tax years 1999 through 2004.  

His sister and business manager, Katiucia Castroneves of Miami, and his attorney, Alan R. Miller of Michigan were also indicted.  The crime, using an offshore Panamanian shell corporation to fraudulently conceal income received from business deals.  Helio Castroneves received $6,000,000 in a three year contract, kicked back $5.4 million, kept $600,000 and only reported $50,000 on his federal income tax returns.  Well, with that the IRS and the US Justice Department got busy.

In another scheme, like one was not enough, the three defendants hid $5,000,000 in an offshore “deferred royalty plan.”  It is a complicated scheme, legal under certain circumstances, but not legal in the way these three carried out the scheme.  The bottom line is that Helio earned the $5,000,000, allegedly lied about his control over the money and did not report any of the money as income.  Well, the IRS jumped on that one too.

Take note of the governments statement on this story:

“Taxpayers, small and large, famous and not famous, should be aware of the enormously severe consequences they face if they fraudulently use offshore accounts to hide income, including potentially going to prison, paying back all their taxes plus interest and penalties, and being branded a felon for the rest of their lives,” said Nathan J. Hochman, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. 

“Whether one makes a living parking cars or racing them, paying taxes is a responsibility that everyone shares. Our tax laws apply equally to everyone, regardless of status, class and income, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute these cases vigorously,” said U.S. Attorney Acosta.

Hey, read the whole story: Click Here

But, remember to play straight with income and paying taxes.  You do not want the IRS and/or the US Justice Department involved in your life.

Bill Lowrance
Tax Attorney
 Lowrance Law LLC

Posted in attorneys, crime, fraud, Investigations, law enforcement, lawyers, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

PI Continuing Education

Posted by Bill on September 29, 2008

Ed Hruneni, VP of PIAVA, and VP of Investigative Services, American Security Programs, www.securityprograms.com, Dulles, VA, contacted me today advising that he is sponsering a great continuing education program for private investigators.  On Saturday, October 11, 2008, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., American Security Programs will present a “Financial Fraud” seminar.  The cost is $35.  Topics will include mortgage fraud and other common fraud schemes.  You will learn about interviewing real estate professionals, buyers, sellers, loan officers and real estate appraisers.

The good news is that the speaker is Bill Stollhans who is the former Chief Financial Officer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as well former Assistant Director.  Mr. Stollhans is now a licensed private investigation business owner.  His company is Potomac Investigative Services LLC.  Mr. Stollhans has over 30 years of experience in law enforcement and investigations.  Mr. Stollhans is a member of PIAVA and is the past president.

Read all about the program financialfraud here.  If you need continuing education as a private investigator, don’t miss this.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA www.piava.org

Posted in fraud, Investigations, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

“Girls Gone Wild” Guy + IRS = Al Capone?

Posted by Bill on September 1, 2008

 Great LA Times story:

Classic defense —- “My Accountant Made Me Do It”

LOS ANGELES — As founder of the “Girls Gone Wild” franchise, Joe Francis has often been accused of duping women into doing things they wish they had not, especially baring their breasts in front of a video camera.

 

This time, it is Mr. Francis who says he was fooled — not by a cameraman, but by his accountant.

 

This guy faces trial on tax charges, says the LA Times, something like $20,000,000 dedcuted on his corporate tax returns—fraudulent they say.

 

Oh well, $20 mill here $20 mill there . . . . . .

 

The veracity of his claim is likely to be decided in September, when Mr. Francis will be tried in Los Angeles on federal charges that he deducted $20 million in fraudulent expenses on the corporate tax returns filed by his company, Mantra Films.

If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Read whole story:  Click Here<

Bill Lowrance
President PIAVA www.piava.org

Posted in crime, fraud, Investigations, private detective, private investigations, private investigators | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

More Phishing Scams–Child Support

Posted by Bill on June 16, 2008

News from the FBI about new phishing scam:

 The FBI and its partner, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), have received reports of phishing attacks targeting users of EPPICards. The EPPICard is similar to a debit card. EPPICards are issued by a state agency for the purpose of receiving child-support payments. The cards are currently used in 15 states.

Individuals have reported receiving e-mail or text messages indicating a problem with their account. They are directed to follow the link provided in the message to update their account or correct the problem. The link actually directs the individuals to a fraudulent web site where their personal information, such as account number and PIN, is compromised.

Individuals have also reported receiving an e-mail message asking them to complete an online survey. At the end of the survey, they are asked for their EPPICard account information to allow funds to be credited to the account in appreciation for completing the survey. Providing this information will allow criminals to compromise the account.

Click Here For Whole Story

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Information Insights Inc.

 

Posted in crime, FBI, fraud, Investigations, law enforcement, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

ACFE Webinar On Social Engineering

Posted by Bill on June 6, 2008

AFCE, the premier certified fraud examiners site, is having a webinar on social engineering.  Social engineering is getting information from people through various manipulative schemes–pretexting, phishing etc.  This webinar sounds like it should excellent for the professional investigator.  See AFCE Webinar

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

 

Social Engineering – The Foundation of Today’s Fraud Schemes

June 19, 2008 at 12:00 PM EDT
Duration: 100 minutes

Many fraudsters are adept at utilizing social engineering to successfully execute their schemes. The art of manipulating people, whether through pretexting, phishing, or other information-collecting techniques, is based on exploiting human weaknesses and decision-making biases to the direct benefit of the fraudster. This presentation will detail the elements and indicators of social engineering, provide examples of current social engineering schemes, review the risks entailed by these schemes and provide best practices for risk mitigation.

Learning Objectives:
• Understanding social engineering principals
• Identifying the red flags of social engineering attempts
• Possessing best practices and resources for related risk mitigation

Who Should Attend:
• Certified Fraud Examiners and other anti-fraud specialists
• Law Enforcement
• Loss prevention and security professionals
• Forensic accountants
• Internal and independent auditors
• Business managers and professionals assuming fraud deterrence or investigation responsibilities

Speaker

Jon McDowall, CFE, PCI, CIFI

Chief Executive Officer
Fraud Resource Group

Prices listed below reflect the Early Bird Discount and will end on June 12:
Member $99
Non-member $149

 

Posted in crime, fraud, Investigations, PI Chatter, police, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Do Not Hire A Criminal

Posted by Bill on May 27, 2008

   The NY Times has a story today about running background investigations or checks on job applicants especially at higher levels.  You do not want to hire a CEO or CFO of a company if the person was convicted of embezzlement, do you?  The story gives examples of accountants or other financially responsible employees stealing money and company assets.

Better read this before hiring a new employee.

Click Here NY Times

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Information Insights Inc. McLean, VA

Posted in crime, fraud, Investigations, private detective, private investigations, private investigator | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pellicano Conviction–Future of Private Investigators

Posted by Bill on May 26, 2008

  Newsweek has a story about the recent conviction of California private investigator Anthony Pellicano.  Pellicano was convicted in federal court recently on racketeering and wire tap charges. Click Here for LA Times Story 

What is the future of the private investigation industry? How will the Pellicano conviction place restrictions on private investigators? Click Here Newsweek Story

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Posted in crime, fraud, Investigations, law enforcement, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Criminal Records Research

Posted by Bill on April 7, 2008

  One of the best public records online search systems is SearchSystems.net.  We have a link to Search Systems in the left column.   Search Systems says it has the “largest, most up-to-date and reliable directory of public records and best resource for background checks and criminal records on the Internet. Online since 1997 and ranked Number for public records since 2001, SearchSystems.net continues to be by far the best resource of business information, corporate filings, property records, deeds, mortgages, criminal and civil court filings, inmates, offenders, births, deaths, marriages, unclaimed property, professional licenses, and much more. Easy access to billions of records!”

Recently, Search Systems put up a Criminal Records Search Guide on its web site.  See Criminal Records Search Guide

The Guide contains a lot of good information about criminal records such as how and where you find them, catagories of records, searches for records and the truth about a national criminal records search.  If you need to search a lot of public records, sign up for a SearchSystems.net account.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Information Insights Inc., McLean, VA

 

Posted in attorneys, fraud, Investigations, lawyers, PI Chatter, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Research | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Insurance Fraud Investigations–April 19

Posted by Bill on April 5, 2008

  PIAVA member and vice president, Ed Hruneni, vice president of Investigative Services, American Security Programs, is having a private investigator continuing education program on investigating insurance fraud.  PIAVA member, Ken Mitzkovitz of Detect Inc. in Alexandria, VA, will present a two hour program in his speciality–insurance fraud investigations.

Ken has over 22 years of investigative experience primarily related to insurance investigations.  Ken will also give great tips on conducting a surveillance in insurance investigations.  Attend this program and learn how to prepare a fraud investigation.

The program will be on Saturday, April 19, 2008, 10 a.m. until noon, at American Security Programs, 22900 Shaw Road, Dulles, VA 20166.  The cost is $35 per person.  To register call 703 834 8900 or email hr at securityprograms.com.

See   insurance-investigations flyer.

Also see “Red Flags” of Insurance Fraud Insurance Fraud–Red Flags

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Information Insights Inc.,

McLean, VA

 

 

 

Posted in crime, fraud, Investigations, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Virginia Supreme Court Restricts Access To Court Records

Posted by Bill on March 25, 2008

justice.jpg  Recently (March 18, 2008), the Virginia Judicial Council sent a report to the Virginia Supreme Court on a proposed, formal set of Rules of Evidence and on proposed changes to Part Nine to the Supreme Court Rules that would regulate access to public court records. 

Virginia and Massachusetts are the only two states that do not have a formal evidence code.  According to the Virginia Lawyers Weekly, VLW Blog, Click Here, the new evidence code would be similar to the Federal Rules of Evidence, but would adopt most rule language from Virginia case law.  Read the proposed rules Click Here.

Proposed changes to Part Nine of the Supreme Court Rules address concerns of personal and private information being accessible in court records.  The proposed rule provides for sealing of court records, procedures to unseal records and limiting personal information in filings with the court.  Read the proposed changes Click Here

We initially wrote about this in a previous post last year Click Here.   While the Virginia Supreme Court did not act upon the first set of proposed rule changes for access to court records, the Court is considering the Judicial Council’s most recent set of proposed rules for access to public court records.  Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell Sr. told the council that he expects the court to take some time before acting on the proposed rules.  Hopefully, the Supreme Court will consider public comments on the proposed rules.  We shall see.

Access to public court records is important to the legal and professional investigation industry.  Private investigators work for the public, businesses, law firms and attorneys.  In all cases, whether involving fraud, litigation, criminal trials or business due diligence, private investigators must be able to identify, verify and locate individuals referenced in public records.  Without the ability to gather this information, many investigations will fail or the costs will increase so that the public and others cannot afford to prepare their case or conduct due diligence or complete fraud investigations. 

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Posted in attorneys, crime, FOIA, fraud, Investigations, law enforcement, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Virginia | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Have Skype Vonnage? Security Issues

Posted by Bill on March 16, 2008

internt.jpg Think about it. You have e-mail, IM, VOIP, like Skype, Vonnage.  Who is listening or monitoring your conversations? Most of us would say “No one monitors my communications because I am not saying or communicating anyone wants to know about.”

Well, some businesses or others may have communications that should remain private.  Some security experts recommend that you maintain a land line telephone for better security rather than using a VOIP like Skype, Vonnage or others.  VOIP, e-mail and IMs are subject to intercepts.  Here are two articles outlining security features and who and how can intercept your communications. 

VOIP News
Top Security Threats-2008

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Posted in crime, fraud, Investigations, PI Chatter, PIAVA, police, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, surveillance | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Blackwater Security–Again

Posted by Bill on March 11, 2008

blackwater-logo.gif  The Washington Post has a story today about Blackwater Security and the Congressional investigation. Congressman Henry Waxman, House Oversight Committee Chairman, sent a letter to the IRS, the Small Business Administration and the Department of Labor requesting investigations into Blackwater’s employment practices, certifying itself a “small business” and withholding its employment records.  It seems that almost everyone of Blackwater’s “security persons” are not employed by Blackwater, but operate totally overseas as “independent contractors.”

Waxman says that “independent contractor” designation, which the government has questioned in the past, has allowed the company to obtain $144 million in contracts set aside for small businesses and to avoid paying as much as $50 million in withholding taxes under Department of State contracts.  Of course, Blackwater says that such allegations are “completely without merit.”  Oh, yawn, yawn, of course.

See Washington Post article

and see oversight-letter.pdf

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Posted in fraud, Investigations, PI Chatter, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Be A Money Mule

Posted by Bill on January 26, 2008

mules.jpg  The Washington Post ran an interesting story today about scammers that entice people to “work at home” for their company.  The story goes that you are solcited to “work from home” for a company.  They get your pay pal account, send you money, asking that you transfer to other accounts and keep your 10% fee or whatever.  Anyway, you lose.  Read Post Money Mules

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Information Insights Inc.

Posted in crime, fraud, Investigations, PI Chatter, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Crime Big Time–Kroll 08 Fraud Report

Posted by Bill on January 23, 2008

kroll.jpg  Kroll puts out 08 crime report.  Check it. Report

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Information Insight Inc

Posted in crime, fraud, Investigations, PI Chatter, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Research | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Worker’s Compensation Sites–All States

Posted by Bill on January 14, 2008

wrkrscomp_143405_7.jpg  Good site for worker compensation courts, and vocational rehabilitation, administrative hearings, oversight and appeals boards. In addition to the detailed listings for the U.S. Department of Labor and all 50 states, there are links to other regions: American Samoa, Guam, Navajo Nation, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Click Here

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president at piava dot org

Posted in attorneys, fraud, Investigations, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Research | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Due Dilligence? See This

Posted by Bill on January 3, 2008

dilligence.jpg  Due Dilligence–what?  Hey it’s easy, read this article in The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel pub by Ken Yormark, Protiviti investigations firm, Protiviti.

Article Metropolitan Corporate Counsel 

Picked this up from Michael Thomas at Daily Caveat

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in crime, fraud, Investigations, lawyers, PI Chatter, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Research | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Pretext The IRS–Sometimes No Need

Posted by Bill on December 19, 2007

irs   The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has article today about IRS employees accessing confidential taxpayer information without authority WSJ Article.  When this happens the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), TIGTA, investigates sort of like the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) on Law & Order.  Anyway, the incidents of IRS employees accessing taxpayer information without authorization increased from 448 in 2007 to 521 for fiscal year ending 2007.  Accessing taxpayer information without authority is strictly prohibited by the IRS and it is against the law. 

The WSJ says, “Over the past decade, Treasury investigators have opened more than 4,700 investigations. As a result, there have been 1,205 cases in which workers have been disciplined, and there have been 176 “successful prosecutions.”  Ummm, 176 successful prosecutions out of 4,700 investigations?  But, I digress. 

WSJ says that IRS employees accessed information for various reasons, including peeping at tax records of an ex-spouse, a neighbor, someone with whom they’re having an affair or a celebrity. But in some cases, the motives are more complex. 

WSJ says, “One case involved Josa’lyn Johnson, who worked as a tax-examining clerk at the IRS’s Philadelphia Service Center. The government said she disclosed confidential information, such as Social Security numbers, birth dates and bank-account information, of at least 24 individuals to someone outside the IRS — and was paid about $1,500 for the information.  She entered a guilty plea last summer to unauthorized disclosure of tax-return information and exceeding authorized access of a government computer, says her lawyer, Michael Engle.  Her sentence included three years’ probation, a $1,000 fine and a $200 special assessment.”

In a prior post, Here, I wrote about the pretexting individuals, 10 people, who were indicted by the Department of Justice for getting confidential tax information from the IRS.  TIGTA Special Agent in Charge,  Terry K. Peacock said in the U.S. Attorney’s press release:  “Citizens have the right to expect that their private information will be kept private, especially when it’s in the hands of the US Government.”  Now, says J. Russell George, the agency’s inspector general states in the Wall Street Journal article, “Taxpayers depend on a tax system that protects the confidentiality of the information they provide to the IRS. These cases can impact the integrity of the entire tax system.”  Of course, I agree. 

We may conclude from this WSJ article and the pretexting indictments, that there are far more internal IRS illegal access to taxpayer information than from outside IRS, private individuals.  There is an old saying about “a few bad apples” spoiling the barrel.  My point is not all IRS employees are bad employee illegally accessing taxpayer information and not all information gatherers or private investigators are bad professionals illegally getting confidential taxpayer information from the IRS. 

Let’s not blame an industry or a federal agency for the bad acts of a few. 

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

president@piava.org

Posted in attorneys, crime, fraud, Investigations, law enforcement, lawyers, PIAVA, police, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Virginia | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »