In July 2008, federal authorities arrested a Carrollton man named Joseph Kelly Lara, whom the feds had accused of creating a phony name (Nick DeAngelis Mancuso) and a fake job (securities attorney and investment professional), which he then used to sell securities (including Google stock) he claimed he owned but didn't. It was quite the complicated scheme: Lara went to Arizona to have his name legally changed to Mancuso (maybe he was just a fan of a particular Canadian character actor?), came back to Texas to get a fake ID made, procured two phony University of Minnesota diplomas, leased some office space in Irving, hired another guy from Arizona to act as stock broker and cheerleader and wound up bilking investors and financial institutions, most in North Texas, out of $1 million. And how'd he spend it? Says the U.S. Attorney's Office press release:
Lara maintained a lifestyle consistent with financial and professional success. Using investor funds, and other fraudulently obtained funds, including money he had fraudulently obtained from Compass Bank and First State Bank of Thermopolis, Wyoming, Lara drove Mercedes Benz and BMW automobiles, resided in a luxury penthouse in the Las Colinas area of Irving, Texas, and spent lavishly on travel and entertainment.
A luxury penthouse in Las Colinas? OK, then. The full release is after the jump, as Lara's expected in Dallas federal court next week to formally plead guilty to one count of securities fraud. Lara's looking at 20 years, max.
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MAN WHO PRETENDED TO BE A LAWYER AND INVESTMENT BANKER
PLEADS GUILTY TO SECURITIES FRAUD
Defendant Inflicted More than $1 Million in Losses
DALLAS -- Joseph Kelly Lara, 41, who once used the pseudonym "Nick DeAngelis Mancuso," pled guilty today in federal court before Chief U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater to one count of securities fraud, announced acting U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. Lara faces a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and restitution. Any ordered restitution will include restitution arising from all relevant conduct, and not limited to the conduct in the offense of conviction. A sentencing date has not been set.
Lara, most recently a resident of Carrollton, Texas, has been in federal custody since his arrest in July 2008 on charges outlined in a federal criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas. A federal grand jury indicted Lara for conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and wire fraud. In a detention order entered by U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul D. Stickney on July 30, 2008, Judge Stickney noted that "Mr. Lara is involved with continuing criminal enterprises, defrauding individuals throughout the United States." The order further stated that "testimony was presented that Mr. Lara has continued his behavior of fraudulent activity well past the dates alleged in the indictment, up to the present day."
According to plea documents filed in court, from May 2003 through approximately January 7, 2005, Lara adopted the fictitious identity of a securities attorney and investment professional named Nick DeAngelis Mancuso, and using that identity he fraudulently offered and sold securities, including stock of Google, Inc., that he never actually possessed. During this time frame, Lara's fraud caused more than $1 million in losses to investors and financial institutions located in several states, but mostly in North Texas.
In 2003, Lara forged Arizona court documents that appeared to change his legal name from Joseph Kelly Lara to Nick DeAngelis Mancuso. He then used those forged papers to obtain a Texas Identification Card bearing his photograph and the name Nick DeAngelis Mancuso. By using the fictitious identity of Nick DeAngelis Mancuso, Lara concealed the fact that, while using the name Joseph Kelly Lara, he had served a prison sentence in Arizona for fraud and theft.
Lara also obtained two counterfeit University of Minnesota diplomas that appeared to confer an MBA degree and a law degree on Nick Mancuso. Lara knowingly represented to investors, banks, and others that: he had received a law degree from the University of Minnesota, that he was an attorney specializing in securities law, that he had received an MBA degree from the University of Minnesota, and that he had enjoyed a successful and lucrative career in New York City's financial industry. None of those things was true.
Lara also printed promotional material identifying Nick Mancuso as the "Managing Member" of an investment firm, "Atlantic Equity and Investments, LLC." The materials falsely stated: "Mr. Mancuso is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Walter Mondale School of Law (JD Law) and the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Business Management (MBA Finance)." From December 2003 through January 2005, Lara employed office staff and leased and used office space in Irving, Texas, for his purported investment firm, Atlantic Equity and Investments. His counterfeit diplomas were prominently displayed in his personal office.
Through that firm, Lara obtained money from investors by promising to invest it in stocks of various companies. Lara never used investor funds to purchase stocks on behalf of investors, however; the stock market investments were completely fictitious. In order to mislead and deceive investors, Lara directed an associate, Brett Leslie Clarke, 35, of Phoenix, Arizona, to pose as a fictitious stock broker using the pseudonym "Ben Goodson" to assure investors that their funds were being invested in stocks.
Clarke is scheduled to plead guilty on Thursday, June 11, 2009, to an Information filed in the Northern District of Texas that charges him with conspiring to commit securities fraud with Lara.
Although his investment firm was bogus, Lara maintained a lifestyle consistent with financial and professional success. Using investor funds, and other fraudulently obtained funds, including money he had fraudulently obtained from Compass Bank and First State Bank of Thermopolis, Wyoming, Lara drove Mercedes Benz and BMW automobiles, resided in a luxury penthouse in the Las Colinas area of Irving, Texas, and spent lavishly on travel and entertainment.
The case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan M. Buie is prosecuting.