Local Breaking News
Odessa man, two others sentenced in global investment fraud
TAMPA - A 64-year-old Odessa man was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison Tuesday for his role in a $137 million international investment fraud and money laundering scheme. In addition to the sentence for Robert Gunter, U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven also sent two British men, Simon Andrew Odoni, 56, and Richard Sinclare Pope, 55, to prison. Odoni was sentenced to 13 years, four months; Pope to four years and nine months. The court also ordered the three to forfeit their interests in property and bank accounts, an airplane, vessels, and vehicles purchased with proceeds of the scheme. As part of the investigation, federal agents seized nearly $5 million in cash. Scriven granted the prosecution's request to use the assets to help compensate victims for their losses. In addition, the court entered money judgments for more than of $137 million against Gunter and Odoni.Gunter Odoni were convicted in April of three counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, as well as 19 counts of mail and wire fraud, and 14 counts of money laundering. Pope pleaded guilty before the trial to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, then testified against the other two. According to trial evidence, the scam, which ran from at least July 2004 until March 2008, involved the sale of worthless stock in hijacked dormant, publicly-traded companies in the United States. Most of the were in the United Kingdom. The scheme used boiler room telemarketers, mostly in Spain, who employed high pressure and misleading sales techniques. The victim-investors wired more than $127 million to Gunter's bank accounts in the Florida. The conspirators bilked victim-investors out of another $10 million through a foreign currency trading scheme, which also utilized the boiler rooms in Spain. The victims' funds were used to buy, among other things, an airplane, two vessels, vehicles, including a Ferrari, and property in the Caribbean islands, England, and Florida. The case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the Secret Service in Tampa and New Jersey, with assistance from the City of London Police, the UK's Serious Fraud Office and Norfolk Constabulary, the Spanish National Police, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Ontario Securities Commission, and the British Columbia Securities Commission. "Unfortunately, this sentencing will not repair the huge damage they caused to the lives of thousands of people who were simply looking for a safe place to invest their money, but hopefully it will bring a measure of comfort and a sense of closure to those caught up in what was fraud committed on a truly significant scale. That Pope, Gunter and Odoni have now been successfully prosecuted is thanks to trans-Atlantic law enforcement cooperation, painstakingly piecing together this crime, insuring that those involved would one day face their day of reckoning," said London Police Inspector Kerrie Gower in a statement.