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United States v. Odoni

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

January 13, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
SIMON ANDREW ODONI, PAUL ROBERT GUNTER, a.k.a. Paul Baxter, Defendants - Appellants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 8:08-cr-00172-MSS-EAJ-5.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Jenny C. Ellickson, U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Appellate Section, Washington, DC; Linda Julin McNamara, Rachelle DesVaux Bedke, Arthur Lee Bentley III, Kelley Clement Howard-Allen, James A. Muench, U.S. Attorney's Office, Tampa, FL.

For Simon Andrew Odoni, Defendant - Appellant: Bjorn Erik Brunvand, Jason Jervis Wise, Bjorn E. Brunvand, PA, Clearwater, FL.

For Paul Robert Gunter, a.k.a.: Paul Baxter, Defendant - Appellant: Susan W. Van Dusen, Law Office of Susan Van Dusen, Coral Gables, FL; Neil Gary Taylor, Law Office of Neil G. Taylor, Coral Gables, FL.

Before WILSON, ROSENBAUM and BLACK, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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BLACK, Circuit Judge:

Following a joint trial, Appellants Simon Andrew Odoni and Paul Robert Gunter were convicted and sentenced on multiple counts related to two international investment fraud schemes. Each appellant raises significantly different issues on appeal. We therefore divide this opinion into two sections, the first pertaining to Odoni and the second to Gunter.

SIMON ANDREW ODONI

Odoni raises four arguments on appeal. He argues (1) the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over him; (2) there was insufficient evidence to convict him; (3) the district court erred in denying his motion for a new trial; and (4) his 160-month sentence is unreasonable. Upon review, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

We begin with a brief summary of the two schemes underlying Odoni's convictions. We include additional relevant facts in our discussion of each issue.

A. Fraudulent-Stock Scheme

Lawrence Hartman and Richard Pope began operating a fraudulent-stock scheme in 2003. Hartman would procure valueless United States shell companies that did no real business but appeared to be legitimate publicly-traded entities. Pope would then recruit salespeople to sell stock in those companies to investors. Hartman and others created brochures, websites, and press releases containing fabricated information meant to portray the shell companies as legitimate investment opportunities. Pope's salespeople, called " advisors," would call potential investors, mostly in the United Kingdom, and try to sell them stocks in the shell companies using " scripts" based on fabricated information intended to make the companies look more attractive.

Odoni played two key roles in the fraudulent-stock scheme. First, he managed Bishop and Parkes, an advisor group that employed a sales floor of advisors, i.e., individuals who used fabricated scripts to sell stocks in the valueless shell companies. Odoni's responsibilities at Bishop and Parkes included managing the sales floor, helping advisors " write good scripts," and ensuring advisors were " chasing money

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in." In exchange for his work, Odoni received a portion of the investors' funds.

Second, Odoni served as the CEO and sole director of Nanoforce Incorporated, one of the valueless shell companies Hartman procured. Salespeople told investors that Nanoforce was a technology business, although, in reality, Nanoforce did no business. In early May 2005, Odoni helped create a website for Nanoforce and told Hartman " [i]t would probably look better" to use a webhosting company located in the United States. In June 2005, Odoni circulated a Nanoforce press release to Paul Gunter, Richard Pope, and Zibiah Gunter, among others. The press release contained false statements about Nanoforce's business and efforts to expand. Beginning in mid-2005, Odoni signed board resolutions approving the issuance of Nanoforce stock to investors who had purchased shares. From May 25, 2005, through December 20, 2005, advisor groups convinced investors to buy more than $12 million of worthless Nanoforce stock.

B. Forex Fraud Scheme

In addition to the fraudulent-stock scheme, Odoni also participated in a Forex fraud scheme, which involved the sale of foreign-exchange options. Foreign-exchange options allow investors to speculate on the future prices of major currencies such as the pound, yen, euro, and dollar.[1]

In furtherance of the Forex scheme, Michael Geraud, Jeff Jedlicki, and others created Hartford Management Group, a Barcelona firm that employed salespeople who called potential investors and persuaded them to buy foreign-exchange options. Legitimate firms selling foreign-exchange options are required to disclose the risks of foreign currency investment and honestly advise investors about the outlook of the foreign currency market. Hartford Management Group, by contrast, falsified information about future developments in the currency market and told investors only about the profits they could expect to gain from trading in the foreign exchange market without disclosing any of the associated risks. Legitimate foreign currency firms also typically place trade hedges against their clients' trades, so that if a client is right about the price movement of a currency, the firm has enough money to pay the client back. Hartford Management Group, on the other hand, " never hedged [its] accounts at all" ; they " just rolled the dice that over time the clients would lose."

Odoni participated in the Forex fraud scheme by providing escrow services to Hartford Management Group--that is, he received investor funds and transferred them to a clearing firm. In this role, Odoni created an escrow company, International Escrow Enterprises, and set up accounts at Bank of America to receive investor funds. In exchange for providing these escrow services, Odoni collected a 5% escrow fee, which he split with co-defendant Paul Gunter and Richard Pope. In total, more than $10.7 million of investor funds came through International Escrow Enterprise's bank accounts.

On March 29, 2009, Odoni was brought to the United States from the Dominican Republic for prosecution. A jury subsequently found Odoni guilty of the following counts related to the schemes: one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud,

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in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956; one count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1957; ten counts of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341; and nine counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Personal Jurisdiction

Odoni argues the district court lacked personal jurisdiction to try him because the manner in which he was brought to the United States contravened the extradition treaty between the United States and the Dominican Republic. Odoni contends five armed Dominican agents, acting on a request made by the United States Attorney's Office, abducted Odoni from his home in the Dominican Republic, kept him in jail overnight, and then forced him to board an airplane to Miami, Florida, using a ticket purchased by the United States Marshal Service. When Odoni ...


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