|Ex-NTG execs face fed fraud indictments||
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|OTHER BUSINESS NEWS|
|January 23, 2003
By KATHLEEN JOHNSTON JARBOE, Daily Record Business Writer
|Four former Baltimore business executives were indicted yesterday on 10
counts each of mail, bank and wire fraud for allegedly falsifying accounting
records to lure investors into their struggling telecommunications firm, Network
Technology Group Inc.
Those charged were Michele Tobin, 47, the former chief executive officer who now lives in Avon, Colo.; Victor Giordani Jr., 55, the former chief operating officer; Thomas Bray, 48, the ex-chief chief financial officer; and Beverly Baker, 51, the former controller.
“The indictment holds [the corporate officers] responsible for the accounting fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio. He said the indictments were to be the first of many more cases to come involving white-collar crime.
The Baltimore-based Abell Foundation Inc., Smith Whiley & Co. of Connecticut and Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co. were listed as victims of the crime. Venture firms Abell and Smith Whiley lost $750,000 and $1 million respectively. The companies placed the money in the spring of 2002 after receiving falsified financial statements from NTG that inflated its income and assets by more than $2 million.
Part of the fraud included NTG officials hiding expenses and creating fictitious bills for work never done. Those false work orders also won the company higher credit lines from Mercantile.
NTG had a $3.5 million line of credit before it folded on July 12, 2002, after its new chief executive officer discovered the fraud.
The bank’s losses were well over $1 million, said John M. Collard, who ran the company after Tobin left last June for health reasons.
Bank officials refused to comment on the indictment. Customer privacy issues prevent the bank from making statements, said spokeswoman Janice Davis.
Representatives from the Abell Foundation were not available for comment.
If convicted, the defendants could face a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for each count, DiBiagio said.
While the sentences are not likely to reach the maximum, they will be tougher than they would have been in the past, according to the attorney who represented John Rusnak, the Allfirst trader whose currency trading crimes cost the bank $691 million.
“The current climate, post-Enron, is very tough on white-collar allegations,” said David B. Irwin.
Rusnak was sentenced last week to seven and a half years in prison and is obligated to pay back at least $60,000 of the losses he accrued.
DiBiagio said the indictment was the result of his office’s focus during the last year on prosecuting white-collar crime. Such crime is too prevalent in the state and hurts its economy, he said.
When NTG folded, 125 workers lost their jobs. Half of those lost three weeks of pay, and the other half lost two weeks’ compensation for their work.
But the losses extended even further into the community, where $3 million was lost that could have created new jobs and funded businesses in the state, DiBiagio said.
“There are real consequences for corporate fraud in Maryland now,” DiBiagio said.
Federal and state investigators began looking into the allegations after accounts of the story in the media.
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