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3 charged in $15 million litigation-funding scam

Fraudsters duped investors for almost three-and-a-half years

Yesterday the government charged three men with cheating individuals out of $15 million through three litigation-funding scams.

According to federal prosecutors, Peter Liounis, Ruslan Rapoport and Roman Tsimerman conspired on three fraudulent investment schemes from December 2008 to this April.

In the first scheme, the group ran a company called the Rockford Group, which they portrayed as a private equity firm that invested money in personal-injury lawsuits and other litigation. The company promised its investors 15 percent of any plaintiffs’ recoveries from the suits. But rather than investing the investors’ money in litigation, Liounis, Rapoport and Tsimerman wired investors’ money to overseas bank accounts. Prosecutors say about 200 U.S. and Canadian investors lost $11 million from the scam.

In the second scheme, Liounis called a Rockford Group investor while posing as Andrew Black, a representative from global financial services company UBS AG. Liounis told the investor about a false opportunity to invest in an initial public offering of General Motors Co. stock after the automaker emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. Federal agents contacted UBS and determined that no Andrew Black existed at the company. Liounis and his cohorts stopped the scheme and returned the investor’s funds.

In the most recent scam, the three men ran another fake litigation-funding company called Grayson Hewitt. This time, they spent about $5 million in investors’ funds on gold, meals, clothes and other items.

Liounis is charged with wire fraud and could face up to 20 years in prison. Rapoport, who also could face up to 20 years behind bars, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. Tsimerman is charged with money laundering and faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence. All three men are scheduled to appear in Brooklyn federal court next week. 

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