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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Make a Lot of Money – Go to Prison

LAS VEGAS (CN) - A California attorney who'd lost his license and moved to Las Vegas pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

Joseph Micelli, 62, pleaded guilty on Nov. 23 to participating in a conspiracy that bilked investors of more than $5 million, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Five other defendants are awaiting trial or extradition in the Malom Group fraud. Malom is an acronym for "make a lot of money."

"The conspirators told victims that, for an up-front payment, a Swiss company known as the Malom Group AG would provide access to lucrative investment opportunities and substantial cash loans," U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said in a statement.

Micelli admitted he represented himself as an attorney to investors, though he'd lost his license to practice law.

"As part of an effort to defraud an investor who held an equity stake in a corporation that had filed for bankruptcy, Micelli submitted a sworn affidavit to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Hampshire, in which he made false statements about the Malom Group's ability to provide financing to the debtors," Bogden said.

Micelli will be sentenced on Feb. 23, 2016.

The SEC sued the Malom Group and its principles and partners last year, alleging six counts of securities violations through two "advanced-fee investment schemes" perpetrated from about August 2009 to November 2011.

The SEC said Malom, based in Switzerland and Las Vegas, defrauded 30 investors of nearly $11 million.

It used "forged documents, fake histories of success and the promise of risk-free investments and astronomical returns," the SEC said in its complaint. "In fact, Malom was nothing more than a sham company, and the investments the defendants peddled were nothing more than vehicles used to steal investors' money. Several of the defendants, through at least October 2013, continued to lie to investors that transactions would occur or that refunds or returns were forthcoming."

Taking aim at Malom principles, the SEC said Martin Schlapfer and Hans-Jurg Lips of Switzerland "directed the scheme together with Malom's U.S.-based officers, executive vice president James C. Warras and compliance officer Joseph N. Micelli."

Malom "never used investors' upfront fees for any proposed transaction with Malom," the SEC said. "Instead, they diverted the funds for their personal use."

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