- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

CROOKED COUNTRY

”If you flew the entire SEC staff to Boston and sat them in Fenway Park, they wouldn't be able to find first base,” whistleblower Harry Markopolos told a House panel earlier this year, testifying that he had tried to alert his superiors to Bernard Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme nearly 10 years ago.

Given the billions the former top Wall Street broker blew, plus plenty of additional financial schemes that went undetected if not ignored, don't think the pressure hasn't been on the embattled U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to crack down on investment fraud.

And cracking down they are. Inside the Beltway has compiled this eye-opening, up-to-date list of SEC cases thus far in 2009 that have resulted in criminal charges. Not only does the list reflect how crooked the nation's financial sector has become, it almost makes a person want to hide his or her hard-earned dollars in a pillow case:

Jan. 8: Joseph S. Forte charged in multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme

Jan. 15: CRE Capital Corp. and James G. Ossie charged with multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme

Jan. 21: Missing trader charged for defrauding investors at Sarasota, Fla.-based hedge fund

Jan. 28: Nashville, Tenn.-based financial planner charged with fraud involving investments in TARP

Jan. 30: Merrill Lynch charged with misleading pension consulting clients

Feb. 4: Assets frozen of private fund manager misappropriating investor funds

Feb. 4: Massive international boiler room scheme halted

Feb. 5: Settlement to provide $7 billion in liquidity to Wachovia investors

Feb. 5: Wall Street professionals and others charged in insider trading ring

Feb. 6: Start of $321 million fair fund distribution to investors harmed by Alliance Capital Market Timing

Feb. 11: KBR and Halliburton charged for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations

Feb. 12: Canadian citizen charged for market manipulation schemes

Feb. 17: R. Allen Stanford and Stanford International Bank charged in multi-billion-dollar Investment scheme

Feb. 17: Research in Motion and four senior executives charged with stock option backdating

Feb. 18: UBS agrees to pay $200 million to settle SEC charges for violating registration requirements

Feb. 19: Ponzi scheme halted targeting deaf investors

Feb. 25: Unregistered hedge fund charged with fraud

Feb. 25: Two New York residents charged in $500 million-plus investment scheme

Feb. 25: SEC obtains emergency asset freeze to halt $30 million “Fund of Funds” investment scheme

Mar. 2: Operators of multi-billion-dollar real estate enterprise charged with fraud

Mar. 2: SEC warns investors and financial firms of government impersonators

Mar. 3: Los Angeles-based investment adviser charged with taking warrants paid for by clients

Mar. 4: Fourteen specialist firms charged for improper proprietary trading

Mar. 5: SEC obtains emergency asset freeze to halt multi-million-dollar real estate investment fraud

Mar. 9: Investment adviser charged for inventing a billion-dollar client to lure new investors

Mar. 11: Merrill Lynch charged for failure to protect customer order information on “Squawk Boxes”

Mar. 11: Two Northern California residents charged in $40 million Ponzi scheme

Mar 12: Quest Software and three executives charged in stock option backdating

Mar. 18: Bernard Madoff's auditors charged with fraud

Mar. 18: Two Texas individuals settle SEC charges in spam scam case

Mar. 19: Former New York state official and top political adviser charged with defrauding New York's retirement fund in multimillion-dollar kickback scheme

Mar. 23: SEC obtains emergency asset freeze to halt ongoing fraud by California company

Mar. 25: SEC freezes assets of Chicago-area investment adviser for defrauding clients

Mar. 26: SEC halts $68 million Ponzi scheme involving Caribbean-based bank and Swiss affiliate

Mar. 27: Distribution of $60 million fair fund to MBIA investors harmed by accounting fraud

Mar. 31: Seattle-area firm charged in multimillion-dollar scam targeting religious community and charitable investors

April 1: Take-Two charged for stock options backdating scheme

April 1: Multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme operated by Long Island investment adviser is halted

April 6: SEC obtains asset freeze in Ponzi scheme targeting Chinese-American community in Dallas area

April 8: Colorado adviser charged in multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme

April 9: Georgia attorney charged in multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme

April 13: California promoter charged in Ponzi scheme targeting Hispanic community

NO DANCE

Because of the economic crisis, the 15th annual Aspen Summit, which was to have been held this August in Sundance, Utah, has been “postponed.”

Progress & Freedom Foundation President Ken Ferree explains: “In light of the current economic environment, we do not think it prudent to spend our supporters' money, or ask others to spend scarce dollars, on a lavish conference at a remote facility.”

The foundation-sponsored summit has highlighted the digital revolution and its implications for public policy.

• John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washington times.com.

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