SAN FRANCISCO –Jack Abramoff has been charged in a criminal information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and violating the Lobbying Disclosure Act. In a connected case, a federal grand jury in San Francisco has indicted Rowland Marcus Andrade for wire fraud and money laundering. The announcements were made by United States Attorney David L. Anderson, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation John F. Bennett, and Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Kareem Carter.
The allegations underlying the charges against Abramoff, 62, of Silver Spring, Md., and Andrade, 42, of Missouri City, Texas, are contained in two separate documents: the information filed June 25, 2020, charging Abramoff, and the indictment filed June 22, 2020, charging Andrade. According to the allegations in the charging documents, Andrade and Abramoff conspired to make false and misleading statements to potential purchasers of a proposed new cryptocurrency called AML Bitcoin. According to the indictment, Andrade was the founder and chief executive officer of NAC Foundation, also referred to as the “National AtenCoin Foundation,” an organization that was intended to develop and manage the new cryptocurrency AML Bitcoin. Andrade claimed to be the creator of AML Bitcoin and inventor of its technology that purportedly would prevent money laundering and anonymous use through “biometric technologies.” The charging documents allege Andrade claimed this technology would allow the AML Bitcoin cryptocurrency to comply with anti-money laundering and know-your-customer laws and regulations. According to the charging documents, the defendants misled purchasers through various means when raising money to fund the venture. In addition, the charging documents allege Andrade defrauded investors by misusing funds that were raised and laundered funds that were illegally obtained.
The indictment and information allege that beginning in July 2017 Andrade and his company NAC Foundation began raising money for the development of AML Bitcoin by selling AML Bitcoin to purchasers in the United States and elsewhere, and that sales continued through at least December 2018. According to the charging documents, NAC Foundation raised more than $5 million through the sale of AML Bitcoin. The charging documents allege the defendants engaged in the following criminal condu
In January and February 2018, Andrade and Abramoff allegedly engaged in a false “rejection campaign” regarding a television commercial that they falsely stated was going to be aired during the 2018 Super Bowl television broadcast. The television commercial portrayed AML Bitcoin as impervious to hacking efforts by the North Korean government and its leader in a manner demeaning to the North Korean government and its leader. Andrade and Abramoff falsely claimed that the advertisement would have aired during the Super Bowl if the television network airing the Super Bowl and the National Football League had not rejected the advertisement as being too politically controversial. In fact, as Abramoff and Andrade knew, the NAC Foundation did not have the funds to purchase the advertising time, did not intend to air the television commercial, and the advertisement was not reviewed or rejected by the television network or the NFL. Abramoff and Andrade used paid op-ed articles, social media, and AML Bitcoin press releases to make statements that the commercial had been rejected in order to promote AML Bitcoin to prospective purchasers.
Andrade, Abramoff, and Andrade’s NAC Foundation allegedly made false statements to the public and potential purchasers of AML Bitcoin that misrepresented the state of the development of the technology and the viability and timeline for the release of AML Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
Andrade, with assistance of Abramoff, allegedly made statements that falsely stated and implied NAC Foundation had reached or was about to finalize agreements with various government agencies for the use of AML Bitcoin or AML Bitcoin technology. The statements were intended to convince prospective purchasers that the cryptocurrency was progressing toward widespread adoption. In addition, Abramoff allegedly retained writers to disseminate these statements as op-eds published on various news and financial websites. Included among the false claims were claims that the NAC Foundation was near a partnership with the Panama Canal Authority to permit AML Bitcoin to be used for ships passing through the Panama Canal when no such agreement or negotiations existed.
Andrade allegedly diverted more than $1 million obtained through the sale of AML Bitcoin and spent it on personal expenses, including the purchase of two properties in Texas.
Andrade allegedly laundered funds from the venture by steering investor assets through various bank accounts before moving them into an account for Andrade’s personal expenses and the purchase of the two properties.
The information filed against Abramoff also alleges that he knowingly and corruptly failed to register as a lobbyist, as required by the Lobbying Disclosure Act, after being retained for lobbying efforts that would involve one or more lobbying communications with a federal official. This is the first ever known prosecution of a lobbyist for a criminal violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act. The information alleges that during part of 2017, Abramoff was retained by a client in the marijuana industry, and that the engagement in part involved efforts to advocate for changes in federal law and policy. The information also alleges that in June 2017, an FBI undercover agent, posing as a business person seeking to fund lobbying efforts, agreed to retain Abramoff for lobbying activities including lobbying contacts. After being retained, and after having a later lobbying contact with a federal elected official, Abramoff failed to register as a lobbyist with the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives within 45 days of the retention or the contact, as required by the Act.
In sum, Andrade is charged in the indictment with one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and one count of money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1). Abramoff is charged in the information with one count of conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and one count of violating the provisions of the Lobbying Disclosure Act, in violation of 2 U.S.C. § 1606(b).
Andrade was arrested on June 23, 2020, in Missouri City, Texas, and appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Houston, Texas. He was released on bond pending his initial San Francisco federal court appearance, which is set before the duty U.S. Magistrate Judge on July 1, 2020.
Abramoff has filed a stipulated notice of an intent to change plea pursuant to a plea agreement. The hearing for intended change of plea has not yet been scheduled.
An information and an indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, Andrade faces a maximum sentence of 20 years, and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate, for violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and a maximum sentence of 20 years and a fine of $500,000 for violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1). Abramoff faces a maximum sentence of 5 years, and a fine of $250,000 for violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and a maximum sentence of 5 years and a fine of $250,000, for violation of 2 U.S.C. § 1606(b). However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
In separate civil actions filed on June 25, 2020, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges against Andrade and Abramoff, alleging securities fraud and acting as unregistered brokers of securities, among other charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lloyd Farnham and Andrew Dawson are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Kimberly Richardson. The prosecution is being conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office new Corporate Fraud Strike Force. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations with the assistance of the San Francisco Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission.