ATLANTA – Mani Chulpayev, having been arrested in Ukraine and extradited to Atlanta, has been arraigned on federal charges of bank fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering.
“Chulpayev allegedly profited from years of fraud and by catering to drug traffickers looking for flashy cars and a way to launder their ill-gotten cash,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “His arrest and extradition show that we will pursue fraudsters and money launderers no matter where they hide.”
“DEA and its law enforcement partners will continue to target drug traffickers and those who support them with criminal acts such as money laundering and wide-scale fraud, as was the case in this investigation,” said the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division Robert J. Murphy. “The spirited level of law enforcement cooperation made this investigation a success.”
“The arrest of this defendant should serve as an example to individuals that distance does not insulate them from the reach of our investigations and our resolve in the pursuit of justice,” said Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division. “Postal Inspectors will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners to dissect and financially disrupt complex money laundering schemes.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: Chulpayev, along with Lyle Livesay, Kimberly Reiss, and others, allegedly operated an enterprise from at least May 2012 to July 2016 in which they obtained luxury cars through fraudulent means, and then leased them out to drug traffickers who paid for the leases using cash from their drug sales.
To build up an inventory of cars, Chulpayev and his associates allegedly recruited straw purchasers – people who would buy luxury cars in their names, but had no intention of actually driving the cars themselves. The straw purchasers would give the cars to Chulpayev to be leased to others, including to drug traffickers who used drug proceeds to pay Chulpayev for the pricey leases. The straw purchasers bought the cars using bank loans, and would finance several luxury vehicles in a short period of time before the new loans showed up on their credit reports. Chulpayev and his associates gave the straw purchasers falsified documents, including fake paychecks, to use for loan applications. Some of the straw purchasers also obtained loans for cars that were not actually for sale so that Chulpayev and his co-conspirators would receive a cash boon from the financing bank to further their scheme.
Chulpayev and his associates would initially make some of the loan payments for the straw purchasers, but then stop, leaving the straw purchasers responsible for making payments. When the straw purchasers inevitably defaulted on the loans, Chulpayev left the banks to try to repossess the cars from the drug traffickers or locate cars that had been moved to other states, stolen, or exported to foreign countries.
A federal grand jury indicted Mani Chulpayev, 43, together with Lyle Stephen Livesay, 33, and Kimberly Ann Reiss, 35, on November 15, 2018, on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Livesay pleaded guilty to the charges on September 14, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross. Reiss is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on October 22, 2020. Chulpayev was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Regina D. Cannon.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and United States Postal Inspection Service, with valuable assistance provided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Marshals Service.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Garrett L. Bradford, Deputy Chief of the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section, and Irina K. Dutcher are prosecuting the case.
This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, and other priority transnational criminal organizations that threaten the citizens of the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence driven, multi-agency approach to combat transnational organized crime. The OCDETF program facilitates complex, joint operations by focusing its partner agencies on priority targets, by managing and coordinating multi-agency efforts, and by leveraging intelligence across multiple investigative platforms.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.