Cash Plus drama …Carlos Hill and co-accused charged with fraud
. Seized documents lead police to over US$7 billion overseas
Paul Henry, Observer staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Head of failed alternative investment scheme Cash Plus Limited, Carlos Hill, and his brother Bertram Hill were yesterday slapped with fraud-related charges along with Cash Plus’ Chief Financial Officer Peter Wilson, hours after the police revealed that over US$7 billion held in overseas financial institutions have been traced to the embattled Cash Plus boss.
Carlos Hill was charged under the Larceny Act with four counts of fraudulent conversion and four counts of obtaining money by false pretence. He was also charged under Common Law with one count of conspiracy to defraud.
Bertram Hill, who the police say is a director of Cash Plus, and Wilson have both been charged with one count each of conspiracy to defraud.
The three are scheduled to appear in the Half-Way-Tree Resident Magistrate’s Court Thursday.
The Hill brothers were last Thursday arrested during an early morning raid on Carlos Hill’s upscale Norbrook, St Andrew home following complaints by investors that they have been defrauded out of their monies loaned to Cash Plus. Several boxes of documents and other items, including five high-end motor vehicles, were taken from the premises. Wilson was arrested that same night.
The arrests came a day after court-approved co-interim receiver manager, Kevin Bandoian, announced that Cash Plus did not have the necessary funds to start paying out the approximately $4 billion owed to the entity’s 40,000 lenders by April 14 as promised.
The revelation of Carlos Hill’s suspected billions was made at a mid-morning press briefing yesterday by Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green.
According to Green, documents seized from Carlos Hill’s home revealed that a loan of US$1 billion was secured last January on “at least US$2.5 billion” held in five accounts in Germany.
In addition, Green said, the police will have to confirm whether bank guarantees, loans or letters of credit exist for the US$450 million held in Ghana/London and over US$4 billion at other overseas financial institutions, all under the name of Galina Trust Limited, an outfit believed to be registered in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The assistant commissioner said also that enquiries are being made into what appears to be the obtaining or transferring of substantial assets to Galina Trust from Cash Plus.
Green said that based on the assessment of additional documents, “other sign ificant sums and bank accounts” may exist and are believed to be held in the British Virgin Islands, UK, Spain, Kuwait and China.
He said also that investigators have become aware of another 106 overseas companies that may be affiliated directly to the 60-year-old Carlos Hill, separate and apart from the known 80 companies in countries across the globe that are part of the Cash Plus Group.
Green said that investigators were aware of other companies such as the China Index Fund in China, “where it would appear that funds have been transferred from a bank in the Turks and Caicos [Islands]”.
A cautious Green, however, advised investors not to get carried away at Carlos Hill’s apparent billions.
“Again, I urge restraint regarding what appears to be vast sums of money, as it will take time to confirm their existence and even longer to restrain them for the investors,” Green advised.
Green also said that investigations into Cash Plus’ operation revealed that the entity, which burst onto the local financial landscape five years ago with the promise of a 10 per cent monthly return on monies loaned to the company, was nothing more than a pyramid scheme.
“. It appears that [Cash Plus] has been operating as a pyramid scheme, with investors providing funds to ensure that those earlier investors received their returns and these additional assets were then transferred overseas,” Green said.
Cash Plus was closed down last December by the Financial Services Commission because it never obtained the relevant trading licences. Cash Plus’ local accounts were then closed in January by the National Commercial Bank, stemming separate rulings in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Yesterday, lawyers representing the accused men lashed the police for what they termed the “offensive” press conference and accused the police high command of trying their clients in the media.
“What they seem to be interested in is having the matter tried by the media, and I find the whole situation offensive,” said attorney Hugh Thompson. “What they need to do is to stop giving press conferences and come to court and show us what they have, because that is what we are interested in. We no longer want to hear from Les Green, we want to see him in court.”
Added attorney Valerie Neita-Robertson: “I want the people of this country to take them to task. I have never heard of this in my life, they hold a press conference and they are talking about millions and billions of dollars that Mr Hill has all over the world. I think it is improper, I think it creates a bias and it is very unprofessional.”
Last December, the Observer reported that Carlos Hill was convicted of racketeering, mail fraud and of making a false statement in three US jurisdictions and was sentenced to near 30 years in prison.
Some 500 people were fleeced out of approximately US$8 million, through his four companies, which offered real estate and mortgage services. His conviction on mail fraud activities in Texas cost American taxpayers some US$100 million, according to US court documents obtained by the Observer.
He, however, spent just 10 years in prison before his return to Jamaica in 2002, where he formed Cash Plus. Carlos Hill was spared deportation as part of his plea deal.
Hill, who was born in Jamaica on June 20, 1947, migrated to the US with his family in 1967, where he married a Jamaican woman with whom he had five children.
According to a case file reported in 1996 Westlaw (WL 33648765), Hill, at his April 26, 1996 plea hearing in New Jersey, “confessed that he and his co-conspirators used various corporate entities, including Citywide Mortgage Corporation and Citywide Financial Services, to engage in an ‘advance fee scheme'”.
Added Westlaw: “More specifically, defendant solicited and accepted money from customers (an ‘advance fee’ of about [US]$25,000 – [US]$35,000) based on a fraudulent promise to arrange funding for loans which never materialised. As a result of this scheme, Hill and his collaborators defrauded nearly 500 victims out of an estimated eight million dollars.”
Westlaw also said that “At the height of the Citywide conspiracy, Hill and his cohorts controlled 35 corporations with offices across this country, Euro