Ft. Lauderdale Man Charged with Obstruction of Proceedings and Providing False Testimony Before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
|U.S. Attorney’s Office May 30, 2013|
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announced that Robert J. Vitale, 42, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was charged by information with obstruction of proceedings and providing false testimony before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Specifically, the information charges one count of obstruction of proceedings before an agency of the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1505, and one count of perjury, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1621. Vitale faces a potential sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine as to each count.
According to the information, in or around May 2012, the SEC was conducting an official investigation into allegations that Vitale engaged in violation of the securities laws. As part of the investigation, the SEC attempted to identify assets and bank accounts attributable to Vitale. On or about June 4, 2012, Vitale completed and provided to the SEC a “Background Questionnaire” form purporting to list bank accounts and other assets attributable to him. Shortly before completing the questionnaire, Vitale transferred $100,000 from an account that was disclosed on the form to a separate account that he controlled.
As alleged in the information, Vitale willfully failed to disclose the existence of the funds or the bank account holding the funds to the SEC. Thereafter, on June 5, 2012, Vitale provided sworn testimony to the SEC at the SEC’s Southeast Regional Offices in Miami, Florida. During this sworn testimony, the information alleges, Vitale provided false testimony about his assets and accounts, as well as the accuracy of the Information provided on the form he had submitted to the SEC.
Previously, in an unrelated matter, on or about August 15, 2006, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida entered a Final Judgment in SEC v. Robert Vitale et al., No. 04-60493 (the “2004 case”), in which Vitale was, among other things, ordered to pay disgorgement and civil penalties of $100,025 for alleged violations of the federal securities laws. As of June 5, 2012, the information alleges, Vitale had failed to satisfy his obligations from the 2004 case.
United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “The SEC plays a vital role in policing our nation’s securities markets and protecting investors from misconduct. We will not allow defendants to obstruct the SEC or provide false testimony to thwart the due administration of justice.”
“The FBI will vigorously investigate and seek prosecution of individuals who allegedly attempt to obstruct an agency of the United States from carrying out its mission, such as the SEC’s efforts to protect investors. When an individual provides false testimony or conspires to obstruct justice, our system of justice is undermined,” said Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami Division. We will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the SEC, and our other partners to safeguard the integrity of the legal system.”
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and the SEC. The matter is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerrob Duffy.
An information is only an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.