Local Defense Attorney Heads to Federal Prison in Connection to Scheme to Obstruct Justice
HOUSTON—A criminal defense attorney in Houston has been ordered to prison for 15 years following his convictions on 18 counts to include conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and failure to file tax returns, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Abraham Moses Fisch, 56, was convicted by a jury May 27, 2015, following a 15-day trial and approximately 14 hours of deliberations.
Today, U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, who presided over the trial, handed Fisch a total sentence of 180 months in federal prison. He must also forfeit $1.15 million and serve five years of supervised release following completion of the prison term. Also sentenced today was Lloyd Glen Williams, 71, a former used car financier in Houston who previously entered a plea of guilty to conspiring to obstruct justice and to filing a false tax return. He will serve 84 months in federal prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. He will also forfeit $1.48 million.
At the hearing, a victim made a statement to the court. She is the mother of a defendant prosecuted in a drug case who was represented by Fisch. She testified that Fisch and Williams promised her and her son that they could get him probation by influencing Williams’ supposed contacts in Washington. The mother had used her retirement savings to hire Fisch and Williams based on this promise and paid them $80,000. She told the court that everything Fisch and Williams told her turned out to be a lie. She said that, as a result, she has lost faith in the justice system and does not know who to believe in the system anymore.
“Schemes to obstruct justice, such as the one concocted by these defendants, affect the hard work we try to do every day and the public’s perception of those efforts,” said Magidson. “These significant sentences should serve as a verdict for restoring faith in our federal justice system.”
The evidence at trial showed that Fisch and Williams conspired to defraud defendants who were facing federal criminal charges in Houston. The fraud was perpetrated in at least four different federal criminal cases pending in Houston, including U.S. v. Edilberto Portillo et al. (H-06-182), U.S. v. Hugo Barrera Cavazos et al. (H-06-422), U.S. v. Umawa Oke Imo et al. (H-09-426) and U.S. v. Clifford Ubani and Princewill Njoku et al. (H-09-421 and H-10-416).
The defendants in the four cases as well as their wives and associates testified that Williams and Fisch told them that in return for paying exorbitant fees, Williams would pay off his alleged government contacts in Washington D.C. in order to obtain a “guaranteed” dismissal of the criminal cases. Those individuals were supposedly officials at the Central Intelligence Agency, FBI, Department of Justice and Medicare.
Drug trafficker Edilberto Portillo and his wife, Elida Sanchez, paid $1.1 million to Fisch in order to obtain the dismissal of their charges. Fisch paid $700,000 of the Portillo/Sanchez fee to Williams. Umawa Oke Imo, a defendant in a large health care fraud case, testified that Fisch and Williams quoted him a fee of $3 million in order to obtain a dismissal. In reality, however, no officials were paid, no cases were dismissed, and Fisch and Williams simply split the fees between them.
The evidence showed that the scam undermined the functioning of the federal justice system by misleading defendants about the nature of the cooperation process with the government and interfering with defendants’ cooperation with the government, including failing to pass information from a defendant to the government. It also interfered with plea negotiations with the government by preventing defendants from timely entering guilty pleas because of the mistaken belief their case was going to be dismissed.
The scam also interfered with defendants’ relationships with former and subsequent counsel, including communicating with represented defendants unbeknownst to their legitimate counsel, causing them to fire counsel, not to communicate fully and truthfully with their attorneys and not to assist their attorneys in preparing their defense or in negotiating guilty pleas.
Fisch and Williams also insisted that defendants keep the nature of Williams’ so-called “assistance” secret from the court, the government and other attorneys.
Fisch was convicted of money laundering based on the deposit of the funds earned from the scheme, which totaled at least $1,150,000. The United States is seeking forfeiture of that amount as money derived from the criminal activity.
Previously released on bond, both Fisch and Williams were taken into custody following the sentencing today where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The investigation that led to this indictment and the arrests and plea was conducted by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert S. Johnson and John P. Pearson.