Software Company CEO Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 27 Months in Prison for His Role in $2 Million Securities Fraud Scheme
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that ROBERT KELLY, the Chief Executive Officer of Wwebnet, Inc. (“Wwebnet”), a software development company, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 27 months in prison in connection with his role in an offering fraud scheme. Specifically, KELLY diverted for his own personal use over $2 million in investor proceeds that was intended for the development of a software program capable of transmitting music, videos, and movies over the Internet. He used the money to trade options, to pay his personal income taxes, and for other purposes unrelated to software development or other legitimate business expenses. On March 11, 2014, KELLY pled guilty to securities and wire fraud charges before United States District Judge Paul A. Crotty.
According to the charging documents and related court proceedings:
From 2004 through November 2008, KELLY solicited investors to send money to Wwebnet, Inc., and related companies by misrepresenting that the funds would be used to develop software for transmitting music, videos, and movies over the Internet. Instead of using the millions of dollars in investor proceeds that he obtained for legitimate business purposes, KELLY diverted a substantial portion of the money that he raised for his own financial benefit. For example, KELLY transferred at least $2 million in investor funds into his personal trading account in the Cayman Islands, which he used to make a series of unsuccessful options trades. KELLY also used nearly $100,000 that he received from investors to pay his federal and state personal income taxes. At the same time that he was using investors’ money for his own personal benefit, KELLY falsely told his software development team that he was unable to allocate adequate resources for software development and could do so only when he was able to raise money from investors. As a result, Wwebnet lacked the necessary funds to develop its core product and the company ultimately failed.
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In addition to his prison term, KELLY, 57, formerly of New York, New York, and now a resident of Raleigh, North Carolina, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $2,111,600 in forfeiture and $2,111,600 in restitution, as well as a $200 special assessment fee.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and also thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission for its assistance.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since the inception of FFETF in November 2009, the Justice Department has filed more than 12,841 financial fraud cases against nearly 18,737 defendants including nearly 3,500 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Naftalis is in charge of the prosecution.