Canadian Deputy Health Minister Impersonator Pleads Guilty in $25 Million Fraud Scheme
Illinois Man Falsely Claimed Numerous Contracts Worth Million of Dollars with Canadian Government
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 23, 2013|
BROOKLYN, NY—Earlier today, Howard Leventhal, 56, pleaded guilty to wire fraud for defrauding and attempting to defraud a number of individuals and entities of millions of dollars by falsely claiming that his company, Neovision USA Inc. (Neovision), had a lucrative contract with Canada’s Department of Health (Health Canada). Leventhal also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year term of imprisonment, for stealing the identity of Glenda Yeates, Health Canada’s former deputy minister of health. When sentenced on April 3, 2014, Leventhal faces up to 22 years in prison, $1,050,819.78 in forfeiture and restitution, and a fine of more than $2 million.
The guilty plea was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).
“In Leventhal’s world, the truth was cloaked by his web of lies and impersonation. Within this alternate reality, Leventhal marketed non-existent technology, fabricated an online presence, and impersonated a government official, all to defraud investors out of very real money. His actions were the stuff of fantasy and science fiction, valid only in another dimension. Today’s guilty plea marks the end of Leventhal’s elaborate scheme and demonstrates this office’s steadfast commitment to protect investors from fraud,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the FBI, the lead agency responsible for the investigation, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Health Canada for their significant cooperation and assistance in the investigation.
According to court filings and facts presented at the plea hearing, Leventhal told potential investors that Neovision had written agreements with Health Canada, whereby Neovision would provide Health Canada with “Heltheo’s McCoy Home Health Tablet,” a device ostensibly named after the fictional Dr. Leonard McCoy of TV’s Star Trek series. (Leventhal claimed that Heltheo’s McCoy Home Health Tablet could instantaneously and effectively deliver detailed patient data to physicians and other licensed medical care providers.) The written agreement provided by Leventhal to potential investors was purportedly signed by Glenda Yeates, Canada’s former deputy minister of health, on behalf of the government of Canada. For example, in May 2012, Leventhal used this agreement and entered into a factoring agreement with Paragon Financial Group Inc. (Paragon), a Florida company, whereby Paragon advanced Neovision $800,000 in exchange for Paragon’s right to collect a larger sum of money purportedly owed to Neovision by Health Canada. Leventhal also used the purported agreement with Health Canada to solicit more than $25 million from other potential investors, including an undercover law enforcement agent posing as a high net worth individual.
Contrary to Leventhal’s representations, (1) there was no agreement between Health Canada and Neovision, (2) Health Canada did not owe Neovision any money, and (3) Deputy Health Minister Glenda Yeates’ signature on the agreement was a forgery. To conceal his scheme, Leventhal assumed the identities of Health Canada representatives, including that of former Deputy Health Minister Glenda Yeates. Further, Leventhal created and used domain names, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses that closely resembled those actually used by Health Canada. For example, Leventhal created and used healthcanada.com.co and hc-sg-gc.ca in place of Health Canada’s true domain name hc-sc.gc.ca.
Today’s guilty plea took place before United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Winston M. Paes.
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 is 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. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
Long Grover, Illinois
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