Salt Lake City Man and Chicago Man Convicted of Wire Fraud Conspiracy
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – A jury voted yesterday to convict two men of conspiring to defraud the Laurentian Aerospace Corporation (“Laurentian”) of $2.5 million.
Keith Eric Jergensen, age 58, of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Debashis Ghosh, age 53, of Chicago Illinois, were found guilty following a 7-day trial before United States District Judge Brenda K. Sannes in Syracuse.
The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and Vadim D. Thomas, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Acting United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith stated: “Jergensen and Ghosh stole $2.5 million from a group of people who founded Laurentian with the hope of building a new business in the North Country. Jergensen and Ghosh quickly gained their victims’ trust, and just as quickly abused it by taking their money and then lying to them about what had occurred. They strung their victims along for years with false promises that their money would be returned. Yesterday’s verdict brought them to justice, brought justice to their victims, and demonstrates our commitment to investigating and prosecuting financial crime.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Vadim D. Thomas stated: “Jergensen and Ghosh abused their investors’ trust, as well as their money. The FBI is dedicated to investigating these crimes because of their lasting impact on the lives of the victims and our community as a whole. Jergensen and Ghosh will now face the serious consequences of their fraudulent actions.”
Judge Sannes is scheduled to sentence the defendants on February 16, 2018. They each face up to 20 years in prison, 2 years of post-imprisonment supervised release, and a maximum $250,000 fine. They may also be ordered to pay restitution to their victims. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.
The evidence at trial demonstrated that Jergensen and Ghosh were Co-Chief Executive Officers of Verdant Capital Group, LLC (“Verdant”), based in Chicago. Laurentian retained Verdant to raise funds for the construction of an airplane maintenance, repair and overhaul facility to be built in Plattsburgh, New York.
Jergensen and Ghosh asked Laurentian to invest $2.5 million as seed money for the project. They and Laurentian agreed that this money would remain in a Wells Fargo account and could not be moved without the authorization of Laurentian.
Laurentian, drawing on funds contributed by its board members and one outside investor, wired $2.5 million into the Wells Fargo account on December 3, 2010. Five days later, Jergensen and Ghosh began transferring the money out of the account without Laurentian’s authorization, and by March 18, 2011 they had transferred all of the $2.5 million out of the account.
Jergensen and Ghosh used Laurentian’s $2.5 million to pay Verdant’s expenses including employees and contractors, and to pay others, including payments totaling $1.75 million to a now-defunct wind turbine company that Ghosh was a minority owner of; transfers of $96,500 to Jergensen’s company Contour Composites, Inc. of Utah; a $55,000 “loan” to a friend; and payments totaling $14,500 to an Arizona man who was promising them access to union pension funds.
Having spent the money, and as part of their conspiracy, Jergensen and Ghosh then spent several years falsely assuring Laurentian and its investors that their money was safe and secure, with Jergensen going so far as to forge a memorandum of understanding that purported to show that Laurentian’s money was in a secured bank account at Wells Fargo. The victim investors included a retired United States Air Force colonel, a former New York City Deputy Mayor, a retired law firm partner, and several retired executives from the financial and airline industries.
The evidence at trial also demonstrated that Jergensen and Ghosh misappropriated an additional $2.4 million in funds that other businesses had entrusted to them.
This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett.