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The Stings Before The Sting

A post that will increase your chance of capturing the office FCPA Jeopardy title.

As frequently reported, the Africa Sting case was the first time in the FCPA’s history that undercover investigative techniques were used.   As detailed in this prior post, not true, undercover investigative techniques have been used in several other FCPA enforcement actions.

As frequently reported, the Africa Sting case was the first time in the FCPA’s history that a full-blown sting operation was used in connection with an enforcement action.  This too is not true as detailed in this post which provides an overview of prior DOJ FCPA sting operations.

Hebert Tannenbaum

In 1996 an FBI spent agent received information from a confidential informant that Tannenbaum (the principal of Long Island based Tanner Management Corporation – a garbage incinerator manufacturer) “had previously made payments to foreign government officials to induce them to purchase garbage incinerators from the defendant.” (See here for the complaint). The informant further advised the FBI that Tannenbaum “had offered to make payments to government officials of various foreign countries in order to sell garbage incinerators in those countries” and during a recorded meeting with the informant Tannenbaum confirmed that he “had previously made a $75,000 cash payment to an official of the Government of Barbados, as an inducement for the purchase by his government of a garbage incinerator.” Thereafter, the informant, acting at the FBI’s direction, recorded a call with Tannenbaum during which Tannenbaum “admitted that he was willing to make payments to sell his garbage incinerators” and the complaint references specific payments in Taiwan and Argentina. During a meeting at the Park Lane Hotel in New York, the informant introduced Tannenbaum to the FBI special agent who was posing “as an Argentine government procurement official who wanted to purchase a garbage incinerator.” During the meeting, Tannenbaum offered to sell the Argentine “procurement official” an incinerator and stated “that he was willing to make a payment to facilitate the deal.” According to the complaint, Tannenbaum, on the way to a bank to open an account to faciliate the deal, told the undercover FBI agent posing as the “procurement official” that “for all he knew [“procurement official”] could have been an FBI agent” and that Tannenbaum was “in his seventies, and did not want to get in trouble.”

Well, Tannebaum did get in trouble.

Based on the above information, Tannenbaum was charged in 1998 via a one count criminal information (here) with conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The information is signed by then U.S. Attorney for the S.D. of New York Mary Jo White currently a partner at Debevoise & Plimpton (here).

Tannenbaum pleaded guilty (see here and here for the DOJ release) and was sentenced to 366 days plus three years of supervised release.

Richard Novak

In 2006, Richard Novak was charged (here) with, among other counts, violating the FCPA. It remains one of the more unusual FCPA enforcement actions ever. Novak and others owned and operated several internet businesses using the names “Saint Regis University,” “Robertstown University” and “James Monroe University.” According to the superseding information “they were diploma mills in that these ‘universities’ had no legitimate faculty members; offered no legitimate academic curriculum or services; required no course work or class work; and were not recognized by the United States Department of Education.” According to the superseding information, Novak made a bribe payment to the “Consult and First Secretary at the Liberian Embassy in Washington D.C. in order to assist Saint Regis University and its owners in fraudulently selling diplomas through their internet businesses.” Elsewhere, the superseding information states that “various foreign government officials who received the bribes held various positions at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the Liberian Embassy in Accra, Ghana, and at the Ministry of Education for the Republic of Liberia in Monrovia, Liberia” and that these individuals, among other things, “were in a position to: issue certificates of accreditation and recognition; issue notarial certificates; issue letters claiming that Saint Regis University was fully accredited and recognized by the Ministry of Education in the Republic of Liberia; and cause staff at the Liberian Embassy in Washington D.C. to answer the telephone calls in a positive way when inquiries regarding the legitimacy [of the Universities] were made.”

Although not specifically mentioned in the superseding information, a component of the original indictment (here) against Novak and several others was U.S. Secret Service agents posing as high school dropouts seeking degrees.

Novak pleaded guilty (see here) and was sentenced to three years probation.

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