James W. Massaro, of Boxford, Massachusetts, pled guilty late last week to using forged documents to perpetrate a foreign investment scheme that cheated at least 20 investors out of more than $6.9 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The scheme took place between September 2005 and April 2008.
As purported president of Tracten Corporation, Massaro solicited “commitment fees” from investors that he claimed would be used to secure multi-million-dollar letters of credit through European financial institutions. Investors were led to believe that they would receive a percentage of the total amount of the letter of credit as a monthly return. To secure the deal, individual investors entered into escrow agreements with Tracten, which stated that each investor’s fees would be disbursed to Tracten once the escrow attorney received a commitment letter from the foreign bank on the investor’s behalf. Unfortunately, Massaro and a co-conspirator used the escrow agreements to steal the investors’ fees.
In his plea agreement, Massaro admitted that he and a co-conspirator made multiple trips to Rome in 2005 in order to pitch the letter of credit program to bank officials. When the officials refused to participate in the program, Massaro and others “secured an Internet domain name to set up an e-mail account that would appear to come from a bank representative and created fraudulent bank letterhead that also appeared to come from the bank.” They then used the email account and letterhead to create forged commitment letters from the bank officials to the escrow attorney. The escrow attorney, not knowing the letters were falsified, then disbursed the investors’ fees to Massaro.
Massaro faces 20 years in prison for one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21.