After a five-week trial, a St. Paul man has been found guilty of fraud and conspiracy in connection with multimillion-dollar trade deals backed by a U.S. export guarantee program.
Brett Lillemoe, 46, was convicted Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Connecticut of one count of conspiracy and five counts of wire fraud involving altered shipping documents. The jury, which deliberated for 4½ days, acquitted Lillemoe of 13 other fraud counts and one count of money laundering.
Sarah Zirbes, of Minneapolis, was acquitted of all counts of fraud and money laundering. The case involved exports — from chicken to soybean meal — that were ultimately insured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Zirbes worked for GTR LLC, Lillemoe's trade finance business.
Pablo Calderon, a Lillemoe business associate in Darien, Conn., was convicted of one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy.
All three were indicted in February 2015 for allegedly defrauding two banks. Charges included presenting false and altered shipping documents to the financial institutions.
Lillemoe lined up export deals financed by letters of credit, which ensure that an importer pays an exporter. The letters of credit were issued by foreign banks and funded by the U.S. office of Deutsche Bank and Denver-based Co-Bank.
Those loans to foreign banks were insured by the USDA'S GSM-102 program, which covers 98 percent of any losses. Lillemoe was paid via loan arrangement fees.
But when a bank in Russia failed to repay the two U.S. banks, more than $10 million in loans went into default and the USDA had to make good on its guarantees.
Lillemoe and Calderon face maximum terms of 20 years on each count.
They are expected to be sentenced in early February. Lillemoe said he and Calderon plan to appeal.