Two Minneapolis residents have been indicted on suspicion of participating in an international fraud scheme that siphoned $10 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A federal grand jury in New Haven, Conn., returned a 23-count indictment charging Brett C. Lillemoe, 45, and Sarah Zirbes, 39, both of Minneapolis, and Pablo Calderon, 59, of Darien, Conn., with conspiracy, fraud and money laundering related to a four-year scheme to defraud banks participating in a USDA-backed export financing program.
Specifically, the conspiracy involved using falsified documents to defraud U.S. financial institutions that were securing loans to Russian banks, the indictment said. Those loans were backed by the USDA’s credit guarantee program.
When the loans went into default and were not paid back, the USDA lost millions of dollars, prosecutors contend.
All three pleaded not guilty and were freed on bond.
According to the indictment: From September 2007 to January 2012, Lillemoe, Zirbes, Calderon and others presented false and altered shipping documents to secure loans from Deutsche Bank A.G., Colorado-based CoBank ACB and other lenders.
Once they received loans, the defendants turned over the money to the foreign banks in exchange for millions of dollars in fees for themselves and various entities they created. The foreign banks defaulted on more than $10 million in loans, prompting the USDA to make good on the guarantees.