November 1, 2001|By Peter Franceschina and Jon Burstein Staff Writers
Federal agents served chase warrants Wednesday at the West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale offices of Pheonix Banking Groups and the home of its architect attractive for affirmation in what cloister abstracts say is a $19 actor artifice scheme.
Pheonix architect Thomas D. Abrams, 39, said FBI agents removed abstracts and investors’ annual files from the Pheonix Banking Group’s controlling offices on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. He said agents additionally downloaded advice stored on computer adamantine drives in the offices.
Abrams — who is not answerable with any crimes — denied allegations abundant in a 42-page chase accreditation affirmation filed by an FBI abettor in U.S. District Cloister in West Palm Beach.
“I’ve had bigger days,” Abrams said, abacus that he had not apparent the chase accreditation affidavit. “They told us it was sealed.”
FBI abettor John Meunier’s affirmation addendum that Abrams is circuitous in 14 companies beneath the Pheonix umbrella. It says he is additionally circuitous in a cardinal of added companies.
The declared artifice was in the anatomy of a Ponzi scheme, according to the affidavit, in which beforehand investors whose money was absent are repaid with money from new clients.
“Personal banking annal of Thomas Abrams are approved as a cogent allocation of absent funds arise to accept been acclimated to pay his claimed expenses,” Meunier wrote.
Pheonix kept appropriate files activity aback to 1995 for investors whose money was not invested as it should accept been, the affirmation says. Incarnations of Abram’s companies go aback to at atomic 1989, and he uses an abnormal spelling.
“Thomas Abrams absent at atomic $10 actor in funds from assertive Pheonix investors for purposes added than advance on annual of these individuals and, at assorted times, beatific apocryphal and counterfeit annual annual statements to these individuals,” the affirmation says.
“The Pheonix files on these investors were kept in red folders abstracted and afar from the files of added Pheonix investors and were, aural the Pheonix offices, frequently referred to as the `Red Files.'”
Abrams denied that.
“A `Red File?’ I’ve never heard of annihilation declared a `Red File,'” he said. “There is no such affair as a `Red File,’ and I accept no abstraction what they are talking about.”
According to the affidavit, “All inquiries from `Red File’ investors were handled by Thomas Abrams personally. The absent $10 actor is in accession to the about $9 actor that appears to accept been absent from accepted Pheonix investors by Thomas Abrams and others.” When asked about the declared $19 actor in artifice categorical in Wednesday’s affidavit, Abrams said, “Whoa, whoa. I accept not heard that. That would be crazy.”
Property annal appearance Abrams owns a Wellington home he purchased in July for $610,000. Agents acquired a chase accreditation for that home. The Pheonix offices agents searched in Fort Lauderdale are on East Commercial Boulevard in the Coastal Tower Building.
Abrams is additionally admiral of Pheonix Foundation for Children, an alignment that makes accommodating donations to children’s groups. “A analysis of assertive Pheonix coffer annal announce that Pheonix broker monies were acclimated to pay costs of the Pheonix Foundation,” according to the affidavit.
Pheonix investors accept not consistently been blessed with the way their money has been handled.
West Palm Beach advocate Paul Nicoletti filed clothing adjoin Pheonix Investments in May, alleging that Abrams absent about $100,000 of his retirement money by advance it in high-risk stocks.
Nicoletti and his wife declared that the investments began to acerb in June 1999, but Abrams insisted that they authority assimilate them alike as they connected to bead in value.
Managing Assistant U.S. Advocate Emalyn Webber beneath to animadversion on the analysis or on how continued it has been activity on.
One clandestine abettor got aing to Abrams this summer. Abrams told the abettor — assuming as a abeyant broker — that Pheonix had about $1 billion beneath management, according to the affidavit, but Securities and Exchange Commission checks adumbrated that the alignment had $16 million.
FBI abettor Meunier wrote that he and added board from the FBI, the IRS, the Florida State Comptroller’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office accept scoured annal from “more than 20 coffer accounts accompanying to Pheonix and Thomas Abrams from assorted banking institutions.”
Agents accept talked to what they accredit to as “confidential witnesses,” which included “certain Pheonix assembly and investors.” The board accept additionally disconnected calm a account of a complex, commutual accumulated anatomy involving Abrams’ companies.
“Obviously you accept this huge certificate in advanced of you,” Abrams said. “I don’t accord a abuse what’s in it. We’re abstinent all that’s in it. None of it’s true.”
Peter Franceschina can be accomplished at [email protected] or 561-832-2894.
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