Miami, Florida - The United States filed a civil forfeiture complaint Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleging that more than $6 million in proceeds from the sale of commercial real estate in Dallas, Texas, which property was maintained and improved using the proceeds of embezzlement and fraud from PrivatBank in Ukraine, are subject to forfeiture based on violations of federal money laundering statutes.
This civil forfeiture action is the fourth such action filed in connection with the same alleged criminal activity. In August 2020, the United States filed two actions in the Southern District of Florida alleging that commercial real estate in Dallas and Louisville, Kentucky, was acquired using funds illegally obtained from PrivatBank in Ukraine as part of a multibillion-dollar fraudulent loan scheme. It filed a third suit in the same district in December 2020 alleging a property in Cleveland, Ohio, was similarly involved.
The four complaints allege that Ihor Kolomoisky and Gennadiy Boholiubov, who owned PrivatBank, one of the largest banks in Ukraine, embezzled and defrauded the bank of billions of dollars. The two allegedly obtained fraudulent loans and lines of credit from approximately 2008 through 2016, when the scheme was uncovered and the bank was nationalized by the National Bank of Ukraine. The complaints allege that they laundered a portion of the criminal proceeds using an array of shell companies’ bank accounts, primarily at PrivatBank’s Cyprus branch, before they transferred the funds to the United States.
As alleged in the complaints, Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber, who were associates of Kolomoisky and Boholiubov operating out of offices in Miami, created a web of entities, usually under some variation of the name “Optima,” to further launder the misappropriated funds. They purchased hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate and businesses across the country, including commercial towers located at 8787 North Stemmons Freeway in Dallas (Stemmons Towers), which are the subject of this action, as well as the office tower known as 55 Public Square in Cleveland, a Louisville office tower known as PNC Plaza, and a Dallas office park known as the former CompuCom Headquarters.
The newest action alleges that several of the Optima entities, including Optima Ventures LLC, Optima 7171 LLC and Optima Stemmons LLC, used profits from the CompuCom Campus, which had originally been purchased using embezzled funds from PrivatBank, to pay for the improvement and maintenance of Stemmons Towers. Optima Stemmons then sold Stemmons Towers in 2019 using a seller financing agreement, under which more than $6 million in principal and interest is still owed to a specially-created entity owned by Optima Ventures named 87STE LLC. The United States seeks to forfeit the promissory note and deed of trust related to that financing agreement, which includes the right to receive payments due pursuant to the deed and its associated sales contract.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office made the announcement.
FBI’s Cleveland Field Office is investigating the case with support from FBI’s International Corruption Unit and IRS Criminal Investigation.
Trial Attorneys Shai D. Bronshtein and Rachel Goldstein of the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are handling these cases. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs has provided substantial assistance in the investigation.
The Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative is led by a team of dedicated prosecutors in the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, in partnership with federal law enforcement agencies, and often with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, who work to forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, to use those recovered assets to benefit the people harmed by these acts of corruption and abuse of office.