The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission seeks to postpone the trial of two brothers who defrauded some 150 customers of more than $8 million due to precautions over the novel coronavirus.
Salvatore and Joseph Esposito, the owners of precious metals investment firm U.S. Coin Bullion, pleaded guilty in October 2019 on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. Salvatore Esposito, 48, was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison, and his younger brother Joseph, 44, to a little less than six years.
In a parallel case, the CFTC filed its civil enforcement action charging U.S. Coin Bullion and its operatives with misappropriating customer funds and engaging in fraudulent solicitations.
From 2014 to mid-2019, the Espositos engaged in a phony gold business, convincing victims to invest their savings to purchase precious metals and promising big payoffs. The CFTC seeks to retrieve the money that the Orlando brothers misappropriated from clients, but it’s unclear if that will happen, as most were lost.
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Court postpones Lee Elbaz’s appeal
Today’s statement noted that numerous cases of COVID-19 were discovered at prisons, where the Orlando brothers are serving their sentences. And as further restrictions were enacted, the defendants were unable to communicate with the CFTC. Further, the agency said that Joseph Esposito was recently transferred to another prison in Florida following two weeks of health quarantine.
As such, the CFTC said it would reschedule arguments that had been originally set to start March 23, but then were put back two months again after courts were put on emergency schedules.
“Plaintiff now files this motion seeking an additional 90-day extension. As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, additional restrictions were placed upon Defendants’ ability to leave their cells, and receive mail, during the additional 60-day extension period,” the watchdog said.
These actions follow a series of COVID-19 pandemic-related delays and notices issued by U.S. regulators over the past three months as part of their respective attempts to provide practical relief to market participants. Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals approved the request of Lee Elbaz, who was found guilty in a $145 million fraud scheme, to postpone the deadline for filing her appeal.