Florida is no stranger to devious scams, and a company reportedly connected to organized crime has apparently taken investors for over $30 million and counting. After the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office investigated and concluded that it was “an organized scheme to defraud,” the police took action, shut down the company and jailed the perpetrators, right?
Wrong. The alleged fraud is ongoing and to date Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has arrested no one. Even a cursory examination of the facts leads you to wonder if the only real function of this publicly traded company was taking as much money as possible from a diverse pool of victims.
The apparent refusal of Florida law enforcement to protect and serve their citizens raises serious questions. Are they dysfunctional? Lazy? Or is something more sinister at play that is leading those with the ability and responsibility to do something to instead look the other way?
I stumbled upon numerous media reports focused on this situation and am outraged to learn that good people appear to have been victimized and their cries for help ignored by the very people who have taken an oath to fight crime and pursue justice.
The purported fraud started with a simple pitch. A company called Hawk Systems, which has since morphed and continued as FIST Enterprises and Auto Secure USA, sought and found investors. They were lured in with promises of getting rich by investing in cutting-edge technology that would scan people’s fingers and identify them by the unique constellation of blood vessels in their fingertips.
In its pitch deck for investors, which I have seen first-hand, Hawk peddled the promise of a fingerprint identification sensor that would be installed in cars, boats and motorcycles to give access to only the owner and allow people to start the vehicles with the touch of a finger.
David Coriaty, a former strip club bouncer who allegedly posed as a former Miami Dolphins player, bragged in radio interviews that his company had a patent for this “anti-theft” device. The company’s marketing materials claimed talks were underway with leading automotive companies and that their device would be installed on ATMs and in casinos.
They even had the audacity to exploit the name and brand of America’s best-known businessmen and our nation’s current president, Donald Trump. Amateurish brochures implied that the fingerprint device would be installed at Trump International Golf Course and at the luxurious Mar-a-Lago, which the Hawk marketing team failed to spell correctly, calling it “MiraLago.”
There was a patent and big promises—but apparently never a product. And ultimately, no returns have gone to the investors who provided millions of dollars that were immediately drained from the company to finance lavish lifestyles for the executives, according to a civil lawsuit against Hawk, which is available online.
No devices were ever actually developed, sold or shipped, according to one of the company’s former directors, Mark Spanakos. But there were tours of an electronics factory in Palm Beach where men in white coats paraded investors past assembly lines of circuit boards being produced for other, legitimate companies.
Former NFL standout Bryant McFadden was an early investor, putting in $200,000. Anquan Boldin, a respected NFL veteran whose cousin is accused in the lawsuit of receiving commission payments to deliver NFL investors to the wolves, invested and lost $250,000. Other football players were also taken and have spoken about their experiences with reporters.
In fact, in 2010 the NFL Players Association warned against investing in Hawk Systems. But pro football players were far from the only victims, which also allegedly included senior citizens and even savvy Wall Street traders.
Mark Spanakos, a former Wall Street trader with a seat on the New York Mercantile Exchange in New York City was the biggest victim of all, saying goodbye to $2.5 million dollars, he says.
According to a Spanakos, this fraud spans at least 13 states. The suit he brought against Hawk on behalf of investors asserts that Coriaty and his cohorts transferred out investment dollars as soon as they were received in order to buy yachts, exotic cars, and to finance private jet travel and Las Vegas gambling sprees.
Respected outlets including The Palm Beach Post, The Miami Herald and The New York Daily News have reported on the scam. Yet the FBI, the IRS, the SEC, and Democratic leaders including Palm Beach County’s State’s Attorney Dave Aronberg and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw have failed to actually shut down the scheme or take any action against the people running it.
Whether it’s a high-level cover-up or there are other forces at play is unclear. What we do know for certain is that it is long past time for the key players in the company, along with any bankers and lawyers who empowered them, to be held fully accountable.