Prosecutors seek to seize assets of Iraqi currency dealers

AP News
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Posted: Jun 11, 2015 1:31 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — Federal authorities want to seize airplanes, homes, luxury cars and beach properties from a Georgia-based corporation dealing in Iraqi currency.

In a federal complaint, prosecutors say Atlanta-based Sterling Currency Group LLC is among the largest sellers of the Iraqi dinar in the U.S.

Prosecutors say the business is built on what they describe as a scam to defraud investors hoping to cash in on a "revaluation" of the currency.

The idea that the currency will be "revalued," resulting in a sharp rise in its worth, "has spread throughout the Internet and is promoted by a variety of Internet blogs and individuals who hold themselves out to be currency experts or 'dinar gurus,'" the complaint says.

Two lawyers who have represented Sterling didn't immediately return telephone and email messages left by The Associated Press on Thursday. No one answered Thursday at the company's phone numbers, which had recorded messages.

No arrests have been made in the case, which seeks the forfeiture of millions of dollars in assets controlled by Sterling and associated companies.

Among the assets: Two properties in the exclusive seaside community of Alys Beach in Walton County, Florida; a mansion in Atlanta; and two Mercedes-Benz cars. Prosecutors are also trying to seize a Cessna Citation and two other planes, including one that's used to perform aerobatic stunts.

Sterling has earned more than $600 million in gross sales or receipts since 2004, prosecutors wrote in the complaint, including as much as $245 million in a single year in 2011.

The FBI and the Internal Revenue Service are investigating.

The FBI has also set up a website and hotline. Authorities are encouraging people to complete an online questionnaire if they've been promised enormous profits from the purchase of the Iraqi dinar, as well as foreign currency such as the Vietnamese dong or Indonesian rupiah, the FBI said on the site.

In the recently unsealed, 48-page complaint, prosecutors say company representatives spread false information in predicting the dinar would rise sharply in value.

"Sterling's business practices have included publishing information on its own website that its principals knew to be untrue and disseminating false information over the telephone," the complaint states.

The company also told customers that it had a plan to set up kiosks or remote offices at airports around the U.S. and Canada, where its customers could bring briefcases or luggage filled with dinar to be exchanged without having to pass through security.

"Despite these representations, a former Sterling employee has confirmed that Sterling never had any arraignments with airports to operate remote satellite offices or kiosks," the complaint states.

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Online:

FBI Dinar Investigation Website: http://1.usa.gov/1e5u6xE