The Federal Trade Commission has honored Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean R. Delaney and Harry M. Gruber of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland with its 2018 Criminal Liaison Unit Prosecuting Attorney Award. The Criminal Liaison Unit (CLU) presents the award every two years to recognize prosecutors who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to consumer protection, in partnership with the FTC.
At an awards ceremony held in Baltimore, Maryland today, FTC Associate Director James Kohm said, “we are pleased to present this award to Sean R. Delaney and Harry M. Gruber. Skillful and dedicated prosecutors like Sean and Harry are essential to bringing those who commit fraud to justice.”
Delaney and Gruber were the lead prosecutors in a case against nine individuals who bilked nonprofits, businesses, and municipalities by deceptively sending them overpriced light bulbs and cleaning supplies that they never ordered, and then demanding payment. The defendants’ long-running scam took in more than $50 million from victims that included churches, schools, homeless shelters, and small businesses. The FTC previously took action against several of the individuals and their companies in FTC v. Midway Industries. That case resulted in permanent injunctions against the FTC defendants and a $58 million judgment against the corporate defendants and each of the individual defendants but one, against whom a $44 million judgment was entered. The FTC intends to return funds it collects to the defendants’ victims.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland indicted the nine criminal defendants, Eric Epstein, Andrew Stafford, Robert Chesser, Brandon Johnston, Steven Phillips, Thomas Wishon, Brandon Riggs, Alan Landsman, and Daryl White, in 2016 and 2017. Epstein pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the IRS, White pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the IRS, and all of the other defendants pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The defendants received varying sentences that totaled more than 40 years. Epstein was sentenced to more than eleven years, and five other defendants were sentenced to more than four years.
The FTC often coordinates with criminal law enforcement to ensure the successful prosecution of fraudsters who prey on American consumers. Since its inception in 2003, the FTC’s CLU has contributed to the successful criminal prosecution of hundreds of fraudulent telemarketers, phantom debt and mortgage relief scammers, immigration fraudsters, and others who prey on American consumers.
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