U.S. WANTS $6.7 MILLION FROZEN IN SAMOA BACK

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (October 31, 2001 – Samoa News)---Private International Development Bank of American Samoa (PIDB) has more than US $6 million frozen in Samoa, according to a federal grand jury indictment filed recently.

The first grand jury indictment, filed in late March against PIDB President William H. Cravens, said PIDB had $1 million with the ANZ Bank in Samoa.

As for confirmation, ANZ Bank Managing Director, Mr. G.R. Tunstall, said he was bound by his confidential obligations not to comment.

"As you will appreciate," he said in a letter, "the bank's accounts are not a matter of public record, and as we have a strict obligation of confidentiality in respect of our customer accounts and affairs, we are unable to respond in any detail."

According to the indictment though, the $1 million was part of $14 million frozen at the bank that the U.S. government believed was part of an investment in a scheme that bilked some $76 million from more than 2,500 mainland investors.

But a new indictment filed in late September says there is about $ 6.74 million in the PIDB account and the federal government wants it back.

PIDB president William Hugh Cravens and three others are charged in the investment scam that authorities described as a "Ponzi scheme." The PIDB account is controlled by Cravens.

Besides the PIDB account, the U.S. government said there were five other accounts controlled by either Cravens or his co-defendants, including, in American dollars:

The superseding indictment said the U.S. government also seized funds from various bank accounts in the U.S. including $1 million from the ANZ Bank in Apia, through an ANZ Bank account in New York.

It listed dates and amounts of investor funds which were wire transferred from a Washington bank to accounts established by Cravens at ANZ Bank.

"Cravens then caused to be established bank accounts at ANZ Bank, Western Samoa to be used for the benefit of the defendants," the indictment continues.

Cravens also controlled four bank accounts in California where funds from the investment scheme were funneled, according to the indictment.

The superseding indictment reiterated the information in the first indictment handed down by the grand jury on March 28, showed Cravens and PIDB's role in the scheme.

Facts relating to Cravens establishing PIDB in American Samoa after such attempts failed in Samoa are also included.

When PIDB was chartered here, Cravens opened the PIDB account at ANZ Bank.

"Once the bank account was opened, (US) investors were falsely led to believe that PIDB was a real bank, instead of a shell corporation with a bank account, and were induced to send their funds to the PIDB account at ANZ bank," said the indictment.

PIDB's articles of incorporation were revoked by Governor Tauese Sunia on Nov. 1, 2000 because PIDB was not a bank and should not have been licensed as such. The federal government had already begun investigating Cravens at the time.

The superseding indictment yielded more information about Cravens and his role in a transaction involving a CRP Group, in which $1 million in investor funds was transferred from a Washington Bank on Sept. 14, 1999 to Cravens' account at a bank in La Jolla, California.

In November the same year, the money was transferred by Cravens to the CRP Group at the Marine Air Federal Credit Union in California.

An additional $4 million was later transferred to the CRP Group, said the superseding indictment.

This $5 million worth of transfers to CRP Group "were to be placed in a high yield investment program which promised a substantial return within 30-60 days."

"Neither the invested funds nor the promised returns have been paid, although Cravens received a commission of $450,000 paid out of the investors fund," said the indictment.

In April of last year Cravens informed investors that the funds had been frozen but the freeze would be lifted shortly and the investors would receive their initial investments plus a 100 percent return on those investments.

Now the U.S. government wants every penny back to help pay restitution to victims of the scheme.

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