BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A 55-year-old Bridgeport man was arrested Tuesday morning on charges that he and others defrauded the Overseas Private Investment Corp. of over $1 million and laundered most of the funds through bank accounts in Liberia and the United States, prosecutors said.
William Garrison Jackson was charged by criminal complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, Acting U.S. Attorney for New Jersey William E. Fitzpatrick said.
Jackson appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel in Bridgeport federal court and was released on $100,000 secured bond. He will make his initial appearance in New Jersey federal court Oct. 4.
According to the federal complaint, in 2010, Jackson, along with two other people identified in the complaint as “Individual 1” and “Individual 2,” formed a limited liability company in New Jersey called NuStrata Logistics LLC (NSL-US).
NSL-US was the “parent company” of NuStrata Logistics Liberia Inc. (NSL-L), a licensed and registered Liberian company. For the purposes of the OPIC loan, NSL-US was the U.S. sponsor of NSL-L.
NSL-US and NSL-L were created to operate an urban public transportation bus service in Liberia, branded “The Lizard Bus.”
In 2010, Jackson, Individual 1, and Individual 2 established a pilot program in order to measure The Lizard Bus’s potential in the market of Monrovia, Liberia.
To obtain a loan from OPIC, Jackson and Individual 1 submitted documents to OPIC with materially fraudulent representations, including false financial documents that over-inflated their assets and claimed that NSL-US’s investors, along with the principals, had a combined liquid net worth of over $2 million, and a fraudulent disbursement request advising OPIC that NSL-L would use $560,000 to pay for the purchase of buses and transshipping costs.
On Sept. 4, 2013, based on the false representations by Jackson and his conspirators, OPIC made a loan disbursement of $1,059,266 by international wire transfer to NSL-L’s Ecobank bank account in Liberia.
However, on Sept. 6, 2013, Jackson and Individual 1 had $700,000 wired from NSL-L’s account to NSL-US’s Bank of America account in the United States. That money was then transferred to another bank account and ultimately dispersed to Jackson, Individual 1 and their families in violation of the OPIC loan agreement.
Meanwhile, NSL-L made one interest payment to OPIC in January 2014 and subsequently defaulted on the loan. The Lizard Bus ceased operations in April 2014 due, in part, to lack of funds.
The conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and $500,000 fine.
OPIC is a U.S. government agency that provides loans to U.S.-based companies in order to encourage investment in overseas business projects. To qualify for a loan, the U.S. business, also called the “U.S. Sponsor,” has to own at least 25 percent of the overseas project.
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