Two former executives of the bankrupt health care company Canopy Financial Inc. were charged Monday with swindling investors out of $75 million and illegally pocketing $19 million from accounts that were supposed to pay the medical bills of individuals nationwide.
Canopy's former president and chief operating officer, Jeremy Blackburn, 36, formerly of Malibu, Calif., had already been charged in a criminal complaint filed in December with operating a $60 million fraud. He was released on a $1 million bond.
A criminal information filed by federal prosecutors on Monday said the amount of fraud discovered by federal investigators had grown to $75 million. Also Monday, the government charged Canopy's chief technology officer, Anthony Banas, 32, of Chicago, with taking part in massive fraud.
The Chicago-based company was known as one of the nation's fastest growing businesses before it entered bankruptcy last November. Both executives were charged with two counts of wire fraud punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
The government has asked the court to order the two men to forfeit $94 million plus watches and automobiles if they are convicted.
The documents filed Monday also said the two men had misappropriated some $19 million from health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts Canopy held and administered for individual clients.
Blackburn spent $2 million on a share in a private jet and paid $1 million to a luxury car dealer and another $1 million to a ticket broker, the charges said. Banas invested $300,000 in a nightclub, they said.
Blackburn's defense attorney, Ted Poulos, declined to comment on the charges. Banas' attorney, Royal B. Martin, did not immediately return a message left at his law office.
The problems at Canopy surfaced last fall when the company went into bankruptcy and came as a shock to those who relied on the health care accounts to pay their medical bills. The accounts were frozen last fall. The U.S. attorney's office said it would be sending victim notification letters to 1,600 people identified as victims so far.
It said those who believe they are victims and have not received such a letter by March 15 should call a toll-free hot line, 866-364-2621, or e-mail usailn.victim.aia(at)usdoj.gov and provide their names and addresses.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil suit against the company, accusing it of using false information to lure several private investors to put $75 million into the company.
Blackburn and Banas provided false information to investors about the company's financial condition, including a fake audit report that appeared to have been created by the accounting firm KPMG, the charges said. KPMG never audited the firm.
The men also gave an investor false statements that appeared to be from Northern Trust Bank, according to the charges. The bogus statements showed monthly bank balances of $5.7 million to $8.9 million when Canopy had no account at the bank, the charges said.