Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James D. Robnett, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), announced today the unsealing of a criminal complaint charging TODD KOZEL with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy in connection with a scheme to defraud his ex-wife by hiding tens of millions of dollars’ worth of assets in a foreign trust and using a portion of those assets secretly to purchase a $12.75 million condominium in Manhattan. KOZEL was arrested this afternoon at John F. Kennedy airport and will be presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman in Manhattan federal court later today.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As alleged, Todd Kozel defrauded his ex-wife by hiding millions of dollars in assets in an offshore trust, and purchasing expensive Manhattan real estate and masking his ownership. Kozel is now in custody facing these serious charges.”
IRS-CI Special Agent-in-Charge James D. Robnett said: “Those who create elaborate schemes that have no purpose other than to mislead run a very high risk of prosecution. IRS-CI, and our partners at the Large Business and International Division, have made it a priority to investigate abusive trusts that are setup offshore to hide the true beneficial owner of income and assets.”
According to the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
Between 2010 and 2014, KOZEL, a United States citizen, earned an average of approximately $10 million in income per year as the chief executive officer of a foreign oil company. KOZEL did not, however, file U.S. tax returns for tax years 2011 through 2014. In August 2010, KOZEL and his ex-wife filed for divorce in Florida state court. From February 2012 through the present, KOZEL engaged in a fraudulent scheme with others to hide assets from his ex-wife during their divorce proceedings and in violation of orders entered by the Florida court, which required KOZEL fully to disclose and not dissipate his assets and to make certain payments to his ex-wife.
In furtherance of the scheme to defraud his ex-wife, KOZEL, among other things, transferred valuable assets, including approximately 29 million shares of his foreign oil company, into a foreign trust organized under the laws of the Isle of Jersey, and repeatedly lied under oath about his control and ownership of the foreign trust. KOZEL also used approximately $12.75 million of his assets from the foreign trust to purchase a condominium in Manhattan.
Further, KOZEL fraudulently concealed his ownership interest in the Manhattan condominium by creating a New York limited liability company that was secretly controlled by the foreign trust to pose as the paper “owner” of the condominium; entering into a sham lease transaction to make it appear as though KOZEL were leasing the condominium and did not own it; and entering into a backdated sham sale transaction to prevent his ex-wife from seizing the condominium after the Florida state court ordered KOZEL to pay his ex-wife an additional $34 million in September 2015. As a result of this fraudulent scheme, KOZEL caused his ex-wife to suffer tens of millions of dollars in financial harm.
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KOZEL, 51, of New York, New York, is charged with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Berman praised the IRS-CI for their outstanding investigative work on this case, and thanked the Large Business and International Division of the IRS for its assistance.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Jennifer L. Beidel and Sarah E. Paul are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.