Four Allegedly Used Federal Courts To Defraud Victims of $46 Million

Four Allegedly Used Federal Courts To Defraud Victims of $46 Million 2
Four Allegedly Used Federal Courts To Defraud Victims of $46 Million 3

            Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the unsealing today of an Indictment charging four individuals, CHRISTOPHER HAMMATT, a/k/a “Craig Johnson,” SUSAN HAMMATT, JOSEPH HOATS, and EDWIN TANGLAO, with participation in multiple fraud schemes.  HOATS was arrested today in California and will be presented later this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Shashi H. Kewalramani.  The HAMMATTs are expected to surrender later today in Oregon and will be presented this afternoon in federal court there.  TANGLAO was already in custody on state charges in Texas.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe.   

            Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged in the Indictment, the defendants fraudulently enriched themselves at the expense of others, including small businesses in New York.  Equally disturbing is the Hammatts’ alleged use of the federal courts to perpetrate their fraud.  Now, as a consequence of their alleged conduct, the Hammatts will return to the Southern District of New York not as civil plaintiffs but as criminal defendants.” 

            The Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court alleges two fraud schemes.  As alleged in the Indictment[1]:

            The first scheme arises from a civil lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, in which CHRISTOPHER HAMMATT, a/k/a “Craig Johnson,” and SUSAN HAMMATT were plaintiffs.  The HAMMATTs’ lawsuit against a multinational car company based in Detroit, Michigan (“Car Company-1”), alleged that CHRISTOPHER HAMMATT, a lawyer by training, sustained “traumatic brain injury” when the airbags suddenly deployed in his vehicle, which was manufactured by Car Company-1.  While the HAMMATTs’ lawsuit was pending, the HAMMATTs created a fake $16.5 million settlement agreement, which included a forged signature of Car Company-1’s attorney, and used the fake settlement agreement to borrow approximately $75,000 from a litigation funding company. 

            To carry out their fraud scheme, and to conceal their identities when communicating with victims, the HAMMATTs created the fake identity, “Craig Johnson,” who purported to be a “legal coordinator” who represented the HAMMATTs.  In that capacity, “Johnson” negotiated directly with legal funding companies to induce them to lend money to the HAMMATTs, using the fraudulent settlement agreement as collateral.  In one email, “Johnson” wrote to a legal funding company, “I know that they [the HAMMATTs] will be getting a large sum of money in about six months, but it is so sad to see this family suffer.  They are on food stamps and get donations from the Church for their kids clothing.” 

            When the HAMMATTs’ fraud came to light, SUSAN HAMMATT submitted a declaration to the Court that contained numerous false statements regarding her and her husband’s involvement in the fraud.

            The Indictment also alleges that each of the defendants participated in a scheme to defraud oil and gas trading companies.  Specifically, the defendants induced victims to transmit money to the defendants in exchange for large orders of oil and gas products that the defendants could not fulfill.  To conceal the nature of the fraud, the defendants created fake companies and fraudulent documents.  For example, the Indictment alleges that JOSEPH HOATS, an attorney, and SUSAN HAMMATT created the company “Shell Western Supply & Trading,” and used the Shell Oil Company logo without permission, as a means to trick victims.  The defendants succeeded in defrauding a New York-based victim of nearly $1.5 million as part of their oil and gas scheme. 

*                      *                      *

            Charts containing the names, charges, and maximum penalties for the defendants are set forth below.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge. 

            Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Special Agents with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. 

            This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas W. Chiuchiolo is in charge of the prosecution. 

            The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment constitutes only allegations, and every fact described herein should be treated as an allegation.


1Wire fraud conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1349CHRISTOPHER HAMMATT, a/k/a “Craig Johnson” (age 49)SUSAN HAMMATT (age 44)20 years in prison
2Wire fraud 18 U.S.C. § 1343CHRISTOPHER HAMMATT, a/k/a “Craig Johnson”SUSAN HAMMATT 20 years in prison
3Perjury 18 U.S.C. § 1621 SUSAN HAMMATT5 years in prison
4Wire fraud conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 1349CHRISTOPHER HAMMATT, a/k/a “Craig Johnson”SUSAN HAMMATTJOSEPH HOATS (age 69)EDWIN TANGLAO (age 54) 20 years in prison
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