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DOJ seizing $12 million stolen from Philippine disaster relief funds

The Department of Justice filed a civil forfeiture complaint Tuesday to recover $12.5 million in U.S. assets linked to a massive disaster relief fraud orchestrated by a prominent Philippines businesswoman who’s now serving life in prison.

Janet Napoles allegedly stole millions of dollars entrusted to her for development assistance and disaster relief for the people of the Philippines, Assistant AG Leslie Caldwell said. 

“In an effort to disguise and enjoy her ill-gotten gains, Napoles purchased properties and other assets in the United States for herself and her family members, including a condominium at the Ritz and a Porsche.”

“The Justice Department will not allow the United States to become a playground for the corrupt or a place to hide and invest stolen riches,” Caldwell said.

Napoles is serving a life sentence in prison in the Philippines for the kidnapping of her cousin, Benhur Luy. He was Napoles’s finance officer and kept track of her schemes, the DOJ said.

Separately the Philippines’ Office of the Ombudsman last year charged Napoles, two of her children, and three senators and other officials in the so-called “pork barrel scam.”

The DOJ forfeiture complaint alleged that from 2004 to 2012, Napoles, 51, paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to Philippine politicians and other government officials in exchange for at least $200 million in funding for purported development assistance and disaster relief.

Napoles’ non-governmental organizations (NGOs) then either failed to provide or under-delivered on the promised support, the DOJ said.

She also allegedly diverted NGO funds for her personal use and benefit, often draining accounts within days of government disbursements.

The DOJ alleged that Napoles transferred over $12 million in Philippine government-awarded funds to bank accounts in the United States held by her family members. 

“Napoles used the money to purchase numerous assets, including a condominium at the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles for her 21-year-old daughter,” the DOJ said.

The complaint seeks the forfeiture of proceeds from the sale of the Los Angeles condominium, along with a motel near Disneyland in Anaheim, California, properties in Covina and Irvine, California, a 19-percent stake in a California-based consulting company, and a Porsche Boxster that Napoles bought for another daughter.

The action was brought under the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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