Minnesota Man Sentenced in Bank Fraud Scheme

Court shows false documents were used to obtain $25 million in loans from foreign banks.

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Minnesota man has been sentenced to prison for using a federal loan program to defraud foreign banks.  

According to the Norwich Bulletin, Minnesota native Brett Lillemoe was sentenced to serve 15 months in prison. Pablo Calderon, a Connecticut man also associated with the fraud, was sentenced to five months in jail and five months of home arrest.

A third associate, Sarah Zirbe from Minnesota, was also charged, but acquitted in November from 17 counts of money laundering and conspiracy.

Court documents show Calderon and Lillemoe used the Export Credit Guarantee program, a loan program associated with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Both men filed false documents to obtain $25 million in loans from foreign banks, in which the USDA was required to pay out the guarantees.

When the charges were first announced in 2015, the FBI announced in a press release, “The indictment alleges that the three defendants engaged in a conspiracy to defraud U.S. financial institutions that secured loans to Russian Banks based on altered documents.”

The goal of the Export Credit Guarantee program is, “to expand U.S. agricultural exports by making available export credit guarantees to encourage U.S. private sector financing of foreign purchases of U.S. agricultural commodities on credit terms.”

Lillemoe was found guilty in November on six counts of wire fraud and conspiracy. However, the jury acquitted him of 16 counts varying from money laundering to wire fraud according to Business Wire. Of 23 varying counts, Calderon was only charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy.

“We’re thankful that the jury rejected the vast majority of the charges in the case and we believe that we have strong arguments for appeal on the handful of counts on which the jury found liability,” William M. McSwain, the attorney for Lillemoe, said according to Business Wire. “Mr. Lillemoe has always maintained his innocence and we look forward to the next steps in this process.”

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.