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CRIME

German fraud suspect found in Las Vegas

A German man sought in Europe for alleged participation in a fraudulent €81 million ($100 million) pyramid scheme has been arrested in the Las Vegas after five years on the run, US immigration authorities said late on Saturday.

German fraud suspect found in Las Vegas
Photo: DPA

Ulrich Felix Anton Engler, 51, was arrested late Wednesday by US immigration authorities and police in the gambling capital and is being held for violating US immigration law, pending deportation back to Germany to face trial.

Engler, who has been living under an alias, first came to the attention of US authorities when police caught him drunk driving back in February 2011 and took his fingerprints, wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Saturday. His true identity has only just been confirmed.

“Mr Engler’s capture after five years on the run is a welcome day and an important step in addressing a fraud in excess of $100 million,” said John Morton, the director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency ICE.

“I hope Mr Engler’s victims in this case feel a measure of relief that Mr Engler’s fraud and long run are over and that he will soon face justice in Germany for his alleged crimes,” he added.

Engler is wanted in Germany on multiple criminal charges stemming from a pyramid scheme fraud. He allegedly conned more than 3500 investors from Austria, Germany and Switzerland between June 2003 and December 2004 through a financial firm based in Cape Coral, Florida.

Engler allegedly used the internet to lure in investors from Austria, Germany and Switzerland with false claims that he traded in shares and security through his investment company, “Private Commercial Office ins,” ICE said.

Investors placed a little under $100,897,00 with Engler’s company, according to ICE.

“Once they had transferred the money to the United States, they no longer had any possibility to access the money,” it said in a statement.

Charges, which if he is convicted could carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, were filed against Engler in Mannheim and Hamburg, Germany in 2007.

US authorities began reviewing the case in 2011 and determined that Engler had shifted his operation to Nevada, where he was living under new identities in the names of Joseph Miller and Joseph Walter, ICE said.

The FBI and local police also confiscated 1000 artworks which Engler had stored in a warehouse outside of Las Vegas. “We’re investigating whether Mr Engler was involved in criminal activities in Las Vegas,” a police spokesman told the paper.

Engler’s extradition to Germany is now being prepared.

AFP/The Local/jlb

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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