Miami, Florida-based lender and financial services company Hencorp Becstone Capital LC (“Hencorp”) has agreed to pay $3.8 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act in connection with an elaborate scheme to defraud the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The Export-Import Bank, founded in 1934, is the official export credit agency of the federal government that guarantees loans made by approved lenders to foreign companies for use in purchasing American-made products. Hencorp, acting through its regional director Ricardo Maza, procured candidates in Latin America for participation in the loan guarantee program of the Bank. Hencorp allegedly approached business in Latin America and offered to help them make an application to the Bank for inclusion in the program, and then offered to make a the loan to such businesses if the Export-Import Bank approved them for the loan guarantee. The applications were false because Hencorp did not intend to provide a loan but instead planned to divert the loan funds.
In or around December 2006 Hencorp allegedly solicited Tenidos Peruanos y Servicios en General S.L.R. (“Tenidos S.L.R.”) to enter into an agreement to represent the company on an application for credit guaranteed by the Bank. This solicitation was made through the general manager of Tenidos S.L.R., Genaro Benites Caballero. In January 2007, Tenidos S.L.R. entered into a letter of interest and provided the requisite information for a credit application to Hencorp. Hencorp then allegedly submitted the application to the Export-Import Bank. At some point in March or April 2007 Hencorp alledly informed Tenidos S.L.R. that the application for credit had been denied when it had in fact been approved. Subsequently, on May 30, Hencorp allegedly forged the signature of Caballero onto a promissory note in favor of Hencorp for $955,026.37. This fraudulent promissory note was then provided to the Export-Import Bank. On May 31, Maza allegedly forged a letter to himself purportedly from Tenidos S.L.R. requesting that Hencorp pay $878,580.00 of the loan proceeds to Punto Pimax SAC under the false pretense that Punto Pimax SAC was Caballero’s primary shareholder and that it had paid, at Caballero’s request, $1,185,440.00 to ITM Ltd. South, a U.S. exporter of used textile equipment.
For the next several years, Hencorp allegedly made payments on the outstanding note. At some point, however, the payments stopped and the loan was considered to be in default according to the books and records of Hencorp. Hencorp then allegedly made a claim for payment to the Export-Import Bank on the defaulted sham loan and continued to make such claims while the Bank attemped to secure payments on the loan guarantees from the companies, such as Tenidos S.L.R. As early as February 2010, upper management of Hencorp was allegedly aware that Maza was carrying out a false loan scheme and that it had wrongly received funds from the federal government via the Bank. Upon continued receipt of such demands for payment, relators Caballero and Doris Lee Dominguez, legal counsel for Tenidos S.L.R., conducted an investigation and filed a complaint under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. The government then elected to intervene in the case. The two relators will collectively receive $608,000 of the settlement for their role in uncovering the fraud.
Ironically, Hencorp reportedly received the 2008 Small Business Regional Lender of the Year award from the Export-Import Bank, having offered more than $100 million in financing through the Bank over the five preceding years to support the sales of small businesses in the U.S. to small and mid-sized companies in Latin America.
Previously, in 2012, Mario Mimbella of Miami, Florida, the purported U.S.-based exporter on three of the fraudulent transactions, pled guilty to making false records for his participation in the scheme and was later sentenced to six months in prison. As an additional consequence, Mimbella was ordered to pay $496,869 in restitution and $759,547.49 in forfeiture. Mimbella was the owner of Mario’s Air, Inc., a Miami-based air cargo provider serving light cargo transportation needs primarily between Miami, Florida, and the Bahamas. Around July 2008, Mario’s Air was purported to be an exporter of garbage collection trucks involving $2.3 million worth of loans to Peruvian borrowers guaranteed by the Export-Import Bank. Mimbella submitted false bills of lading and other export records showing that loan proceeds were used to purchase and ship U.S.-manufactured garbage trucks. In one instance, Mimbella wired loan proceeds directly to a Peruvian borrower who used the money to purchase garbage trucks made in Germany rather than in the U.S.