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Former Tampa Bay Lawyer Extradited from Nicaragua on Fraud Charges

Former Tampa Bay area attorney Lawrence Hartman was deported by Nicaraguan authorities deported last week and sent back to Florida where he faces fraud charges in Tampa’s federal court. He is accused of participating in a $137 million fraud and money laundering scheme largely based in the Tampa Bay area. The Nicaraguan government says Hartman tried to get a Nicaraguan passport using a fraudulent birth certificate.

U.S. prosecutors say Hartman is one of seven people charged in federal court in Tampa with a scheme that bilked investors out of at least $137 million. Several companies they created to carry out the fraud, prosecutors said in 2009, were in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties. Federal court papers allege the group hijacked names of more than 50 defunct companies and sold bogus stock in them to investors in Britain and elsewhere for over $100 million.

Most of Hartman’s alleged co-conspirators have previously been found guilty or pleaded guilty.

According to court documents, Paul Robert Gunter and his daughter led the team that stole the identities of 54 publicly traded companies and sold bogus stocks to retired or semi-retired investors in Ireland and the United Kingdom. They operated out of Palm Harbor and Clearwater. Authorities claim Texas attorneys Roger Lee Shoss and Nicolette Loisel, and Hartman, illegally acquired the identities of the dormant shell companies.

Simon Andrew Odoni and Richard Sinclair Pope are charged with facilitating sales of fraudulent stock to investors. Odoni and Pope also controlled the flow of money from victim investors into bank accounts that the pair could access, according to records.

Hartman reportedly had foreign residency in Costa Rica, and had been living there for an unknown number of years. He entered Nicaragua illegally across the Peñas Blancas border crossing on April 22, according to police. Nicaraguan police reportedly identified Hartman by cross-checking his fingerprints with Interpol records, according to a statement from law authorities.

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