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  4. "Dollars From Hell" Investigation Relieves Pressure of $50 Million "Boiler Room" Fraud Scheme

"Dollars From Hell" Investigation Relieves Pressure of $50 Million "Boiler Room" Fraud Scheme

"Dollars From Hell" Investigation Relieves Pressure of $50 Million "Boiler Room" Fraud Scheme

Seemingly leaping from the pages of a movie script, Special Agent Justin Deutsch, a bird-dog investigator with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa, spanned the globe following electronic money trails to dismantle multiple criminal organizations operating high-pressure boiler-rooms and money laundering schemes. They swindled thousands of victims out of many millions of dollars.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Dollars from Hell, unravels the efforts of Mary Kathryn Marr, 42, Miami, the mastermind of international money laundering organization. From 2014 to 2020, Marr, who was sentenced in January 2022 to 14 years in federal prison for her conspiracy, was at the center of a large, international fraud ring that conned more than $50 million in total proceeds by selling investments that do not exist. The investments were a sham and the victims received nothing.

The investigation identified boiler rooms based around the world including Spain, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Panama, Costa Rica, Bulgaria, and Thailand. Evidence led HSI investigators to identify thousands of victims in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and other locations in Asia. The money they conned people out would be deposited into accounts managed by Marr and sent to locations all over the world.

In total, Operation Dollars from Hell led to 13 indictments, resulting in 12 guilty pleas and one trial conviction. Investigators seized two luxury homes, more than 25 containers of luxury goods, and more than $3 million from 28 banks accounts from Marr and her co-conspirators.

Once upon a time in Hollywood

Beginning in 2014, investigators learned of a series of unusual banking transactions where millions of dollars being wire transferred to Tampa, then emptied to different parts of the world.

Deutsch noticed that the accounts were set up under businesses that claim to be doing things like fish distribution, consulting, construction, with one account claiming the reason for opening the account as a personal shopper for celebrities. Deutsch started seeing other accounts in this network, under a variety of shell companies without a legitimate business purpose.

(3144) “We noticed that there are comments from the victims about why they were conducting their wire transfers and that said things like investment purchase of shares stocks, that was a huge red flag for us,” Deutsch said. “We knew something wasn’t right.”

The deeper Deutsch and the team dug into the bank records, the more apparent Mary Marr’s name stood out at the center of this money laundering scheme.

(3145) “With Mary, it was one of the cases you hear of, like you always hear, follow the money. That’s how we uncovered Mary,” Deutsch said. “The bank account we first looked at didn’t belong directly to Mary, so she had recruited others to open those accounts for her.”

As the team looked at those accounts, they discovered they belong to shell companies owned by Marr. She was laundering money for boiler rooms overseas and taking a cut from every dollar as it was wire transferred to another account overseas.

(3142) “Mary Marr was a very interesting character to investigate,” Deutsch said. “She lived an exciting life, a luxurious life. She is a very likable person, she’s charismatic, outgoing. She’s a type of person that other people want to be around.”

She groomed people in her inner circle to open banks accounts to filter overseas boiler-room proceeds. They were obviously attracted to her lavish lifestyle, and the money she spent.

$10,000 dinners. $20,000 couches. South Beach penthouses. Expensive cars. Luxury jewelry, shoes, and clothing. World travel to vacation destinations in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ukraine, Serbia. Large luxurious homes. Diplomatic title as a Dame of Malta. Funding Hollywood film projects as an executive producer. Mary Marr lived life in the fast lane spending $40,000 to $50,000 dollars monthly to feed her extravagant lifestyle, paid for on the back of victims around the world.

Uncovered evidence leads investigators to investments Marr made in a movie as producer about a famous punk rock band named The Clash, entitled “The Rise and the Fall of the Clash (2012).” As the investigation continues, the team would have to go through all the evidence they collected with a fine-tooth comb. Whether it’s looking through communications between dozens of conspirators, text messages, emails, different conversations, hard copy documents, or flipping through corporate records and bank records, the team knows it must be done. Inside their treasure trove of evidence, Deutsch would find another movie she funded, which became the namesake for the investigation.

(3146) “As you’re working these kind of investigations, the amount of evidence can be overwhelming,” Deutsch said. “So there’s a lot of late nights. It can be kind of boring at times, but sometimes you find things that are just absolute gems, and just wow, this really pops out at you.”

Rifling through some documentation, Deutsch finds some financial records, invoices, and purchase receipts for directing and producing a movie. As he often works late into the evenings to unravel threads of evidence, Deutsch comes across the name of the movie, a western called Dollars From Hell.

(3147) “Unlike the movies, a lot of times it’s just me working on this case,” Deutsch said. “There’s nobody else around in the office. I’m looking through stacks and stacks of documents, find something that I think is really interesting. You know, you kind of stand up, you’re all excited, you look around and you realize there’s nobody else here. You’re by yourself, so you have that moment like ‘hey, this is great, who do I share this with?’ I guess it’s going to have to wait till tomorrow.”

The documents were payment for a script and eventual production of a western that was supposed to star John Wayne’s grandson. The project never saddled a horse. The Dollars from Hell movie was never made as Marr runs into a dogged investigator who unravels her schemes.

“I don’t think that movie ever actually got produced, but that name just jumped out at me, Dollars From Hell,” Deutsch said. “That’s the name we used for this case because it perfectly describes what’s going on here.”

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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