U.S. citizen arrested in Honduras convicted of federal fraud and conspiracy charges

 

Date: April 8, 2022

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

Albuquerque, NM — A federal jury on April 7 returned a guilty verdict on Bruce Beckner for one count of bank fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud. Beckner will remain in custody pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

Beckner was indicted on June 24, 2015, along with co-defendant Arthur Herlihy of Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2007, Beckner recruited Herlihy to join him in developing a business plan and securing financing to renovate a truck stop in Deming, New Mexico.

On July 7, 2009, Beckner and Herlihy obtained a loan for $135,165 from First New Mexico Bank. The stated purpose of the loan was to pay off a prior loan secured by a liquor license, and Beckner and Herlihy pledged the liquor license as collateral for the new loan as part of the transaction. At the time it received the loan from First New Mexico Bank, the truck stop business did not own the liquor license outright, but still owed money to the broker who financed the earlier liquor license transaction, which occurred in December 2008. Herlihy and Beckner falsely represented to the bank that the liquor license would be held free and clear of any liens or lawsuits. Beckner also signed the transaction documents using an alias, "Bill Evans," and submitted an inaccurate personal financial statement to the bank concealing outstanding restitution debt he owed as the result of a prior criminal conviction in the late 1990s. Rather than pay off the license, Beckner and Herlihy used the loan for other expenses and the license remained encumbered to the previous loan. In 2011, the truck stop business defaulted on the loan from First New Mexico Bank.

On Oct. 2, 2009, Beckner and Herlihy obtained over $16 million in loans for Fuel4Less, LLC, through the New Mexico Finance Authority, including $12 million from Virtual Realty Enterprises and $4 million from U.S. Bank Development Corporation. Beckner signed several documents associated with the loan under the false name "Bill Evans," representing himself as facilities and operating manager of Fuel4Less. Beckner also submitted a false résumé under the name "Bill Evans" that omitted material information and claimed experience and previous employment he did not have. These loans also went into default in 2011, after which a New Mexico state judge turned the business over to a court-appointed receiver, who filed a bankruptcy petition.

Beckner and Herlihy solicited money from various investors purportedly to be used in a "fuel factoring opportunity." This opportunity, they told investors, would involve one component of the enterprise purchasing fuel from outside suppliers that would then be sold back to another component at a higher price, and the profits from the internal sales would be shared by the investors. Instead, there were no internal sales, and the investments, some of which were sent by wire transfers, were used to repay other investors or to cover various operational expenses, including Becker's and Herlihy's salaries.

Beckner and Herlihy sent investors promissory notes and other documents stating their investments were secured by truck stop assets. They did not tell investors that the pre-existing loans made the promissory notes essentially worthless.

Herlihy pled guilty in Feb. 2017, to making a false statement to a bank on a loan document, and was sentenced on Aug. 11, 2017, to three years of supervised release.

Beckner was arrested by the Honduras Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) on March 7, 2019, at the San Pedro Sula airport in Honduras. At the time of his arrest, Beckner had been residing on Roatan, Honduras, for several years. Honduras approved his extradition on April 11, 2019, and he was transferred into U.S. custody on April 16, 2019.

Beckner faces up to 30 years in prison for bank fraud, up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and up to 30 years in prison for conspiracy.

IRS Criminal Investigation, HIS, and the Special Investigations Division of the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean J. Sullivan and Taylor F. Hartstein are prosecuting the case. The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs, HSI Honduras TCIU, and the HSI ICE Country Attaché in Honduras assisted with the extradition.