Lawyer admits he helped rip off almost $19 million before he disappeared for 4 years

In pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Michael Casey legally admitted that, before going on the run for four years, he had a key role in an investor fraud that cost 770 investors almost $19 million.

Casey’s cohorts already are or have done time for their part in the scam, except for Patricia Saa of Tampa, who is still a fugitive.

He’ll be sentenced Nov. 27 for both going on the lam and the preceding fraud. The 71-year-old Duke University School of Law graduate was disbarred in 2014.

For 15 months spanning 2010 and 2011, Casey and his white collar gang sucked over $21 million from investors in Commodities Online or Commodities Online Management (COL), his admission of facts states. They returned about $3 million to investors using money from later investors. The con game cost investors $18,919,995.

They played investors with stacks of lies about profits, how the money was used and who was actually in charge of COL. Founder and initial president James Howard of Parkland kept running COL after Casey, originally outside counsel, took over the title of president in May 2010. Howard, who had been arrested for a state fraud offense two months earlier, and Parkland’s Louis Gallo also controlled COL operations and money usage.

“After Casey became president, Casey learned that Howard had served prison time for a felony cocaine conviction and that Gallo wore a monitoring device due to a conviction,” Casey’s admission states.

This was not disclosed to investors.

The money was supposed to be for shares of COL and investments in sugar, iron ore, fish and other commodities. In February 2010, Casey found out COL got $2.2 million in ownership unit funds, at $25,000 a pop. Casey wrote an agreement that he sent to investors saying a “substantial portion” of that $2.2 million would be used as working capital. But Casey later found out that Howard and Saa had transferred $1.3 million of that money to another company of Howard’s.

This, also, was not disclosed to investors.

In selling interest in COL among many forms of media, Casey “offered investors the opportunity to fund transactions to buy and sell specific commodities. COL offered to pay investors a stated percentage return, such as 10 percent within 30 days or 20 percent within 70 days.”

Those contracts didn’t exist.

Casey posted on the COL website a history of profitable COL contracts that had no more truth than a drawn picture history of a survivor of an exploded planet named “Krypton.”

“Casey knew that COL did not have any profits and that the purported profits posted on the investors’ COL website accounts were false,” his admission says.

In his time as COL president, from May 2010 through March 2011, while many investors and vendors weren’t paid, Casey was paid $269,598.40 from COL accounts.