A Billings man has been indicted for allegedly defrauding a Canadian bank in an oil tanker scheme.
Todd Capser, 47, was arrested Wednesday in Billings by the FBI on an indictment from the U.S. Southern District of New York.
Prosecutors accuse Capser of providing misleading information about his assets to leverage $43.3 million from a Toronto lender identified only as "Financial Institution 1."
In a related civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Montana, the lender is identified as Third Eye Capital Corporation of Toronto. Capser's business is identified as "Wayfare Transoceanic."
The money was to pay for chemical and oil shipping tankers bought from a Hong Kong shipping firm. Capser apparently bought the tankers at $20 million apiece with the intention of leasing them back to the shipping company for $8,500 a day.
Afterward, Capser allegedly solicited similar investments from at least nine other lenders. Activities in the indictment begin in 2016. Other fake items were presented as collateral, including the phony $400 million proceeds from the sale of a fake cattle ranch.
“Todd Capser, as alleged, managed to mislead a Canadian financial institution into lending him more than $43 million, and tried to mislead other financial institutions into lending him tens of millions of dollars more, by creating mountains of false evidence of his solvency to represent himself as a legitimate business owner," said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman in a press release. "Capser is now in custody and faces significant time in prison for his alleged crimes.”
The FBI also identified Capser's father, Edward Michael Capser, as being part of the scheme, though criminal charges have not been filed against Edward Michael Capser. The father and son are both defendants in the related civil lawsuit. The father is known as an artist in the Billings community.
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Filed in a federal district court in Montana on April 10, the civil lawsuit identifies Edward Michael Capser as backing the $43 million loan with a bogus investment portfolio worth at least $30 million.
No one answered the phone Wednesday when The Billings Gazette attempted to contact Edward Michael Capser.
In addition, Todd Capser is also alleged to have fabricated fake email accounts for employees of Bessemer Trust, a legitimate company presented by Capser as managing the bogus portfolio.
The phony email accounts were then used to give TEC daily updates about the bogus portfolio, which the Capsers promised never to drop below $30 million. Last December, Bessemer informed TEC that the trust company had no investment portfolio for Edward Michael Capser. The man had never been a customer, according to Bessemer.
U.S. attorneys in New York also faulted Todd Capser for fabricating family emergencies to explain his odd behavior.
"In addition, in an effort to engender sympathy, deflect questions, and explain suspicious behavior, Capser falsely represented to certain of the Financial Institutions that his daughter was terminally ill with cancer," the U.S. attorney said.
Capser has been charged with wire fraud, felony conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. If convicted, the Billings man could face up to 43 years in prison.
Capser was a former state director for the late U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont. A decade ago, he was profiled in the Billings Gazette "40 under Forty" feature of up-and-coming professionals younger than 40 years old.