FBI arrests fraudster Peter Thomas Senese after he steals from the parents of abducted children


April 1 , 2015

Source: FBI.gov

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), today announced charges against PETER SENESE AKA Peter Thomas Senese, the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation (“I CARE”), which advertises itself as a “self-funded non-profit organization dedicated to preventing child abduction and trafficking.”

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Since at least 2013, SENESE allegedly defrauded parents whose children were victims of international abduction by falsely representing that he, working with the worldwide resources of I CARE, could rescue their children and return to them to the United States in exchange for money for his purported rescue operation expenses. SENESE was arrested this morning in Brooklyn, New York, and will be presented later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein.

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Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Peter Senese fed a pack of lies to desperate parents by telling them, among other things, that he and his company could, for a price, locate and recover their internationally kidnapped children. In fact, he could do no such thing, but that didn’t stop him from allegedly repeatedly reaching out to the parents for more money to fund his non-existent rescue mission. This type of alleged fraud that preys on the especially vulnerable and desperate is a top priority for us, and we will work to ensure those who commit these outrageous crimes are held to strict account.”

FBI Assistant Director Diego Rodriguez said: “As alleged, Senese’s supposed self-funded corporation to prevent child abduction and trafficking turned out to be nothing more than a ruse. He allegedly preyed on the anguish of suffering families, left them open to be victimized a second time, and accepted their payments to fund his personal venture without ever having access to the worldwide resources of which he spoke. Fortunately, his journey ends today. The FBI and our law enforcement partners often work hand in hand on cases involving the mysterious disappearance of a child, and we will continue to protect the welfare of those faced with this terrible tragedy. ”

According to the allegations in the Complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court:

Through his websites (www.stopchildabduction.org and http://www.petersenese.com) and elsewhere, SENESE promotes I CARE as “a self-funded not-for-profit 501-C-3[sic] corporation” that “does not accept outside financial contributions and has reunited numerous internationally kidnapped children while preventing an exponentially larger number of children from abduction.” SENESE also represents that I CARE includes “some of the leading figures in the world dedicated to protecting children from abduction and trafficking” and that “there have been many, many children of international parental child abduction who have been reunited and returned home due directly to the great efforts, financial, legal, and investigative resources” of I CARE.

Between at least November 2013 and February 2015, SENESE specifically represented to victims that he could recover their children from other countries by working with a team of former members of the U.S. Army component Delta Force (“Delta Force”), of which SENESE claimed to have also been a member. SENESE repeatedly represented to one victim (“V-1”) that he could recover V-1’s child (“Child-1”) from India in a matter of weeks, but that he needed a few thousand dollars from V-1 to cover his operational expenses. In the months that followed, SENESE repeatedly represented that he was very close to recovering Child-1, appeared on a local radio program with V-1, and sent numerous text messages and e-mails stating, in part, that he was either in India or an unspecified “remote location” and that Child-1 would be returned to the United States in a matter of hours or days. During the same period, SENESE repeatedly asked for additional funds, typically ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 per month to cover his operational expenses.

In fact, SENESE has not traveled outside of the country for years. While SENESE represented that he was in foreign locations, he was actually in Miami, Florida; New York, New York; or Los Angeles, California. SENESE also has never had any affiliation with the United States military, and the children SENESE promised to recover have not been recovered.

* * *

SENESE, 49, of Brooklyn, New York, is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The statutory maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding work of the FBI for its investigative efforts and ongoing support and assistance with the case.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaimie L. Nawaday is in charge of the case.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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One thought on “FBI arrests fraudster Peter Thomas Senese after he steals from the parents of abducted children

  1. SCAM SUSPECT RECENTLY CONVICTED IN N.Y. HEALTH CARE FRAUD PROMPTED WARNING
    Published on October 3, 1997

    © 1997- The Press Democrat

    BYLINE: Jody Kleinberg
    Staff Writer PAGE: A1

    The bridegroom who spent thousands for a glamourous Wine Country wedding and then stiffed everyone involved is no novice to crime and has a record of fraud across the country, police officials said.

    Peter Senese, who was arrested in Sonoma County on Monday, has been suspected in cases in Kansas, Florida and Sacramento and was arrested in New York in February for a scam involving a phony investment management firm, New York police officials said. By July, his health care management scams had become so notorious that he was the subject of a health care magazine story.

    On Sept. 16, he was sentenced to five years probation for fourth-degree larceny charges, New York court records show. But that didn’t stop him from heading for Wine Country. Ten days after his sentencing, he and Mary Mecher boarded a hot air balloon in Santa Rosa for a no-frills-barred wedding.

    The nuptials included bottles of expensive champagne, a gourmet luncheon at the Kendall-Jackson winery and luxurious accommodations at the Deerfield Ranch Winery and Inn, where the couple spent the weeks before they exchanged vows.

    Not only did the couple not pay the hot air balloon company, the captain who married them, the photographer who accompanied them or the cab driver who drove them, they also wrote a bad $35,000 check to the winery.

    “These guys were absolute professionals,” said P.J. Rex, who owns Deerfield Ranch Winery and Inn and got to know the couple and their lavish taste in the days before the wedding. “Just like Bonnie and Clyde and they loved to be photographed and take pictures with their victims. We have pictures of the six of us … at dinner.”

    The couple, who were freed on $50,000 bail each, are currently checked into the upscale Clift Hotel in San Francisco. It remains unclear how much Mecher, who is Canadian, knew about Senese’s past or how involved she was in the scam.

    Reached in his room, Senese refused to talk to a reporter. “I have no comment for the newspaper, as advised by our attorney,” he said.

    When he arrived at the winery in early September, Senese, 32, told Rex and her husband, Robert, that he was a New York businessman who was recovering from a brain tumor. He said he had decided to sell his investment management company and move to Sonoma County for a quieter life. He said he and Mecher, 32, had met in Las Vegas, fallen in love and were planning to buy a $1.7 million property with a vineyard, Rex said.

    As they planned their wedding, they lived extravagantly. Mecher always wore designer clothes and they had a penchant for good food and wine, Rex said. But they seemed to have little interest in paying bills and always found ways to avoid them or, when pressed, hastily scribbled a check.

    For the most part, the accounts were either already closed or had little money in them. All of the checks were starter checks without a name or address on them, victims said.

    At least two of the accounts were in Mecher’s name and she signed at least two checks, Sonoma County sheriff’s investigators said. One of the accounts, at Bank of America in Sonoma County, had about $10 in it, detectives said. Other checks — for dance lessons and rent — were written in Marin County, they said.

    The apparent scam failed when Rex and two other women got suspicious and started asking questions.

    “It was our gut feeling that blew it apart,” said Lovie Van der Horst, who runs Air Flambuoyant, the hot air ballon company the couple allegedly stiffed. “It just seemed funny. They did things that millionaires wouldn’t do.”

    The clues, said Rex, were in their manners and in a few odd details. For instance, instead of renting a car, the couple always called cabs or asked to borrow a car, she said. Jana Russon, the photographer they hired for their wedding, said they asked to borrow film from her several times and that Senese’s shoes “had seen their share of pavement.” His watch, cheap with a flimsy band, was also not the norm for a millionaire, they said.

    Once checks started bouncing, the women took action, organizing among themselves and alerting sheriff’s deputies. In the end, Senese and Mecher were caught within minutes of pulling away from Deerfield Ranch Winery and Inn.

    “I think we did a heck of a job. We really stressed over this,” Van der Horst said.

    The suspicions started when, several days after arriving at the winery, the couple — who had rented a room for $3,000 a month- told the Rexes that they were leaving for a quick trip. “They said they had to leave to fly to New York for a few days because they wanted to introduce her to the family and pick up a check,” Rex said.

    In reality, Senese had to be in New York on Sept. 16, when he was sentenced for the larceny charge.

    He told Rex the check was compensation for his company, Corinthian Investment Management, which he had recently sold. The company was fraudulent, and was what Senese used to bilk victims out of thousands of dollars, New York detectives said.

    The scam he got caught for worked like this: First, he set up phony offices on Madison and Park avenues and on Wall Street, even going so far as to hire temporary secretaries and rent office furniture and computer equipment. Then, he started contacting insurance agencies and telling them his company needed insurance policies for the small medical practices he had purchased.

    Senese would then offer to pay millions for the insurance policy, but then asked the insurer to write a smaller check — usually in the thousands — for partial fees, detectives said.

    But that was only one of his shady operations. In its July 1997 issue, Modern Healthcare magazine wrote an article warning customers about Senese, who had taken out $27,000 in ads in the magazine. The ads offered $400 million in capital for start-up companies. It remains unclear if the ads were paid.

    At least one businessman called Senese, but became suspicious when a $5 million check bounced, the article says.

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