San Cristobal associate and legal advisor Homer W. Forster was arrested in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on the 16th of September by US Marshals and handed over to the Dubai authorities. Forster is a fugitive from US justice, wanted for fraud, embezzlement and passport fraud. Forster is the fourth fugitive that is connected with San Cristobal, a company which sells teak and noni investments in Panama and has been accused of fraud.
Homer W. Forster, the former president of the Center for Financial Planning in Atlanta, Georgia, fled the US in 1994, after he had moved almost two million dollars of clients' money to offshore accounts with Dresdner Bank in Luxembourg. The accounts were in the name of a Panamanian company, "Billmey Asset Corp," which was set up by the law firm "Rosas y Rosas" in 1993.
Forster managed to obtain a British passport in the name of "Dr. Leonard Adams." According to the authorities this passport is a so-called "ghosting passport," meaning it had been issued in the name of a deceased person. He lived in Canada, Dubai and Spain, where he rented a house in Estepona on the Costa del Sol.
Forster came to Panama in 2002, together with his wife Donna Lynch (who is also a fugitive and has not yet been arrested) and two dogs, to do business with San Cristobal. He designed the investor contracts for them, and received as payment a $40,000 discount on a plantation he purchased. San Cristobal promotes it's investments by saying that investors will receive a reforestation visa which can ultimately lead to obtaining Panamanian nationality. Forster, in an email to the author of this article, stated that obtaining a Panamanian passport was his most important motive to buy into San Cristobal's scheme. However, evidence suggests that he was primarily looking at San Cristobal as a vehicle to launder money.
After having fled the United States, Forster decided to sell his expertise to other criminals. He became one of the world's top ten consultants specializing in money laundering and moving the proceeds of crime offshore. He did not advertise his services, but obtained most of his clients by word of mouth. One document that the author obtained shows how he approached lawyers in various jurisdictions to make them aware of his services.
He writes for example that "The ideal client is one who is in need of moving between US $3,000,000 and US $5,000,000 (at a time) into a secure and anonymous location. Because of the expenses involved, amounts of less than US $1,000,000 should generally not be considered, except in unique and/or unusual circumstances." Forster continues, "With respect to numbered and passworded accounts, we have a number of jurisdictions to choose from, none widely known, depending upon the circumstances of the client." To remove all doubt about the true nature of the services offered, Forster added, "Clearly, you will understand that, especially in the United States, Canada and in some other jurisdictions, the types of client activity contemplated herein could be (in the U.S. - will be) deemed to be illegal." Clients had to contact Forster through payphones with code names and could only meet in Latin America or the Middle East. "We realize that all of this sounds very cloak and dagger. Regrettably, it is a bit of that."
Apart from this memorandum, using various aliases like "Dr. Frederick H. Miller," and "Dr. Cavendish" and "Rumpelstiltskin," Forster wrote articles about financial privacy for a newsletter called "The Q," published by QuesterPress out of the United Kingdom, which also brought him clients. The same articles were further distributed through the "Institute of Global Prosperity," a known Ponzi scheme. Interested clients from Agora, a publishing company currently in trouble with the SEC, and QuesterPress were referred by word of mouth to his business "The Privacy Associates."
One of those clients referred to him was a Mr. Daniel Wiant, the director of the Columbus, Ohio office of the American Cancer Society. Wiant wanted to embezzle $7 million from his employer. Forster, using the services of Austrian banker Klaus Heider, opened secret accounts at Hypo Tirol Bank in Kufstein to receive the stolen money, using yet another alias of "Dane Forrest Hawkins." Daniel Wiant got caught, the money was returned, but Wiant did not co-operate with the FBI and Forster's role remained unknown initially. After his conviction, Wiant declared that he knew his accomplice as "Dr. Fred Miller" or "Dr. Leonard Adams." The FBI believed at the time that "Leonard Adams" was a British citizen and left the case alone, even though Wiant later identified Forster from a photograph.
Other clients included the principals of a multi-million dollar securities fraud and boiler room operation called "Dreyfus Securities," located in Bangkok, Thailand. They were referred to Forster by an Icelandic attorney, Gunnar Helgason, working from Hong Kong. According to Forster's notes "all three want alternate identities in order to hide the mother lode and to live an alternate lifestyle." The boiler rooms were raided by Thai police in 2001 after complaints from Australia and New Zealand and 85 people were held, however, the principals were not around at the time. Forster provided the principals with an introduction "to a European bank where they can deposit funds in cash," and would further prepare "an escape plan for each of them", after which he would "conduct a seminar to address the issues, especially per Gunnar, the ostentatious, non-low-profile behaviour of these individuals."
On the list of prospects also figured one Robert Alberding, who was convicted of fraud involving a Ponzi scheme in Texas.
An even darker "business proposal" came by email from Forster's Canadian associate and entrepreneur Peter Schömer. He contacted Adams saying he had a unique opportunity through a Swiss diplomat he knew, a certain "Wernli." Wernli had good contacts with a major Swiss bank that had hundreds of dormant accounts since the initial deposits were made over 50 years ago. Since it is then assumed that the beneficiaries of those accounts have deceased, Schömer stated that Wernli could move the funds in these accounts to other offshore accounts. Schömer wanted Forster's assistance to set up accounts in Dubai for this purpose. Most likely, the dormant accounts Schömer was referring to are the widely reported accounts which were opened by Jews just before the holocaust. The scheme never took off as Forster was arrested before it could be implemented.
Correspondence between San Cristobal and Forster from February and March of this year shows that Forster was trying to get a client to "invest" $40 million with San Cristobal. The client, according to Forster, had "difficulty getting proof of origin for these funds," indicating that they possibly represented the proceeds of crime. "He should at least buy ten lots," replied San Cristobal.
Similarly, San Cristobal's bookkeeper Tom Rowley tried to obtain Forster's services for wealthy clients seeking to evade taxes. Rowley has since left San Cristobal with a plan to start an aircraft maintainence facility in Panama, in which Tom Lennon, the ex-vice president of San Cristobal and long-time associate of McMurrain, is also involved. All this suggests that principals of San Cristobal were aware of the nature of Forster's business.
After two earlier critical articles about San Cristobal were published (part 1, part 2), Forster, under his identity as "Dr. Leonard Adams," contacted the author of this article to defend San Cristobal and it's owner, Tom McMurrain. Subsequent investigations by the author revealed that "Dr. Adams" was most likely the same person as Homer W. Forster. By maintaining correspondence with "Dr. Adams," his real identity was further confirmed, and his emails turned out to originate from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. One of our sources notified the US Marshal's office in charge of the Forster case and they apprehended Forster on September 16th in his room at the JW Marriot Hotel in Dubai. Fingerprints were wired from the US which confirmed his identity. In his room, illegal electronic equipment was found together with Forster's pilot license and with a World Bank conference only days away, the Dubai police suspected him of terrorism related activities.
Forster was caught with his fingers in the cookie jar, setting up a bizarre scheme to launder many millions of dollars. He had been busy, together with his current client and associate, convicted criminal Gregg Rene Walter, supposedly organizing a series of high profile rock concerts together with and for the benefit of Unicef. Gregg Rene Walter is another fugitive wanted for fraud out of Anchorage, Alaska, who hides out in Spain and is considered dangerous according to the NCIC arrest warrant. However, both he himself and Forster falsely touted him as a former keyboard player for Michael Jackson. The Unicef concerts, supposedly featuring artists like Santana, The Rolling Stones, Madonna and The Eagles, would be recorded for TV and broadcast using a pay-per-view system by satellite and over the internet. Supposedly, a concert with Santana was planned for the 23rd of January in Dubai. A proposal was written concerning the Rolling Stones to do a concert in EuroDisney, and even a concert below the Eiffel Tower in Paris was discussed. However, neither Forster nor Walter were organizing any concerts. They were the facade to move large amounts of money around. Forster was arrested the day before $25 million would be deposited in an account of the sham company - both account and corporation were set up through the Dubai office of Panamanian law firm Mossack & Fonseca - that supposedly produced the concerts. Unicef, upon learning about Forster's arrest, has immediately disassociated itself from the project and Gregg Rene Walter. Mossack & Fonseca did not reply to requests for comment.
While it has so far not been possible to prove a previous relationship, the similarities between Homer Forster and Tom McMurrain, owner of San Cristobal, are staggering. Both are fugitives from Atlanta, accused of fraud and embezzlement. Both have outstanding arrest warrants against them. Both are known to use fake names and identities. Tom McMurrain for example, used the alias "Tom Murphy" to conduct parts of his business in Atlanta, and a private investigator came up with the alias "Thomas E. Tingley." Both Forster and McMurrain are knowledgable about funneling money abroad. Forster used Panamanian companies to move the proceeds of his crimes to bank accounts in Luxembourg. Similarly, "while McMurrain was telling investors there was no money to pay them, we were wiring funds offshore," a former employee of Emergency-One, McMurrain's payday loan business in Atlanta, stated. McMurrain then fled the country to Costa Rica and later Panama. Two victims filed criminal complaints and two arrest warrants were issued, after which the FBI took over the investigation. This investigation is still ongoing, the FBI office in Atlanta assured the author recently.
San Cristobal principals Tom Rowley and Barry Miller figure as president and secretary for one of Forster's Panamanian companies, "Blackacre Holdings Inc."
The US has filed a request for Forster's extradition.
Note 2012: In lieu of an extradition treaty between Dubai and the US, Forster was released, went back to Spain and was arrested there again. Extradition followed and he served his prison sentence in the US. This story was originally published somewhere else, lost, and found again.