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Former AFTRA Retirement Fund executive charged in $3.4-million fraud case

A former executive with a fund that provides retirement benefits to actors and broadcasters has been arrested and charged with fraud.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A former executive at the AFTRA Retirement Fund has been arrested, along with a business vendor, and charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with an alleged false invoicing scheme that cost the health and retirement fund millions of dollars.

Enrico Rubano worked as the co-head of information technology for the AFTRA Retirement Fund, which is based in New York. The fund provides retirement benefits to actors and broadcasters and is a separate legal entity from the SAG-AFTRA union.

Rubano was arrested on Thursday along with Shivanand Maharaj, whom the fund described as an outside vendor, without elaborating.

Both individuals are alleged to have devised a scheme in which companies they owned or controlled submitted invoices to the AFTRA Retirement Fund for millions of dollars in information technology services that they did not perform, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

In some cases, those services had been performed by employees of the fund or by other vendors. A lawyer representing Rubano said he was released on bail.

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The Department of Justice said Rubano and Maharaj reaped about $3.4 million from the scheme over a period of six years from 2009 to 2015.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that Rubano “allegedly had the fund make payments based on hundreds of fake invoices to [Maharaj’s] company, not for IT work actually done by that company, but really in exchange for alleged kickback payments to Rubano.”

The AFTRA Retirement Fund said it found evidence of the crime during one of its periodic internal reviews, and “immediately undertook a careful review of the evidence and promptly notified federal law enforcement authorities.”

The fund said that it has notified its insurance carrier of “this situation and is pursuing recovery of any losses ultimately determined to have been incurred.”

A separate scandal hit the Screen Actors Guild’s Producers Pension and Health Plans in 2015.

Nader Karimi, a former chief information officer of the organization, pleaded guilty to one felony count of filing a false tax return. Karimi had failed to report income he received from contractors to upgrade the union’s computer system.

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement: “While the discovery of potential wrongdoing is unsettling, it is reassuring that the AFTRA Retirement Fund Trustees took action to alert the authorities. Their response helped root out the wrongdoing and culminated in the arrest of the suspects who will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I appreciate the assurance that participants’ crucial benefits are protected and safe, and commend the current Trustees for their responsiveness and uncompromising position that wrongdoing will not be tolerated.”

david.ng@latimes.com

@DavidNgLAT


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