A government whistleblower charges that the 73-year-old man the U.S. Marshals Service put in charge of auctioning off the property forfeited by white-collar criminals, including Bernie Madoff, undervalued what could be millions of dollars in assets.
Leonard Briskman, the man in charge of the Marshals unit and the Asset Forfeiture Program, is accused of selling the assets without public notice or competitive bidding, finding buyers through business contacts and maintaining a secret bank account not accessible to government auditors, the New York Times reported.
It all started when Brian S. Aryai, a former federal agent and certified public accountant who worked for a government contractor that helped the Marshals Service administer more than $2 billion in seized and forfeited assets, went to add his boss Leonard Briskman on LinkedIn, according to a lawsuit (embedded below).
He learned that Briskman didn’t list himself as an employee of the U.S. Marshals Service, but rather as the chief executive of a company called Asset Valuation Advisors, LLC (AVA), according to the suit. Briskman’s LinkedIn profile is no longer available, but Briskman’s employment with a company that handles seized assets, if true, would be a clear conflict of interest. The suit says when he dug into the company, Aryai discovered it “held itself out as a business with experience in the disposition of distressed assets, with examples that shockingly appeared to be U.S.M.S. forfeiture matters.”
“In essence Briskman would unilaterally place a monetary value on a particular asset and then proceed to negotiate with and select buyers. This arrangement is a clear conflict of interest and violates basic internal control precepts for segregation of duties,” the lawsuit says.
Aryai informed Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Ward who handles forfeiture matters, who allegedly informed Briskman what he had said, according to the lawsuit. Aryai said that lead to both the Forfeiture Support Associates LLC and the Marshals Service retaliated against him.
Aryai says in the suit that when Eben Morales, acting director of the Asset Forfeiture Program, found out that Aryai had told the U.S. Attorney’s office, he summoned him to his D.C. office. “[Y]ou should have come to me and I would have quietly forced Len into retirement and that would have been the end of it,” Morales allegedly said. Aryai alleges that a “sham” investigation was set up to look into him and that he was transferred because the commute was more difficult.
Briskman is now on special assignment, according to the New York Times. The DOJ inspector general is conducting an audit evaluating the oversight of seized and forfeited complex assets, according to its semiannual report to Congress.