Commercial litigation is not an area of practice where you’d expect to find a case that reads like a John Grisham novel. But maybe that’s precisely why the bestselling author should turn to Roland Tellis for help with his next plot.
Tellis, a partner at Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan, became immersed in an investment fraud case soon after the 9/11 attacks that had all of the trappings of a Hollywood blockbuster: a Middle East investment firm involved in the highly intense, complex world of foreign currency trading, a fast-talking father-and-son duo based in Sherman Oaks, more than $100 million gone missing, and intimations of international terrorism.
Ultimately, the case resulted in Tellis’ receiving a certificate of commendation from the FBI in 2003 for helping the Department of Justice build a criminal case against the father-son team of Moshe and Zvi Leichner. The Leichners were sentenced to 20 years each in federal prison for defrauding hundreds of investors throughout the United States and overseas out of more than $130 million.
Tellis’ client, an investment firm based in Qatar, contacted him in October 2001 after investing $14 million with the Leichners’ Midland Euro foreign currency operation earlier that year. The Leichners initially reported impressive profits to their investors, but when the Qatar firm attempted to withdraw a portion of its assets, the Leichners claimed it had all been lost in trading transactions.
Ironically, it was the Leichners who first brought the FBI into the case. When Tellis established that the account statements issued by Midland Euro were riddled with fictitious trades and mathematical inconsistencies, the Leichners attempted to steer the investigation in another direction by accusing Tellis’ clients of being terrorists. His clients were cleared by the FBI within one month, however, and Tellis filed a civil complaint against the Leichners for fraud and breach of investment agreements.
The FBI mounted a criminal case against the Leichners and relied on Tellis’ findings to help convict them. “It was a proud moment,” Tellis says of the ceremony at his office when he received the FBI commendation. “We had to remain one step ahead of the Leichners and their lawyer, who were hoping to make litigation so expensive that we’d give up.”