By Nina Schutzmann
Olivet University and several of its top executives have been indicted in a $35 million money-laundering scheme, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Olivet, a San Francisco Bay Area evangelical college, owns the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center in Dover.
The defendants are accused of fraudulently obtaining millions in financing under Olivet’s name, and laundering the money to obscure its origins and fund operations there, the prosecutor’s office said.
The Christian college “denies the charges … and will vigorously defend itself against these unsupported allegations,” spokesman Ronn Torossian wrote in an email to the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Defendants in the indictment announced Thursday include Olivet; Andrew Lin, chairman of the Olivet board of trustees; Lingyi Xiao, Olivet’s finance director and dean of its business school; and William Anderson, an Olivet trustee and chief executive officer of Christian Media Corp.
The 16-count indictment includes felony charges of first-degree scheme to defraud and counts of second-degree money laundering, fourth-degree conspiracy, first-degree falsification of business records and second-degree criminal contempt.
It supersedes a previous indictment announced in October, and includes charges from it — in which Newsweek Media Group (also known as IBT Media), Christian Media Corp. and Oikos Networks were charged in a $10 million fraud probe.
Anderson was also charged in the previous indictment, along with Etienne Uzac, co-owner and chairman of IBT Media.
“After unmasking the scheme to keep Newsweek and Christian Media Corp. afloat, (the district attorney’s) Major Economic Crimes Bureau skillfully followed the money, revealing an even larger scheme to defraud lenders throughout the country, and cycle the ill-gotten gains through a maze of corporate bank accounts,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement. “This investigation remains ongoing, and anyone with relevant information is encouraged to contact us.”
Torossian, the spokesman, said Olivet “stands strongly by the individual members of its team who have been wrongfully accused.”
The school is “dedicated to providing educational and spiritual opportunities to students around the globe — including in locations that are hostile to Christianity and Christian practice,” Totossian added. “Olivet is no stranger to adversity and looks forward to being fully vindicated in court.”
Details of the claims
Vance’s office said Lin, Xiao, Anderson and Uzac worked together to get loans from financial institutions, purportedly to buy computer servers valued from $130,000 to $180,000.
To secure financing, Anderson and Xiao overstated Olivet’s financial health to prospective lenders, giving them false financial statements, prosecutors said. The defendants — and unindicted co-conspirators — created a fictitious auditor to make their false financial statements appear legitimate, Vance’s office said.
Over the course of the scheme, lenders gave Oikos at least $25 million to provide high-capacity computer servers to Olivet, prosecutors said, and the defendants engaged in “sham computer sales transactions” and transferred nearly all of the funds to accounts controlled by Olivet, Xiao, Anderson and the unindicted co-conspirators.
The money was then allegedly transferred through multiple accounts, and used to buy real estate, fund day-to-day operations at Olivet and other unrelated purposes, prosecutors said. All told, “defendants are alleged to have obtained approximately $35 million in funding through their scheme,” Vance’s office said.
Searched in Dover
The prosecutor’s office, with help from state police, conducted a search at Olivet’s Dover campus in March.
At that time, Marian Rebro, president of Dover Greens — the company that focuses on property maintenance and development of the campus — said the search was for “Newsweek servers.”
Nothing was removed from the campus, Rebro said at the time.
Newsweek articles have chronicled financial dealings between its parent company, Newsweek Media Group, and Olivet University at a time when Newsweek Media Group was in financial straits.
Vance’s office raided Newsweek’s offices in January.
Officials in Dutchess County, meanwhile, confirmed in February that the county had accepted free advertising from Newsweek Media Group. But county officials said nothing was offered in return, and there were no promises of favorable treatment in Olivet’s plans to develop a satellite campus in Dover.