New York State attorney general Barbara D. Underwood has announced the guilty pleas of Robert J. Mirel and Debra Burnett, owners and operators of Arlington Equipment Corp. (d/b/a Arlington Manipulators), for defrauding numerous companies and business owners throughout New York and the United States. The couple pretended to sell glass installation equipment and laundered millions of dollars in criminal proceeds through their shell and shelf companies.

Both defendants pled guilty in Warren County Court to grand larceny in the second degree, money laundering in the second degree, scheme to defraud in the first degree, and criminal tax fraud in the third degree. Mirel will be sentenced to five to 15 years in state prison and Burnett will be sentenced to three to nine years in state prison on September 27, 2018. They will also be required to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution.

“If you cheat your customers, evade paying taxes, and steal from workers, you’re just a criminal with a business card—and we will catch you,” said Attorney General Underwood. “My office will continue to hold accountable those who scam New Yorkers.”

The Attorney General’s investigation, dubbed “Operation Bob the Builder,” revealed that Arlington Equipment Corp. was one of the only manufacturers of glass manipulators in North America at the time the business started in Queensbury, N.Y. As stated in the indictment, over at least five years, Mirel and Burnett took advantage of this near monopoly and stole over $1.3 million from almost 60 customers across the country, as well as defrauding the New York Department of Labor, The New York Department of Tax and Finance, and several employees who were not fairly compensated.

Mirel and Burnett’s scheme victimized not only New York customers, but businesses across the country in California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, as well as outside the United States in Australia, Canada, and Germany. In some instances, smaller companies that depended on receiving services from Arlington Equipment Corp. were unable to recover from the theft, and ultimately went out of business, according to the attorney general’s office.

According to statements and filings by the attorney general’s office, since at least 2012, Mirel and Burnett laundered money through their corporate entities in various ways, including but not limited to:

  • Making substantial cash withdrawals of victim money, then purchasing official bank checks payable to one of their other entities, and subsequently paying personal expenses with those funds so as to appear as if they were coming from a legitimate source of income;
  • Making substantial cash withdrawals of victim money, then purchasing official bank checks payable to one of their other entities, and subsequently writing checks back to an Arlington account in an attempt to artificially inflate the sales cash flow;
  • Structuring cash withdrawals and deposits in an attempt to move criminal proceeds undetected; and,
  • Taking new victims’ money both for personal benefit and using it to buy parts to build manipulators for prior victims that had not received their manipulators as originally promised.

According to statements by the attorney general’s office, by 2016, Mirel and Burnett also created a prospectus showing an estimated cash flow of over $11 million, in an attempt to sell Arlington and attract investors to provide funding necessary to continue perpetrating their scheme. In this prospectus, they indicated that they anticipated selling more than 50 manipulators per quarter, or 200 manipulators a year. The investigation revealed that these numbers were grossly inflated, as Arlington never manufactured more than ten manipulators per year.

In April 2018, Mirel and Burnett were each charged by and indictment in Warren County Court with the following 29 felonies: money laundering in the second degree, a class C felony (two counts); grand larceny in the second degree, a class C felony (two counts); grand larceny in the third degree, a class D felony (fourteen counts); scheme to defraud in the first degree, a class E felony (one count); criminal tax fraud in the third degree, a class D felony (two counts); and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, a class E felony (eight counts).

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Philip V. Apruzzese of the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Bureau Chief Joseph D’Arrigo. The Criminal Division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Margaret Garnett and Chief Deputy Attorney General Alvin L. Bragg, Jr.

1 Comment

  1. Thank goodness these crooks are going to jail and won’t hurt anymore businesses. They stole from us and never provided the manipulator.

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