Like a Rolling Stone

How does it feel, to be without a home, A complete unknown, like a rolling stone.

Last week was the 50th anniversary of the seminal Bob Dylan album, Highway 61 Revisited. It has always been my favorite Dylan album so to honor its release in 1965, this week I will use one song as an introduction into the topic de jur. This was the first album which Dylan primarily used rock musicians as his backing bank. Previously, he had recorded mostly acoustic music. I have always enjoyed the style Dylan employed in this album, using blues-based music with the subtlety of poetry to create songs that captured the political and cultural chaos of mid-1960s America. The critics hailed it as well. Michael Gray, in his seminal work The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, argued that in an important sense the 1960s “started” with this album.

The first song on the album was Like a Rolling Stone. For my money, this is the greatest Bob Dylan song, anytime, anywhere. It captures all the teenage angst and adult alienation that one could ever think about or even feel. But more than simply the lyrics, the music is a revelation, beginning with the rim shot which opens the song, followed immediately by Al Cooper’s blazing organ solo. It really does not get much better than this. When your central character is ‘Miss Lonely’ you know you are in for something very unique.

I thought about this song in connection with the recently released Criminal Information against Daren Condrey for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). His matter is part of a greater case involving several other individuals and companies which have all been reported to have been involved with a massive bribery scheme to purchase spent uranium from old style Soviet Union nuclear missiles which had been dismantled.

In a June Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article by Joel Schectman, entitled “Russian Uranium Probe Reaches Into Small-Town Ohio”, he reported, “A widening U.S. bribery probe involving Russian uranium has reached from Moscow to a company in the heart of America’s Rust Belt. U.S. authorities are investigating whether an executive in Bremen, Ohio—a rural community with about 1,500 residents roughly 40 miles southeast of Columbus—bribed Russian energy officials to win his company millions of dollars in contracts to supply shipping containers for uranium, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The bribery scheme is reported to have begun in 2010 by Westerman Company and continued at least through 2014 after the entity was acquired by Worthington Industries Inc. The WSJ article identifies the company executive “Barry Keller, a Bremen native who has spent more than three decades at Westerman, working his way up from the shop floor to senior management” as the person involved in paying the bribes. Further, it does not even appear that the bribery scheme itself was too sophisticated or unique. According to Schectman, it involved paying a Russian middleman who “arranged for the bribe payments to be channeled through a maze of secret accounts in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland, where they were collected by higher-ranking officials at Rosatom, Tenex’s parent.” The bribes were funded via “5% of a Westerman contract, and would be paid through a consulting invoice”.

According to Condrey’s Information, a Russian state-owned enterprise monikered “TENEX was indirectly owned and controlled by, and performed functions of, the government of the Russian Federation, and thus was an “agency” and “instrumentality” of a foreign government”.

Condrey’s involvement was as the owner and President of a company called ­­­­­­ Transport Logistics International (TLI), which was identified in the Information as “Transportation Company A”. Condrey, in conspiracy with others is alleged to have, in person and through electronic means, paid bribes to “obtain and retain business with TENEX.” He did this by providing false quotations and invoices that hid “the cost of the bribe payments” within his company’s pricing. These payments were made to a series of banks outside the US, to accounts located in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland. Some bribe payments were based on the percentage of money that Condrey’s company would receive for a contract to ship the uranium. Other times the bribe amounts were listed in the Information, with a payment of $25,774 and another payment of $77,869 being detailed in the Information.

The Condrey criminal FCPA enforcement action is a part of another criminal enforcement action involving money laundering which was recently revealed. Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a criminal prosecution against a Russian national, Vadim Mikerin, who was a foreign official because he worked under an instrumentality of the Russian government; for his role in a bribery scheme involving TENEX. He was the middleman that Schectman referred to in his WSJ article noted above. According to the Criminal Information filed “Mikerin was a director of the Pan American Department of JSC Techsnabexport (TENEX). Tenex, based in Moscow, is a subsidiary of Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation. It acts as the sole supplier and exporter of Russian Federation uranium and uranium enrichment services to nuclear power companies worldwide.”

While residing in the US, Mikerin was involved with a bribery and corruption scheme to supply Russian uranium to the US, where it was used in nuclear-power plants to generate electricity. Unlike Condrey, Mikerin was not charged with substantive FCPA violations but, according to Plea Agreement “Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, in the Stipulated Facts, attached he conspired with others to “transport, transmit, and transfer monetary instruments and funds from a place in the United States to a place outside the United States with the intent to promote the specified unlawful activity, to wit, the FCPA violations.”

The bribery scheme was facilitated by payments through shell corporations. The Stipulated Facts noted payments of $48,089, $91,000, $97,000 and $30,900 and a total amount paid of $2,126,622. So we are not just talking about chump change here.

Both Condrey’s Criminal Information and Mikerin’s Plea Agreement also detailed the involvement of other entities and individuals. There is ‘Executive A’ of this same company. There is another individual identified as ‘Co-Conspirator 3’ who was the “owner and sole employee of ‘Consulting Corporation 3’”. It is believed that this person is Boris Rubizhevsky, 64, of Closter, New Jersey, who according to the DOJ Press Release on Condrey, “pleaded guilty on June 15, 2015, to conspiracy to commit money laundering and will be sentenced on Oct. 19, 2015.” There was also the company identified in the Mikerin Plea Agreement as ‘Cylinder Corporation One’. This company would appear to be the entity identified by Schectman as Westerman Company and the entity that acquired it, Worthington Industries Inc. So there is definitely more to come.

To cross-metaphor the Dylan title, it would appear that this rolling stone has gathered no moss around this stunning FPCA matter.

To listen to a YouTube version of Like a Rolling Stone, click here.

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© Thomas R. Fox, 2015