July 7, 2023
A Monmouth County, New Jersey, financial counselor with the United States Army and major in the U.S. Army Reserves who allegedly defrauded two dozen Gold Star families has been indicted, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.
Caz Craffy, a/k/a “Carz Craffey,” 41, of Colts Neck, New Jersey, is charged by indictment with six counts of wire fraud and one count each of securities fraud, making false statements in a loan application, committing acts furthering a personal financial interest, and making false statements to a federal agency.
Craffy is expected to make his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni at the Trenton Federal Courthouse.
“Stealing from Gold Star families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation is a shameful crime,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “As alleged in the indictment, the defendant in this case used his position as an Army financial counselor to defraud Gold Star families, steal their money, and enrich himself. Predatory conduct that targets the families of fallen American service members will be met with the full force of the Justice Department.”
“The families of our fallen service members have laid the dearest sacrifice on the altar of freedom,” U.S. Attorney Sellinger said. “These Gold Star families deserve our utmost respect and compassion, as well as some small measure of financial security from a grateful nation. They must be off-limits for fraudsters. But, as the indictment alleges, this defendant took advantage of his role as an Army financial counselor to prey upon these families, using lies and deception to steer their investments in a way that would make him money. There is no room for those who seek to rip off families of fallen servicemembers to make a buck. We will use every means at our disposal to ensure that those who defraud military families are held accountable.”
“Those who prey on the family members of fallen soldiers, will be sought out and held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Joel Kirch, Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, Northeast Field Office. “The hard work, long hours, and dedication of our partners within the Task Force, from the United States Attorney’s Office, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and our own investigative analyst, resulted in this investigation’s swift resolution.”
“The families of service members who lost their lives while serving their country deserve to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect by individuals entrusted to assist them in obtaining survivor benefits,” said James R. Ives, Principal Deputy Director of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the law enforcement arm of the DoD Office of Inspector General. “Today’s announcement reflects DCIS and our law enforcement partners’ steadfast commitment to holding accountable those who use their official positions to take advantage of grieving military families.”
“Gold Star families are given a title no one would choose because it means they’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country,” said Special in Charge James E. Dennehy of the Newark FBI. The soldier, sailor, marine or airman they loved died during a time of conflict – defending this nation. They are given money and assistance to help ease the burden that comes with losing their loved one, however no amount of money can replace what they’ve lost. We allege Craffy took advantage of his position and defrauded families already going through a tremendous amount of suffering.”
“Craffy disgraced the position he was entrusted in to care for our nation’s military families when he allegedly took advantage of them during a vulnerable time of grief,” said Homeland Security Investigations Newark Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel. “No family, especially our Gold Star families, should have to face further heartache after a loved one’s death by having their financial security ripped out from under them by fraudsters.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: When a member of the Armed Services dies during active duty, his or her surviving beneficiary, now a member of a Gold Star family, is entitled to a $100,000 death gratuity and the soldier’s life insurance of up to $400,000. These payments are disbursed to the beneficiary in a matter of weeks or months following the servicemember’s death. To assist the beneficiaries in this time of need, the military provides a number of services to the servicemember’s family, including the assistance of a financial counselor.
From November 2017 to January 2023, Craffy was a civilian employee of the U.S. Army, working as a financial counselor with the Casualty Assistance Office. He was also a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, where he has been enlisted since 2003.
Craffy was responsible for providing general financial education to the surviving beneficiaries. He was prohibited from offering any personal opinions regarding the surviving beneficiary’s benefits decisions. Craffy was not permitted to participate personally in any government matter in which he had an outside financial interest. However, without telling the Army, Craffy simultaneously maintained outside employment with two separate financial investment firms.
Craffy used his position as an Army financial counselor to identify and target Gold Star families and other military families. He encouraged the Gold Star families to invest their survivor benefits in investment accounts that he managed in his outside, private employment. Based upon Craffy’s false representations and omissions, the vast majority of the Gold Star families mistakenly believed that Craffy’s management of their money was done on behalf of and with the Army’s authorization.
From May 2018 to November 2022, Craffy obtained more than $9.9 million from Gold Star families to invest in accounts managed by Craffy in his private capacity. Once in control of this money, Craffy repeatedly executed trades, often without the family’s authorization. These unauthorized trades earned Craffy high commissions. During the timeframe of the alleged scheme, the Gold Star family accounts had lost more than $3.4 million, while Craffy personally earned more than $1.4 million in commissions, drawn from the family accounts.
The wire fraud and securities fraud charges are each punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison. The charge of submitting a false statement on a loan application is punishable by a maximum of two years in prison. The charges of acts affecting a personal interest and false statements to a federal agent are each punishable by five years in prison. All counts but the securities fraud count are also punishable by a maximum fine of either $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. The securities fraud count is punishable by a maximum fine of either $5 million or twice the gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also filed a civil complaint against Craffy today based on the same and additional conduct. Craffy has been permanently prohibited from association with any member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. (FINRA).
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Kirch; special agents of DCIS, under the direction of Principal Deputy Director Ives; special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dennehy; and special agents of Homeland Security Investigations Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Patel with the investigation leading to the indictment. He also expressed appreciation for the Securities and Exchange Commission, under the direction of Gurbir S. Grewal, Director, Division of Enforcement, and FINRA, under the direction of Acting Head of Enforcement Christopher J. Kelly.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martha K. Nye of the Criminal Division in Trenton, and Carolyn Silane of the Criminal Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.23-198 Defense counsel: Mark Berman Esq., Fair Lawn, New Jersey.