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.Ex-Oakland Chamber Member Charged With Fraud

Todd Hansen, who recently left the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce board or directors, boosted salary in alleged scheme.

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In July 2010, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce announced in its monthly publication that it was welcoming a new board member, the president of Clear Channel Outdoor in San Francisco. But in mid-November 2011, Todd Hansen’s name was removed from the chamber’s website, and on November 30, Hansen appeared before a federal judge in New York to answer charges that he had reported millions of dollars of false revenues at his former company.

The charges involve Hansen’s time serving as president of Posterscope USA, an advertising company owned by the United Kingdom-based Aegis Group. Hansen worked out of the company’s California offices between 2004 and 2009, and federal investigators allege that during that time Hansen conspired with his co-defendant, former Posterscope finance director James Buckley, to falsify the company’s net revenues, reporting that Posterscope had earned $19.75 million more than it had.

While the complaint filed in federal court against Hansen and Buckley does not specify which company they were employed by at the time, a representative of Aegis Group confirmed that Aegis initiated the investigation. Hansen and Buckley each have been charged with two counts of wire fraud, and Hansen has been additionally charged with one count of mail fraud.

Accountants hired by Aegis after Hansen’s departure discovered the fraud, according to the federal criminal complaint, and a former subordinate of Hansen and Buckley has entered into a non-prosecution agreement with investigators, informing them that Hansen and Buckley gave instructions to make it appear as though Posterscope was meeting revenue projections when it wasn’t. These instructions allegedly included reporting that clients were being billed for more than they were, and reporting that Posterscope was receiving rebates from its vendors.

The employee told investigators that Hansen and Buckley’s requests made the employee uncomfortable, and so the employee secretly began keeping a record of the alleged false entries. That employee also made objections to Hansen and Buckley, investigators said, including in a 2008 email informing Buckley that recorded revenues did not match those reported to Aegis. Yet despite the employee’s objections, Hansen continued to issue instructions to falsify revenues in Posterscope’s books through 2009, according to the complaint.

The revenues reported by Posterscope allowed Hansen to collect performance-based salaries, bonuses, and stock options totaling $1.1 million during his tenure there. Investigators also allege that Hansen improperly used company funds to purchase expensive gifts for himself and family members. Another subordinate of Hansen’s told investigators that Hansen would instruct the employee to write checks for Hansen for personal expenses, including paying rent on Hansen’s stepson’s apartment, paying for country club memberships, and purchasing airline tickets for family members. Investigators estimate that Hansen improperly used tens of thousands of dollars this way.

Aegis hired outside accountants to look into Hansen and Buckley’s accounting practices in 2010, after Hansen’s departure from the company in 2009. Those investigators noticed the discrepancies and eventually turned over their findings to federal investigators. Meanwhile, Hansen took a position as president of Clear Channel Outdoor in San Francisco, joining the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce but continuing to reside in Bakersfield. Hansen took over for longtime Oakland Planning Commissioner Michael Colbruno, who was ousted from his job at Clear Channel.

Hansen’s time with Clear Channel was far shorter than his tenure at Posterscope, and by the time charges against him were announced in November, he had departed from Clear Channel to pursue an unspecified other opportunity, a Clear Channel spokesperson said. At the same time, Hansen’s relationship with the Oakland Chamber ended as well, though he was still listed on its website as part of the board of directors’ executive committee well into November.

Hank Masler, communications director for the Oakland Chamber, said that Hansen assisted with the chamber’s communications efforts during his time there, and that he left the chamber when he left his post at Clear Channel several months ago. Neither Clear Channel nor the Oakland Chamber would comment on the fraud charges against Hansen.

When the charges against Hansen and Buckley were revealed in November, federal prosecutors said in a statement that the “classic accounting fraud scheme” would be prosecuted in federal court.

“Hansen and Buckley were responsible for significant false entries on their company’s books,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Janice Fedarcyk. “Their dishonesty resulted not only in unjust enrichment but also in deceiving co-workers, the parent company, and its shareholders about the company’s financial health.”

While Aegis acknowledged initiating the investigation into Hansen and Buckley’s activities, an Aegis spokesman said the investigation has no lasting implications on the company’s current financial health. “A new management team has been in place for two years and the business is performing well,” he said. “There are no implications for the business, or Aegis Group, going forward, financial or otherwise.”

Hansen voluntarily surrendered to authorities and appeared in court on November 30. He is currently free on $50,000 bond and is due back in New York on January 4 for a preliminary hearing, said US Attorney’s Office officials in New York.

Hansen’s attorney, William Portanova, said Hansen plans to enter a plea of not guilty. “This case is a confusing mess right now and we’re going to help everyone straighten it out,” Portanova said. “There is much more to the story than has been publicly disclosed and we are looking forward to filling out that public record.”

Correction: The original version of this story erroneously stated that Michael Colbruno is a port commissioner. He is a planning commissioner.


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