A CPA and former partner-in-charge of advisory services at New York City-based Marks Paneth LLP was arrested by federal authorities in Florida on Oct. 8 for allegedly bilking investors out of $2 million through an intellectual property scheme.
Steven Henning, Ph.D., 57, was charged with one count of wire fraud in a federal court in Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 9. He was arrested on Monday afternoon in St. Johns, Fla.
Corin Huff, marketing communications manager for Marks Paneth, confirmed to Going Concern in an email that Henning was a former employee of the firm, but she added that “Mr. Harding was never the managing partner of Marks Paneth LLP and has not been employed by the firm for over a year.”
“The actions alleged in the government’s complaint are not related to the business of the accounting firm. Marks Paneth LLP has been and continues to cooperate with the government’s investigation,” she added.
A now-deleted bio of Henning on Marks Paneth’s website said that he was partner-in-charge of advisory services and served on the firm’s executive committee. An executive bio on Bloomberg shows that Henning had served as partner-in-charge of advisory since Jan. 1, 2016. He previously served as an accounting professor for several years at the University of Colorado and at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
While employed at the accounting firm, Henning formed OpportunIP in June 2008, which he allegedly told investors “was a company specializing in assisting other entities in taking intellectual property to the market,” Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.
“Henning allegedly induced victims to invest in OpportunIP by providing them with false documents showing OpportunIP’s involvement in multi-million dollar transactions that would reap millions of dollars in future profits. Ultimately, the victims learned that the deals did not exist and they were victims of an alleged scheme to defraud them out of millions of dollars.”
U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector-in-Charge Philip Bartlett called Henning’s claims “nothing more than a bag of lies.”
The complaint states that OpportunIP had, at different times, offices in Purchase and Terrytown, N.Y. Henning was the CEO and “owned an interest in OpportunIP through an entity known as the Henning Family Partnership. Members of the accounting firm also owned interests in OpportunIP.”
Wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.