Former CME hog futures clerk convicted in $200,000 fraud case

CHICAGO, March 17 Mon Mar 17, 2014 4:13pm EDT

CHICAGO, March 17 (Reuters) - A former clerk at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was convicted of commodities fraud for manipulating trades in the lean hog futures market to earn more than $200,000, federal law enforcement officials said on Monday.

Nicole Graziano, 33, of Addison, Illinois, was found guilty of four counts of commodities fraud on Friday after a four-day bench trial before U.S. District Judge James Zagel in Chicago, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Between September 2009 and August 2010, Graziano submitted at least 89 fraudulent trade cards to clearing firms, resulting in $213,680 in illegal profits to her, the release said.

In delivering his verdict, Zagel said Graziano's scheme resulted in an "almost unbelievable success rate" of 90 to 100 percent of winning trades for her own account, which would have been impossible in an ordinary market setting.

The scheme damaged "the legitimacy of the exchange itself" and hurt its customers, Zagel said, according to the release.

CME Group, which owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, did not immediately respond to e-mails from Reuters seeking comment.

Graziano faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine on each count. Zagel set sentencing for June 25.

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