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New York Lawyer Charged with Multi-Million-Dollar Mortgage Fraud, Money Laundering and Obstruction of Justice February 17, 2010

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LOUIS CHERICO, a lawyer who practiced in New York City and Westchester County, has been indicted for participating in a wide-ranging scheme to commit mortgage fraud, obstruction of justice, and money laundering.

According to the Indictment filed in Manhattan federal court:

From July through December of 2002, CHERICO participated in a fraudulent real estate investment scheme which had, as its primary objective, the purchase of multi-million dollar residential properties in various communities in Westchester County, New York, including Purchase, Eastchester, and Rye, with loans obtained through the submission of false and misleading information to banks and other lenders. Many of the loans were equal to or in excess of one hundred percent of a property’s actual sale price, so that the defendant and his coconspirators did not have to put any of their own money at risk in the transaction.

CHERICO served as the attorney for various coconspirators in negotiating and closing the fraudulent purchases that were part of the scheme. CHERICO and his co-conspirators submitted to numerous federally-insured banks various documents, including loan applications, contracts of sale, deeds, real estate transfer documents, and title reports. Those documents contained materially false or misleading information about the income, assets, existing debt and credit-worthiness of the borrower, the chain of title to the property, and the sale price of the home, as well as the borrower’s intent to reside in the property as a primary residence, when, in fact, the properties were typically purchased for investment purposes. As a result of the scheme to defraud, CHERICO and his co-conspirators obtained millions of dollars in loan proceeds, enabling them to control certain properties that they otherwise would not have been able to purchase and finance.

The Indictment also charges CHERICO with laundering the illegal proceeds obtained from the sale of one of the properties used in the mortgage fraud scheme by transferring the proceeds from a bank account controlled by CHERICO to an account that was controlled by one of his co-conspirators, DOMINICK DeVITO. The transaction was designed to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the illegal proceeds.

The Indictment further charges CHERICO with obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, in connection with the 2003 sentencing of DOMINICK DeVITO, following DeVITO’s conviction in United States v. Pasquale Parello, et al.,(01 Cr. 1120) in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on charges of racketeering and mortgage fraud. Specifically, CHERICO assisted DeVITO in concealing profits that DeVITO earned from the sale of a property located in Purchase, New York, and in submitting an affidavit containing false and misleading information about the sale to the United States Probation Office.

CHERICO, 69, of Eastchester, New York, was arrested this morning.  His age will make plea negotiations difficult because his will age much faster in prison thus cutting his life expectancy dramatically.  I would want a doctor to evaluate his health to see if he can survive prison.  If he is looking at 10 years or more with a plea and he cannot survive that, then a plea may not be a great option especially if the trial can be put off for a while.

Title Company Owner Arrested on Mortgage Fraud and Money Laundering Charges February 16, 2010

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Daniel E. Fink Jr.,  of Baltimore, who owned and operated Homemaxx Title & Escrow LLC (Homemaxx), a title company that conducted residential real estate closings with offices in Middle River and Parkville, Maryland, was arrested in Palm Beach, Florida yesterday. He was a fugitive since March 26, 2009 when a federal grand jury in Baltimore returned an indictment charging him with wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a scheme to defraud lenders and homeowners of over $500,000.

According to the five count superseding indictment, from February 2003 to July 2004, Fink caused Homemaxx to fail to pay outstanding first mortgages on real estate transactions or to record deeds in the real estate records of local and state governments. Fink allegedly transferred substantial amounts of money from a Homemaxx escrow account into other Homemaxx accounts, as well as to accounts not associated with Homemaxx, and used the money intended to be disbursed pursuant to real estate closing documents for personal expenditures unrelated to real estate transactions. In connection with a particular real estate refinancing transaction by one of his customers, Fink allegedly diverted funds from the escrow account and then used the proceeds to purchase a new 2004 CLK Mercedes. As a result of this scheme, Fink is alleged to have defrauded lenders and homeowners of more than $500,000, and to have used $93,228 of the criminal proceeds for money laundering. The indictment seeks the forfeiture of $593,228.

4 men charged with bilking school district of more than $2 million February 2, 2010

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The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office has charged four men after a more than year-long investigation, alleging they bilked the Bernards School District out of more than $2 million.   Even though the money has since been repaid, the bad news for these four is “Somerset County”.  Good luck.

Charged were Robert E. Titus Jr., 52, of Citadel Drive in Jackson; John Paris, 61, of Sherman Avenue in the Belford section of Middletown; Edward G. Beach, 52, of Woodfern Court in Toms River and Gabriel Caponetto, 50, of Milton Street in Howell. They face charges ranging from first-degree money laundering to second-degree conspiracy to theft by deception and forgery.

Aramark Corp. and school district officials jointly reported an alleged long-term theft by an employee of Aramark from the district. Aramark provides food, janitorial and facility management services to the school district.  Titus, who began working for Aramark in 1992, became an on-site manager at the district’s Ridge High School in 1999, and was responsible for maintaining facilities and overseeing projects performed mostly by outside subcontractors. He was able to contractors without the school district having to obtain bids. In addition, one of those contractors, John Paris Construction, in turn hired other subcontractors to perform work without following a bidding process.

In July 2008 the district’s newly appointed business administrator began noticing inconsistencies between invoices Titus submitted for payment through Aramark and work performed in the district. When confronted by the schools superintendent, Titus admitted he had ‘doctored” an invoice, apologized, cleaned out his office and left the district.  This will present another problem for everyone involved as he may be the first to flip.

This is the type of case where an attorney really needs to move on this case right away to quickly figure out which way the case may go, what a trial would look like, which charges will stand up, who will flip, etc.

Theft of $600,000 worth of quarters leads to charges December 14, 2009

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New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram announced that John P. Corea, former director of the Hoboken Parking Utility, was indicted on charges that he conspired to steal more than $600,000 in parking meter revenue that he allegedly split with a Toms River contractor whose company was hired by the City of Hoboken to collect coins from city parking meters.

According to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni, Corea, 45, of Hoboken, was indicted today by a state grand jury on charges of conspiracy (1st degree), financial facilitation of criminal activity (money laundering) (1st degree), official misconduct (2nd degree), theft by unlawful taking (2nd degree), and misapplication of government property (2nd degree).

The contractor, Brian A. Petaccio, 49, of Toms River, owner and president of United Textile Fabricators LLC of Toms River, pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 to an accusation charging him with second-degree theft by unlawful taking for stealing more than $1.1 million in coins from Hoboken’s parking meters.

Corea allegedly used his official position to steer three separate no-bid contracts to United Textile Fabricators in November 2005 to collect the coins, count and manage them, and maintain the city’s parking meters. United Textile Fabricators is a coin-operated arcade game manufacturer.

After an audit in 2007 uncovered parking revenue shortfalls, Petaccio and his company returned approximately $575,000 to the city. However, Petaccio admitted in pleading guilty that he conspired with an official of the City of Hoboken – whom he did not name in court but had previously identified to investigators – to divert an additional sum, in excess of $600,000, which was never reported to the city and which the two men split. It is alleged that Corea is the official who conspired with Petaccio and split the money with him.

“Corea used his authority to steer three no-bid contracts to Petaccio, who admitted that he stole more than $1.1 million from the city, including funds in excess of $600,000 that he allegedly split with Corea,” Milgram added.

Under his plea agreement, Petaccio must pay $300,000 in restitution to the city and faces up to seven years in state prison. He must cooperate in the ongoing investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police.

It is alleged that while Corea was director of the Hoboken Parking Utility, he improperly solicited Petaccio and United Textile Fabricators LLC and subsequently used his official position to assist the company in obtaining the three no-bid contracts. Each contract was for approximately $27,000 per year, just under the relevant statutory threshold at the time of $29,000, above which public bidding would have been required, allowing other companies to compete for the work.

Between June 2005 and April 2008, Corea allegedly conspired with the company to steal and launder more than $600,000 in parking meter revenues, while continuing to use his official position to assist United Textile Fabricators and conceal its illicit activities. The company’s contracts with the city were effectively terminated by April 2008.

The principal business of United Textile Fabricators is the manufacture, sale and leasing of arcade crane games, coin-operated machines with a crane-like claw that the player uses to try to grab a toy. The company installs its arcade machines in businesses throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The proceeds from the machines, which are shared with the company’s clients, are collected by company employees and transported to the company’s warehouse in Toms River where they are counted and bagged for deposit into the company’s main operating account at a local bank. The state’s investigation determined that coins from Hoboken’s parking meters were commingled with coins from the company’s arcade machines and deposited in one lump sum into the company’s operating account, concealing the source and ownership of the funds.

In pleading guilty before Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson in Ocean County on Sept. 30, Petaccio admitted that he knowingly withheld from the City of Hoboken approximately $575,000 in parking meter revenues and misappropriated those public funds to pay a variety of personal expenses and business expenses unrelated to the company’s meter collection activities on behalf of the City of Hoboken. The state’s investigation determined that those personal expenses included credit card bills and car payments for a Porsche and a Mercedes. Petaccio and his company ultimately returned these funds to the city in several installments between October and December 2007, following an audit and inquiry by the city’s financial consultants and outside accountants.

However, it is alleged that, in addition to the $575,000 that Petaccio returned the city, he and Corea conspired to steal additional funds exceeding $600,000, which were never reported to the city. The two men allegedly worked out a scheme in which Petaccio reported to Corea the amount of coins collected each day, and Corea would tell him how much to put aside as the “take” to be split between them.

New Jersey Money Laundering Attorney November 28, 2009

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Money Laundering is commonly charged on the Federal level but New Jersey has its own state money laundering offense that is starting to be used by prosecutors in drug and tax crimes.  If you have been charged with any money laundering offense or if you think you may be a target of a money laundering investigation, call the team of tough, smart attorneys that will fight for you!

Money laundering is defined as the process whereby the origin of dishonest and/or illegally obtained money is concealed so that it appears to come from a legitimate source.  On the Federal level, money laundering is prosecuted under 18 USC 1956 and 18 USC 1957.  On the New Jersey State level, it is prosecuted under NJSA 2C:21-25.   Regardless of whether it is prosecuted at the Federal or State level, our New Jersey money laundering defense lawyers will defend and protect you, your family and your reputation.

You can meet with our New Jersey money laundering attorneys in any one of our offices:  Newark, Jersey City, New Brunswick, Woodbridge, East Brunswick, Red Bank, Freehold, Eatontown and Toms River. Call our lawyers today to discuss your money laundering case or investigation.

NJ woman wanted in theft from auto dealership found in Florida September 24, 2009

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Last November, workers at Lynnes Nissan in Bloomfield that were performing an internal audit discovered that money was missing from the dealership’s accounts payable department.  An apparent theft had occurred in multiple stages from 2007 to 2008.  Karen Sosa,  an accounts payable clerk at the business left her job shortly after the audit. 

The dealership notified the Essex County Prosecutor’s Economic Crimes Unit who sought to interview Sosa in June.  However, she allegedly skipped town and was on the run.  This Wednesday, members of the U.S. Marshals tracked her down to at an apartment in Broward County.

She is now facing charges of first-degree money laundering and second-degree theft by deception for the alleged theft of $545,000.  I’d like to know more about the case.  That money laundering charge has to be the harshest white collar crime in New Jersey.  Thus, her attorney should focus on getting around that charge one way or the other.

Story is here.

PNC Bank teller and others charged with identity theft September 13, 2009

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Babatune Ibironke, a PNC bank teller, his wife, Eryn Brown, and John Caldwell Jr., an accomplice, were charged with several counts of identity theft, theft by deception and conspiracy to commit those crimes.   The State alleges that Ibironke created two bogus bank accounts to steal $66,000 from a legitimate account. Caldwell was charged with conspiring with Ibironke to use a debit card to collect the money.   Ibironke is also charged with money laundering and computer theft for accessing accounts while he worked at the bank.  If that wasn’t bad enough, he is also charged with witness tampering for allegedly asking two witnesses not to identify him.

The second indictment charged Ibironke with attempted theft by deception for allegedly trying to collect federal income tax returns that were filed by eight other people. He is also alleged to have provided information to his wife, who also worked at the same PNC Bank branch which enabled her to open five other fraudulent accounts. They were both charged with conspiracy, attempted theft by deception and identity theft. Brown was also charged with computer theft.

Yet even a third indictment charged Ibironke with trying to apply for a passport using Caldwell’s name in Roselle.  He was charged with two counts of false swearing, two counts of falsifying records and two counts of presenting a fraudulent driver’s license as a result. In addition, Ibironke and Caldwell were also charged with identity theft, conspiring to commit identity theft and presenting false identification.

Ibironke is really facing a gauntlet here with the three indictments.  He also faces a huge risk by taking all three cases to trial.  The money laundering charge is going to be the biggest problem.  He needs an attorney that will wrap this up sooner rather than later.

Story is here.

Alleged pill selling Doctors face even more criminal charges August 17, 2009

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Every now and then as an attorney, you get a client that is in it really, really deep.  The Sharma’s are those clients for two attorneys.  At 59 years old, they both face enough charges that could result in a de facto life sentence.  This is why it is important for attorneys to examine all financial documents to check for any possible money laundering and the extent of it.  Clients have a way of minimizing the situation and leaving out important details.  While you don’t want to call your client a liar, you don’t want to just accept their word for it either.

HOUSTON—A federal grand jury has returned a superseding indictment adding 35 more counts to the previously returned 29-count indictment against Dr. Arun Sharma and his wife, Dr. Kiran Sharma, M.D., United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Drs. Arun and Kiran Sharma, both 59, operated the Allergy, Asthma, Arthritis and Pain Centers located at on Cole Street in Webster, Texas, and another on Garth Road in Baytown, Texas.

In the original 29-count indictment, the Sharmas were accused of conspiracy to defraud Medicare/Medicaid and private health care providers of more than $31 million by falsely claiming to have administered facet joint injections and blocks to patients and routinely prescribing excessive amounts of hydrocodone, Soma and Xanax to patients that were not for a legitimate medical purpose in exchange for cash payments. The doctors were alleged to have stored large amounts of cash received from the sale of hydrocodone prescriptions at their home. Kiran Sharma allegedly transported large amounts of cash received from the sale of the hydrocodone prescriptions to two safe deposit boxes—one each at Bank of America and Prosperity Bank.

The superseding indictment was returned late Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009. It charges Drs. Arun and Kiran Sharma with three new counts of illegally distributing controlled substances for hydrocodone and methadone prescriptions written to specific patients, four new counts of health care fraud, nine counts of mail fraud, conspiring to launder illegal proceeds and 18 counts of laundering their illegal proceeds by hiding the drug cash in their safe deposit boxes, moving the fraud proceeds between several accounts they controlled and sending fraud proceeds back to India. It is alleged Kiran Sharma visited the two safe deposit boxes a total of 61 times and transported more than $816,000 in cash to the boxes.

The new charges include accusations against the Sharmas of prescribing more than 8,000 tablets of hydrocodone to one patient over an eight-month period. In two other counts, they are charged with prescribing 540 tablets of hydrocodone to one patient on May 23, 2005, and another 540 tablets to the same patient on Dec. 5, 2005.

Additionally, the forfeiture notice provision of the original indictment has been expanded to include the following assets which the government intends to forfeit as proceeds/property derived from their alleged illegal activity: 12 pieces of real estate including the defendants’ Kemah residence and both of their clinics, 32 investment accounts, 23 bank accounts and the $1.5 million in cash seized from the defendants’ home and safe deposit boxes for a total of $31 million.

The court has ordered the Sharmas, who are free on bond, to appear in federal court on Aug. 21, 2009, for arraignment on the new charges.

Upon conviction, health care fraud carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The fraud conspiracy charge and the mail fraud counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in a federal prison and a $250,000 fine. The drug conspiracy and the 10 Schedule III drug distribution counts carry a penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The three new Schedule II drug distribution counts carry a penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine. The money laundering conspiracy and the individual money laundering counts carry a maximum penalty from 10 to 20 years and a fine of $250,000 to $500,000.

The criminal charges are the result of a joint investigation being conducted by agents of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General and the Medicare Fraud Control Unit of the Texas Attorney General’s Office in conjunction with the Webster, League City and Baytown Police Departments. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Al Balboni.

Former Bordentown, NJ car dealership owner arrested on bank fraud charges August 10, 2009

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I actually had a case like this, just on a smaller scale; but still involving a ton of money.  My client ran a small dealership and became in debt to a several customers.  My client called me at the first sign of trouble and as a result, law enforcement never called.  We just worked everything out. In this case, it sounds like everything just went out of control.

 This is one of those cases where you have to look into her personal finances and determine if he is just a bad businessman who got in over his head or a greedy scammer who thought he could just get away with it. With a nice house on the water, he certainly wasn’t living a frugal lifestyle on the surface. 

TRENTON – The former operator of a Bordentown car dealership was arrested today on a federal Indictment in connection with his check-kiting scheme that resulted in losses of more than $7 million to banks, Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr., announced.

Denis Kelliher, 39, who resides in both Toms River and Monroe Township, was arrested at his home in Toms River by Special Agents with the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation early this morning. Kelliher is scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court and be arraigned on the 11-count Indictment today at 1:00 p.m., before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Garrett E. Brown, Jr., in the federal courthouse in Trenton.

On August 6, 2009, a federal grand jury returned the Indictment which charges Kelliher with two counts of bank fraud, one count of wire fraud, and eight counts of money laundering. ccording to the Indictment, Kelliher was the principal operator of Cartec Motors, LLC, (“Cartec”) located on Route 206 in Bordentown, which was in the business of buying and selling both new and used motor vehicles, including recreational vehicles.

The Indictment describes a scheme in which Kelliher attempted to create artificial balances in checking accounts that he controlled, including Cartec accounts at KeyBank, Commerce Bank (now known as TD Bank), 1 his personal account at 1st Constitution, by transferring monies between these accounts.

Kelliher allegedly wrote checks on accounts that he controlled, and deposited these checks into other accounts that he controlled, while knowing there were insufficient funds in the accounts against which the checks were drawn – a scheme commonly known as “check kiting.” The Indictment charges that as a result of the defendant’s check kiting activity, Cartec’s account at KeyBank was overdrawn by more than $6.9 million, and that its account at Commerce was overdrawn by more than $200,000.

In addition, the wire fraud count charges Kelliher in connection with a separate scheme in which he approached a prior Cartec customer for a $410,000 loan purportedly to be used to purchase recreational vehicles for re-sale. The Indictment alleges that Kelliher provided the former customer, identified only as “Victim-1” in the Indictment, with a personal financial statement which claimed that as of Dec. 31, 2008, Kelliher’s net worth exceeded $6.2 million. The Indictment alleges this financial statement was false and that it failed to disclose that, in September 2008, KeyBank obtained a judgment for approximately $27 million against Cartec and Kelliher individually.

Counts One and Two of the Indictment, charging Kelliher with bank fraud, each carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. Count Three, which


st Constitution Bank and Roma Bank, and charges wire fraud, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the aggregate loss to the victims or gain to the defendant. Counts Four through Eleven, charging money laundering, each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the aggregate loss to the victims or gain to the defendants.

44 arrested in massive Federal corruption sweep July 23, 2009

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Today is a huge day for politics, New Jersey and criminal justice.  44 people have been arrested by Federal Authorities on charges of political corruption and money laundering.  This does not seem to be a small time case either.  All stories indicate that this is a high-volume case that may likely expand beyond the 44 people that have been charged.  In other words, it could be one of the most serious public corruption cases in New Jersey’s history.

The case started as a bank fraud case against a member of the Syrian Jewish community in Deal, N.J.   That man became a federal informant and posed as a crooked real estate developer offering cash bribes to obtain government approvals and in the end, it apparently ensnared a lot of people.  

Just some of the people arrested include:

— Peter Cammarano III, the newly elected mayor of Hoboken and an attorney, charged with
accepting $25,000 in cash bribes, including $10,000 last Thursday, from an undercover
cooperating witness.

— L. Harvey Smith, a New Jersey Assemblyman and recent mayoral candidate in Jersey City, charged along with an aide of taking $15,000 in bribes to help get approvals from high-level state agency officials for building projects.

— Daniel Van Pelt, a New Jersey Assemblyman, charged with accepting a $10,000 bribe.

— Dennis Elwell, mayor of Secaucus, charged with taking a $10,000 cash bribe.

— Anthony Suarez, mayor of Ridgefield and an attorney, charged with agreeing to accept a $10,000 corrupt cash payment for his legal defense fund.

— Louis Manzo, the recent unsuccessful challenger in the Jersey City mayoral election and former state Assemblyman, and his brother and political advisor Robert Manzo, both with taking $27,500 in corrupt cash payments for use in Louis Manzo’s campaign.

— Leona Beldini, the Jersey City deputy mayor and a campaign treasurer, charged with taking $20,000 in conduit campaign contributions and other self-dealing in her official capacity.

— Eliahu Ben Haim, of Long Branch, N.J., the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, N.J., charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

— Saul Kassin, of Brooklyn, N.Y., the chief rabbi of a synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

— Edmund Nahum, of Deal, N.J., the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

While not yet arrested, Federal authorities also searched the office and home of Joseph Doria who is the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.  Doria previously served a the Democratic mayor of Bayonne for nine years and represented Hudson County in the State Senate.

This case is going to create a lot of work for many lawyers in New Jersey.  These defendants have to make sure that these lawyers 1) know what they are doing, 2) have a plan and 3) have the time and ability to make it happen.  Of course, the clients just need one thing:  money as it is going to take a lot of it to dig them out from the whole that they are in.

A lawyer really needs to put life on hold (including weekends) at the moment and dig into this case right away.  You need to determine if your client has any real exposure here.  Then, you need to determine if any of these 44 people can flip on your guy.  If so, its a race to see who can be first in the door for the best deal.  If any of them have a lawyer that doesn’t know how to break down a case quickly but completely, they will either wait and thus get a bad deal or quickly sell out for a bad deal. 

I suggest that as many of the lawyers on this case get together so that everyone is on the same page.  I want to know who is saying what about my client.  I also would want to look into entrapment issues and wiretaps and other recordings. 

Should be very interesting to watch this play out.

Numerous stories from the Star Ledger are here.