John F. Iacono (also known under the alias Vito Yodice), 46, and Shpresa Gjekovic (also known under the aliases Hope Gjekovic, Hope Iacono, Hope Yodice, and Shpresa Hadzovic), 32 , were sentenced today for defrauding banks throughout New York State and laundering those criminal proceeds to further their scheme.
The co defendants were convicted for mortgage fraud, money laundering and scheme to defraud after a joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General and the New York State Police revealed that the couple utilized shell companies, forged cashier’s checks, and provided fake bank statements, W2s, paystubs, and tax returns in order to solicit over $1.3 million in loans from multiple upstate New York banks.
According to the indictment and statements made by the prosecutor in court, between April 2016 and March 2017, Iacono and Gjekovic applied for mortgages, a construction loan, personal lines of credit, personal loans, a commercial loan, a debt consolidation loan, and a Home Equity Line of Credit with fraudulent documentation that overstated their income, assets, and source of funds. The couple also created fake entities, including but not limited to JF Iacono, LLC and Iacono, LLC, and purported to have worked for them for years. In reality, these companies were created just days prior to their submissions of applications for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bank funds.
The investigation also revealed that Iacono and Gjekovic supplied over $125,000 in counterfeit cashier’s checks to financial institutions, law firms, title companies, and the sellers of a Schoharie County, New York property in order to secure financing and establish residency in the area. The couple allegedly intended to turn the Schoharie County property into a swingers club, but instead rented it out as a hunting cabin while pretending to raise money for children in need. Utilizing online postings, including on Facebook and Airbnb, they advertised the rental property.
The defendants also created a false personal financial statement showing net worth in excess of $1.1 million, with cash on hand of $400,000, while their actual account balances were in the negative. The balances on these statements were grossly inflated, as the couple never had more than a few thousand dollars in the accounts – the vast majority of which was from other loans. To support their claims, Iacono and Gjekovic also supplied fake bank statements showing counterfeit assets.
In addition, Iacono and Gjekovic concealed outstanding judgments against them totaling in excess of $1.4 million from the financial institutions from which they tried to secure loans. Moreover, the couple laundered the fraudulently-obtained loan proceeds to fund real estate transactions, utilizing at least five financial institutions during the course of the year-long scheme. In total, the couple stole over $460,000 from three financial institutions, and attempted to steal over $860,000 in additional proceeds from five financial institutions.
In December 2018, both defendants were arrested on a 19-count indictment charging Residential Mortgage Fraud in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Second and Third Degrees, Money Laundering in the Third Degree, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, among other charges.
On March 29, 2019, Iacono and Gjekovic pleaded guilty before Schoharie County Court Judge George R. Bartlett, III to Residential Mortgage Fraud in the Second Degree (a class C felony), Money Laundering in the Third Degree (a class D felony), and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class E felony). Iacono and Gjekovic’s pleas resolve additional alleged crimes of money laundering, grand larceny, forgery, and identity theft for which the defendants could have been charged in Albany, Delaware, Greene, Kings, Otsego, Queens, and Rensselaer Counties.
Attorney General Letitia James and State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett made the announcement.
“Iacono and Gjekovic falsified document after document in order to pad their own pockets,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Let this serve as a warning to all of those who try to carry out such deliberate schemes: There is no place in this state for individuals who try to cash in at the expense of hardworking New Yorkers. I thank the State Police for their bringing accountability and justice to this elaborate and deceitful plot.”
“This couple knowingly defrauded financial institutions and businesses, and preyed on the public’s philanthropy, all to fill their pockets and satisfy their greed,” said New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett. “This sentencing brings justice and should remind those thinking of carrying out these types of schemes, that you will be held accountable. Thank you to the Attorney General’s Office, our State Police Financial Crimes Unit and other law enforcement partners for their hard work in exposing this plot.”
The case is being prosecuted as part of Attorney General James’ Combatting Upstate Financial Frauds and Schemes (“CUFFS”) Initiative, led by Assistant Attorney General Philip V. Apruzzese of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The CUFFS Initiative was created to assist local law enforcement and District Attorney’s Offices in the investigation and prosecution of complex financial crimes and money laundering cases such as this one.
Attorney General James thanks the New York State Police Financial Crimes Unit and State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations, as well as Schoharie County District Attorney Susan J. Mallery for their valuable assistance on this investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Philip V. Apruzzese, with the assistance of Legal Support Analysts Kira M. Russom, Caitlin Carmody and Samantha Wintner and Supervising Analyst Paul Strocko. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Bureau Chief Joseph D’Arrigo. The Criminal Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado.
The OAG investigation was conducted by Investigator Mark J. Terra, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Mark Spencer and Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by First Deputy Chief Investigator John Reidy.