Charges Filed In ” Operation Bankroll” Fraud Scheme

admin —  February 23, 2010 — Leave a comment

Robert Delvicario, Lennox Johnson, Shanda Bruce and Thermine Remy, and three corporations, Adonis Abstract LLC, LBW Corporation, and Robo Capital Securities, Inc., New York, have been charged with Enterprise Corruption and other charges. The indictment is a result of an 18-month investigation that was initiated after the July 2008 murder of attorney Mark Schwartz and his wife Christina Petrowski in their Marine Park, New York, home. The perpetrator of that crime is still unknown, however, the investigation into this murder led prosecutors and investigators to uncover the large-scale criminal conspiracy which Schwartz and Petrowski were also involved in.

The investigation dubbed “Operation Bankroll” involved a variety of schemes including money laundering, identity theft, mortgage fraud and larceny, to defraud victims of more than $1 million. The indictment charges that between 2006 and 2009, the defendants participated in a series of financial and real estate scams in order to steal and launder money from the clients of Schwartz’ law firm, as well as clients of Adonis Abstract. The Operation reached as far as Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, New Jersey and Delaware, New York.

The defendants recruited acquaintances to act as straw buyers in fraudulent real estate transactions. In order to launder the stolen money, they would forge and falsify documents and use stolen identities to open bank accounts at various financial institutions. They would continually open new accounts when they exhausted other accounts through withdrawals and transfers of funds. Then they would invest, and later re-invest, the illicit funds into various business ventures, vehicles and properties.

One of the schemes involved the embezzlement of more than $100,000 from various accounts from Schwartz’ law firm, including $50,000 belonging to one client. After demanding his money be returned, the defendants transferred money stolen from Adonis Abstract clients into a Robo Capital Securities bank account, which was then used to pay back the client.

Another scheme involved using a straw buyer who took a down payment from the defendants using stolen client funds, to complete a fraudulent sale of an East Northport, New York home owned by Delvicario’s wife. The straw buyer falsified documents to obtain a mortgage, and the proceeds from the mortgage were used by Delvicario to pay off a prior mortgage on his home, and he and defendant Johnson pocketed the rest of the money. The straw buyer never assumed possession of the property, and Delvicario and his wife still live there.

In 2007, one victim hired Schwartz’ law firm to arrange for the bonding of several mechanics liens on a property he had purchased in Williamsburg, New York, so he could refinance the property. He paid $133,000 to Adonis Abstract to be held in escrow. After the liens were removed in December 2008, the victim never got back the escrowed money.

In many cases, the escrow money was laundered through fake transfers, purchases and sales, including the purchase of a car wash in Huntington Station, Long Island, New York which Delvicario and Johnson sold for a profit in March 2009.

Tiffany Partners, LLC, another of Schwartz’ law clients, was the principal investor in a real estate development at 20 Tiffany Place in Carroll Gardens, New York. To close on the sale of several condominiums, Tiffany Partners placed approximately $270,000 into the Adonis Abstract escrow account to bond mechanics liens that had been filed against the property by contractors. The enterprise emptied and closed that account, leaving the mechanic liens active on the Tiffany Place property.

The indictment charges that Delvicario, Johnson and Bruce eventually turned on Schwartz and Petrowski, and started stealing money from Schwartz’ law firm. In May 2008, they took several blank checks from the law office and forged checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The first check did not go through because the bank called Petrowski to authorize the transaction. The second check did go through because Schwartz and Petrowski were murdered before the bank could verify that transaction.

If convicted, the defendants face up to 25 years in prison. An investigation continues into the murders of Schwartz and Petrowskiv.

Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes  said, “These defendants thought they could bankroll their extravagant lifestyles by stealing from clients who trusted them, but as is often the case, they eventually turned on each other, robbing their own partners in crime, as well. My office will continue to work with the NYPD to determine who killed Mark Schwartz and Christina Petrowski.”

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

The case was investigated by attorneys from the Rackets Division and Financial Investigator Neil Gillon, along with detectives from the 63rd Precinct and the Brooklyn South Homicide Squad. The case is being prosecuted by Laura Neubauer, Bureau Chief in the Rackets Division and Assistant District Attorney Wojciech Jackowski from the Rackets Division. Michael Vecchione is Chief of the Rackets Division.

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