John F. Iacono, a/k/a Vito Yodice, 46 and Shpresa Gjekovic, a/k/a Hope Gjekovic a/k/a Hope Iacono a/k/a Hope Yodice a/k/a Shpresa Hadzovic, 32, have been charged with defrauding banks throughout New York State and laundering those criminal proceeds to further their scheme.
A joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau and the New York State Police revealed that Iacono and Gjekovic allegedly utilized shell companies, provided fake bank statements, W2s, paystubs, and tax returns, and forged cashier checks in order to solicit over $1.3 million in loans from multiple banks across the upstate region.
According to the indictment and statements made by the prosecutor at arraignment, between April 2016 and March 2017, Iacono and Gjekovic allegedly 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 (HELOC) by grossly overstating their income, assets, and source of funds – all supported by fraudulent documentation. The couple also allegedly created 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 submission of applications for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bank funds. 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.
The investigation further revealed that Iacono and Gjekovic allegedly supplied over $125,000 in counterfeit cashiers 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 residence in the area. Iacono and Gjekovic allegedly intended to turn the Schoharie County property into a swingers club, but after obtaining the property, instead rented it out as a hunting cabin and purported to raise money for children in need. The couple allegedly utilized online postings, including on Facebook and Airbnb, to advertise the rental property.
In addition, Iacono and Gjekovic allegedly concealed from financial institutions outstanding judgments against them totaling in excess of $1.4 million. Moreover, the couple allegedly laundered fraudulently obtained loan proceeds to fund deposits and cash to close on the real estate transactions, utilizing at least five financial institutions during the course of the year-long scheme.
The defendants also allegedly created a personal financial statement showing net worth in excess of $1.1 million, with cash on hand of $400,000, while in reality their account balances were in the negative. The defendants allegedly supplied false bank statements showing the purported assets to support this claim. The balances on these statements were allegedly 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.
Both defendants were arrested on a 19-count indictment, including charges of Residential Mortgage Fraud in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Second and Third Degrees, and Money Laundering in the Third Degree.
Iacono and Gjekovic are each charged in the Attorney General’s indictment with the following 19 felonies: Residential Mortgage Fraud in the Second Degree, a class C felony (one count); Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony (two counts); Money Laundering in the Third Degree, a class D felony (two counts); Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony (one count); Attempted Residential Mortgage Fraud in the Second Degree, a class D felony (one count); Attempted Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class D felony (three counts); Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, a class D felony (four counts); Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class E felony (four counts); and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony (one count).
Iacono was arraigned on December 20, 2018 before Schoharie County Court Judge George R. Bartlett, III. Bail was set in the amount of $175,000 cash or $350,000 bond. Gjekovic was arraigned on December 24, 2018 before Hon. Bartlett and bail was set in the amount of $75,000 cash or $150,000 bond. The defendants are scheduled to appear back in court January 16, 2019.
If convicted of all counts, Iacono and Gjekovic could each face up to 10 to 20 years in state prison.
Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood and State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II made the announcement.
“As we allege, these defendants grossly inflated their assets and forged a number of documents in order to defraud multiple New York banks and attempt to steal over a million dollars,” said Attorney General Underwood. “We have no tolerance for those who try to defraud New Yorkers in order to line their own pockets.”
Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “This couple concocted a series of devious schemes to knowingly defraud financial institutions out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I commend the Attorney General’s Office, our State Police Financial Crimes Unit and other law enforcement partners for their hard work in exposing this fraud. This indictment should serve as a reminder that those who seek to carry out such deliberate scams will be held accountable for their crimes and brought to justice.”
The charges are merely allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Attorney General Underwood thanks the New York State Police Financial Crimes Unit, as well as Schoharie County District Attorney Susan J. Mallery, for their valuable assistance on this investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Philip V. Apruzzese of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, with the assistance of Legal Support Analysts Kira M. Russom, Caitlin Carmody, and Supervising Analyst Paul Strocko. 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 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 Alvin Bragg.