Tags Posts tagged with "Fraud"

Fraud

by -
0 827
Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D). File photo

A Mount Sinai man was officially sentenced in Suffolk County Supreme Court Wednesday, Aug. 26 for an alleged scheme to defraud people about a fake recycling plant in upstate New York.

Between August 2010 and November 2017, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office said Joseph Prosa, 53, of Mount Sinai, operated a money-making scheme where he claimed to victims that he was seeking investments to build a recycling facility in Poughkeepsie, telling them he owned land for the facility, that he had a permit and that he was a recycling and plant construction expert for a process called “gasification,” or the process of burning garbage for use in things like boilers furnaces and gas engines. Prosecutors said none of this was true. 

Through the scheme, Prosa stole around $3.6 million from a blind Poughkeepsie man in his 80s. The man has since passed away. He also allegedly stole around $250,000 from a second victim who resides in Suffolk County. Both victims were previous acquaintances of Prosa’s, the DA’s office said.

“This was a grossly deceitful scheme in which the defendant stole millions of dollars from his victims, including a senior citizen who was robbed of his life savings,” District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “He operated this scheme out of pure greed and callousness.”

The DA said the investigation revealed Prosa used the stolen money on personal expenses, including using more than $1.2 million in casinos and racehorse gambling. An additional amount was used to purchase a racehorse. The defendant also used the stolen funds to repay large amounts of debt incurred by gambling and to pull his house out of foreclosure.

Prosa was indicted in December 2018 and he pled guilty May 18, 2019.

Prosa was sentenced by Acting Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho for first degree grand larceny and first degree scheme to defraud. The sentence incurs 2 ½ years to 7 ½ years for the grand larceny and 1 to 3 years for the scheme to defraud. The sentences will run concurrently.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Thalia Stavrides, currently of the Conviction Integrity Bureau.

 

Geoffrey Girnun hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Photo supplied by Geoffrey Girnun for a previous article

Federal prosecutors announced Jan. 14 that Geoffrey Girnun, 49, a former professor at Stony Brook University, has pled guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funds from cancer-related research grants.

At federal court in Central Islip, Girnun, of Woodmere, pled guilty to stealing $225,000 in those grant funds. The ex-professor issued fraudulent invoices for research equipment to SBU from sham companies he created to conceal his theft of funds from cancer-related research grants issued by the National Institutes of Health and SBU. Prosecutors said this went to pay for things like Girnun’s mortgage.

Prosecutors said Girnun faces up to 10 years in prison as well as restitution, forfeiture and a fine, which are all to be determined by the judge at that time.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donaghue said the ex-professor is being held responsible.

“With today’s guilty plea, Girnun has been held accountable for his unconscionable scheme to embezzle for his personal use hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funds that were intended to help find a cure for cancer,” he said in a release.

The professor had been arrested in September last year and was charged in a seven-count indictment with theft of state and federal government funds, wire fraud and money laundering. 

Girnun was featured in a March 25, 2015, TBR News Media article. At the time, the researcher was exploring the role of different proteins that either promote or prevent various cancers. The one particular protein in the liver cell he was studying is one that classically regulates the cell cycle, according to the article.

Girnun discovered that the protein promotes how the liver produces sugar, in the form of glucose, to feed organs such as the brain under normal conditions. In diabetic mice, the protein goes back to its classic role as a cell cycle regulator.

Girnun made the move to SBU from the University of Maryland in 2013 and said at the time he was inspired by the opportunity to create something larger.

“I want to build a program in cancer metabolism,” he said. “I want to build something beyond my own lab.”

An attorney for Girnun did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

A V. Garofalo Carting truck. Photo from Facebook

A Brentwood-based garbage carter and two of its employees have been charged with attempting to defraud the Town of Smithtown and its taxpayers of nearly $1 million after an investigation conducted by Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

V. Garofalo Carting, its principal owner Mario Garofalo and employee Robert Garofalo pled not guilty to allegations of enterprise corruption, money laundering and grand larceny among other charges in Suffolk County Supreme Court Nov. 15 before Judge Richard Ambro.

“This is a serious case of wrongdoing that defrauds the Town of Smithtown,” Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “Our message is we will hold these type of bad actors accountable.”

This is a serious case of wrongdoing that defrauds the Town of Smithtown.”

— Tim Sini

Sini said the investigation was born out of a complaint filed with the county by the Town of Smithtown in 2014. It had laid stagnant, untouched, until he conducted a file review at the start of his term.

Between January 2015 and February 2016, prosecutors said the garbage carter and its employees allegedly hatched what they said was referred to as the Tulsa Plan, according to court documents. The garbage carter and its employees allegedly collected commercial garbage from businesses, both those unregistered with the Town of Smithtown, and others across Nassau and Suffolk County, to dispose of at the Covanta Huntington waste facility in East Northport on at least 19 different dates in exchange for a fee. Upon arriving at the facility, Garofalo employees then allegedly provided documentation falsely stating the commercial garbage had been collected in Smithtown, causing the town to be billed for its disposal, according to court records.

“Once we receive a copy of the indictment, our attorneys will review it to see if there’s any damages incurred by the town,” Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said Nov. 16. “Then we will take the appropriate measures.”

The town attorney’s office has since received a copy of the indictment against V. Garofalo Carting and the two men but was still reviewing it as of press time Nov. 20.

In addition, the district attorney’s investigation also alleged Mario Garofalo has used the Brentwood property of V. Garofalo Carting off Crooked Hill Road as a transfer station, storing commercial trash there, despite lacking the required permits to do so. 

At the end of the day, I firmly believe Mario, who has spent his life taking care of community, will gain his good reputation back at trial.” 

— Ray Perini

Ray Perini, a Huntington-based attorney representing Mario Garofalo, said he does not believe the allegations put forth by the district attorney’s office can be substantiated.

“At the end of the day, I firmly believe Mario, who has spent his life taking care of community, will gain his good reputation back at trial,” Perini said.

V. Garofalo Carting currently has a contract with the town to pick up and dispose of residential waste for approximately 17,000 homes, according to Wehrheim. Smithtown’s elected officials held a series of emergency meetings Nov. 16 to discuss possible measures to take, if needed, to ensure regular trash collection continues. 

“We are preparing in the event that they discontinue service how we will continue serving those homes,” Wehrheim said. “We hope it doesn’t happen. If it does, we will have a plan B.

Mario Garofalo’s attorney assured that should not be a concern, given the company’s good reputation having been in business for more than 57 years on Long Island, he said.

“This company will live up to contracts and continue to pick up residential trash,” Perini said.

Previously, a recyclables contractor for the Town of Smithtown, Jody Enterprises, was indicted for allegedly running a paper and cardboard scheme back in August 2012. The town, at that time under the leadership of former Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R), chose to settle the allegations out of court with an agreement the company would pay back restitution.

Maggie Hamm, of Leisure Village, speaks about how she almost fell victim to a scam, at a press conference held at the Rosa Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai on March 11. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Don’t trust anyone.”

That’s what Bernard Macias of AARP advised seniors to do at a press conference held at the Rosa Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai regarding phone scams across Suffolk County.

“It’s happening more and more than you think,” he said. “Clearly, for AARP, we’re here to protect people 50 and over, but we’re finding that our member’s children and grandchildren and being faced with this. Don’t trust anyone, really, because they’re constantly changing those scams.”

Bernard Macias, Associate State Director of Outreach on Long Island for the American Association of Retired Persons, tells residents not to trust anyone when answering a call, as it may be related to scam, especially around tax season. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Bernard Macias, Associate State Director of Outreach on Long Island for the American Association of Retired Persons, tells residents not to trust anyone when answering a call, as it may be related to scam, especially around tax season. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said that in 2015, the total cost of financial fraud against seniors across the country was $36.5 billion. Although anyone can be a victim of scam, con artists particularly prey on seniors, he said.

“That is an extraordinary sum that is being stolen from our citizens,” he said. “Tax day is April 15, it is fast approaching and it is a time that scam artists are working hard to get a hold of people’s hard-earned money.”

Bellone said that in one instance, a scamming entity posed as the Internal Revenue Service and said that if the person did not provide a certified check or transfer funds to the agency, they would be imprisoned. The caller went so far as the tell the victim that they would remain on the line until the woman reached her bank and successfully wired the funds to an account that was provided, he said.

Luckily, the bank manager recognized the customer and noticed that she looked and sounded worried, Bellone said. The victim told the manager about the person she was on the phone with, and the manager was able to stop the scam from happening.

This week is National Consumer Protection Week and as a result, Bellone said the county is urging citizens to remain informed. He said so far, Suffolk County Consumer Affairs has recovered over $534,000 through its investigations on behalf of county residents.

“These scammers use all kinds of threats and demands to gain access to your accounts, and threaten your identity,” he said.

The county executive urged those who felt vulnerable to a scam to file a complaint with the consumer affairs department by calling (631) 853-4600.

To avoid an IRS scam, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said that AARP offers free tax filings for senior citizens. Some locations in the town include the senior center and town hall, among local libraries, he said.

Maggie Hamm shares how she almost fell victim to a scam. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Maggie Hamm shares how she almost fell victim to a scam. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Maggie Hamm, of Leisure Village, received two suspicious phone calls within three weeks. She said that during the one call she did answer, TD Bank was mentioned. Hamm used to have an account with the organization, which she said piqued her interest in listening to what the caller had to say. The person on the other end of the phone mentioned having or owing money, which she said sounded off.

“I asked, ‘is this a scam? And boom, he hung up the phone,” she said. “You just know — you get a vibe and a red flag goes off. I think as we get older you don’t want to make any waves, and I understand seniors become afraid and concerned, because they don’t want any trouble, but you can’t be afraid to step forward and say no.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she too received two messages on her phone that were related to scams.

“Help us help you,” is what the caller said at the end of one of the messages.

Anker said she tried to call back the number, but the call didn’t go through.

“People will actually fall for it,” Anker said. “They’re trying to catch the person on the phone right away, because once they get you in person, the level of scamming has increased.”

She asked residents to call the Suffolk County Police Department to report the scam as a crime, at (631) 852-COPS. Two years ago, the legislator also created a scam alert website, SCPDscamalert.org, which has more information on how to protect yourself against incidents involving scam.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said that calling 4(631) 51-TOWN would also provide residents with more information.

“If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t right,” she said. “You should always follow your instincts and your gut, and the government will never call you when you’ve done something wrong. They’re required to mail you as proof of documentation. Don’t fall prey to the phone call.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone urged residents to remain cautious when answering the phone, as a result of the increase in phone scams across the county. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone urges residents to remain cautious when answering the phone, as a result of the increase in phone scams across the county. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Macias, who said AARP serves over 500,000 members on Long Island, said, in light of tax day, to mail in tax returns as early in the season as possible, not to give out personal information and to shred all personal documents.
Three important facts Macias said to understand is that the IRS will never call and demand payment over the phone, the IRS does not ask for credit or debit card information over the phone and the IRS does not threaten to bring local law enforcement to your home.

“Scam artists continue to devise new things and new schemes that are becoming more and more difficult to detect, which is why AARP developed the AARP Fraud Watch Network as a way to protect people,” he said.

By logging onto aarp.org/money and clicking on the Consumer Protection tab, residents can access a link to the company’s Fraud Watch Network. There, anyone can sign up to get AARP’s Watchdog Alerts on scammers’ latest tricks and find out what to do if you’ve been victimized.

“You’re not only helping yourself, but helping other who may fall victim to the same scam,” Bellone said. “Don’t feel embarrassed to come forward. Feel empowered to help educate and protect others.”