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Bergen father, son charged with conning investors to pay fraud settlement

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: After agreeing to repay the state $5.5 million for conning more than 30 victims out of investments they used to buy two Maseratis and a Ferrari, among other goodies, a Bergen County father and son defrauded half of the first victims out of an additional $3 million to help foot the bill, authorities in Trenton charged.

George Bussanich Sr., 56, of Park Ridge and his son, 35-year-old George Bussanich Jr. of Saddle River – who had previously agreed to pay $5.5 million to settle charges — had help from four conspirators, including the elder Bussanich’s wife, Wilma, 54, a grand jury indictment alleges.

They are charged with first-degree counts of conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering — as were Heidi Francavilla, 56, and Robert G. Schooley, 64, both of Park Ridge, and Brendan M. Byrne, 44, of Paterson.

Bussaniches and Francavilla also are charged with failing to file a tax return, filing a fraudulent tax return and contempt. Schooley also is charged with failure to file a tax return.

Federal agents arrested George Bussanich Sr. and his son just last week, alleging that they “engag[ed] in a scheme that used straw buyers and short sales on two Bergen County properties to defraud mortgage lenders out of hundreds of thousands of dollars” in Emerson and Park Ridge.

SEE: FBI arrests Bergen father, son on short-sale mortgage fraud charges

The state indictment followed an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.

After agreeing to a consent order on Aug. 1, 2014 to settle a suit by the Bureau of Securities, the Bussaniches “solicited more than $3 million from 15 of those same investors for a new bogus investment.”

SEE: Bergen father, son agree to pay $5.5 million to settle investment scam charges

That clearly violated the consent order, which barred them from selling securities in New Jersey, Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.

All of those charged “conspired to avoid the strictures of the consent order and launder fraudulently obtained investor funds through the use of multiple shell corporations,” divering most of the funds for personal use — including paying penalties under the order, Hoffman said.

“The audacity of these defendants is astounding,” he said.

After agreeing to the settlement, the defendants “went right back to their old game, defrauding investors of another $3 million and even using some of the new funds to make payments under the settlement.

“The game is up.”

Because Bussanich Sr. paid returns to investors, they “believed he was earning profits for them,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “In reality, he simply was giving them back a fraction of the principal they invested, while he, his son and the other defendants allegedly stole most of the money for their personal use, including paying for expensive homes, fast cars and lavish dining and entertainment bills.”

Bussanich Sr. was being held on $350,000 bail and the rest on $300,000 bail each.

The state Division of Criminal Justice has obtained court orders placing liens on the home of George Bussanich Jr. in Upper Saddle River, two homes in Park Ridge and Emerson owned by a limited liability company controlled by Bussanich Sr. that are valued at a total of approximately $1 million, along with various bank, brokerage accounts and an attorney trust account that the defendants used.

The lead detective on the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau is Detective Matthew Tully. The lead prosecutors are Deputy Attorneys General Brandy Malfitano and Amy Simienski.

The Bureau of Securities investigation was led by Chief of Enforcement Rudolph G. Bassman.

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