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Judge says scam artist could get longer prison term than agreed

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: A federal judge gave defense lawyers time to respond to her plan to put scam artist Robert Sucarato in prison for longer than recommended under U.S. sentencing guidelines for bilking investors of $1.6 million — part of which he admitted using for department-store shopping sprees and to pay his EZPass bill.

Robert Sucarato (a/k/a: Succati)

Sucarato accepted a sentence that would run from 78 to 97 months when he pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb in Camden in January.

All was going according to plan when he was brought in for sentencing on Wednesday. But the testimony of several victims whose lives Sucarato has ruined changed the judge’s mind.

Federal judges have the discretion to exceed the guidelines, provided either side has an opportunity to argue its case for or against.

So Sucarato was ordered returned to the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in Philadelphia until his lawyers can prepare a response. Their deadline is Oct. 11.

The Bernard Madoff scandal made investors wary that they could get double-digit returns in a collapsing market, despite Sucarato‘s promises as owner and president of New York Financial Company (“NYFC”), a hedge fund firm that did its business online while he pretended to operate prestigious offices with large staffs.

Investors began asking questions, and soon federal regulators were on his tail.

Federal prosecutors said Sucarato, who CLIFFVIEW PILOT found has used the name Robert Succati on Facebook, pulled what is known as a “Suite Scam”: He holed himself up in a funky, flatiron-styled building at the 22nd floor of 67 Wall Street, an historic revival tower, where he rented “virtual space” for $100 a month. He then shifted his base of operations to an equally powerful address: 501 Fifth Avenue.

He had office space, conference rooms, and receptionists shared with several other companies for a nominal rent — $100 a month.

Sucarato, a former School Board candidate in Old Bridge, admitted lying about his bona fides, including that he managed a pair of hedge funds since 1993 that outperformed the market. He also claimed to hold a B.S. in finance and economics, magna cum laude, from NYU — but never went to school there, according to a federal complaint.

Suarato boasted of officers and managers, as well as a staff of “over 20 experienced traders,” and cited $7.2 billion in assets, with a 10-year compounded return exceeding 1800% — all bogus.

Sucarato admitted creating a false audit report, purportedly prepared by a major accounting firm, that showed NYFC with a net worth of nearly $800 million, and even provided quarterly statements in order to maintain the investors’ confidence in their investment with NYFC.

At the same time, Sucarato was moving money around bank accounts and pulling out what he wanted when he wanted, for shopping sprees at Macy‘s, Teddy Bear, L.L. Bean, and elsewhere.
Filched investors couldn’t be blamed for being impressed — at least those who weren’t from out-of-state and managed to pop into his office for an appointment.

In soliciting, accepting, and receiving money from individuals to invest in the Funds, Sucarato acted as a “commodity pool operator” and was, therefore, required to be registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”). That didn’t happen, federal authorites said.

Victims have expressed gratitude that U.S. Attorney Paul S. Fishman, New Jersey’s top federal lawman, is not only tracking down such thieves but also winning cases that carry stiff sentences, as well as orders of restitution. These allow taxpayers to recover some of the losses, given how many livelihoods – and lives – are being ruined, while providing closure to some. Fishman said he hopes the prosecutions and resulting sentences also deter other cheaters from creating more innocent victims.

Federal regulators have fined Sucarato $3.2 million and ordered him to repay investors. There will be more fines, as well as a prison sentence that will likely exceed eight years, when the judge passes sentence in two months.

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