United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Announces Participation in National Money Mule Initiative; Obtains Three Civil Injunctions Against Alleged Money Mules Involved in Lottery Scams
PHILADELPHIA – Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Stephen Sharkey, 51, of Swedesboro, NJ, was sentenced to four years and one month in prison, three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $296,000 restitution, and to forfeit the same amount of money by United States District Court Judge John R. Padova for wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.
In September 2020, the defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and, one count of money laundering in connection with three brazen and predatory frauds which greatly harmed innocent victims and netted the defendant more than $385,000. Sharkey engaged in two mortgage-closing schemes to defraud potential home buyers – stealing money that the victims had intended to use to purchase residences for themselves and their families. In the third scheme, the defendant stole all of the proceeds of the sale of a house by secretly going to closing without telling the seller.
Sharkey and his associate, Antonio Ambrosio, convinced their victims to provide Sharkey with the down payment funds in advance of the dates set for the real estate closings, with the promise that Sharkey would provide full financing for the purchases. Rather than finance the deals, Sharkey and Ambrosio simply stole the down payment money supplied by the victims and made excuses when the deals did not close. As part of the scam, Sharkey and Ambrosio even defrauded Ambrosio’s own brother-in-law out of $208,000. After receiving this money, Sharkey immediately cut checks to ARMM Investments, LLC, a company owned by George Borgesi. Borgesi and Sharkey were both convicted in United States v. Merlino, et al., 99 CR 363, an early 2000s RICO case in which the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra was named as the enterprise. Borgesi was named as a capo of the Philadelphia LCN in that Indictment, and Sharkey was identified as a bookmaker for the mob.
After Sharkey and Ambrosio stole the down payment from Ambrosio’s brother-in-law, they proceeded to lure a second victim to use Sharkey to finance his mortgage, and the victim wired Sharkey $100,000, which Sharkey promptly converted to his own use. The deal for this property fell through, but Sharkey and Ambrosio induced the victim to send the seller an extra $25,000 to hold the deal open, claiming Sharkey would get the deal done. The victim sent the seller the $25,000, but Sharkey had already disposed of the earlier $100,000 and the deal never closed.
Finally, in the real estate fraud perpetrated on the seller victim, Sharkey promised the victim that Sharkey would sell the house belonging to the estate of the victim’s deceased parents and, after going to a closing the victim knew nothing about, Sharkey deposited all of the proceeds of the sale into his own bank account, stealing over $52,000 from the victim in the process.
“Sharkey’s greed impacted the lives and security of multiple families, and his shameful actions had severe consequences for these innocent people,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Not only did he and his associate steal mortgage down payments, but he also sold a different family’s house right out from underneath them and pocketed all of the cash. For his actions, he will now spend years in prison.”
“Real estate fraud was just the latest racket for Stephen Sharkey,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “He blatantly preyed on innocent victims here, destroying two families’ plans of buying homes and stealing a third person’s inherited property. A chunk of these fraudulent proceeds was diverted to a longtime Philadelphia mob figure, underscoring Sharkey’s continued association with organized crime. The FBI and our partners are going to keep investigating and locking up those committed to making money through illicit means.”
“This investigation once again reveals how members and associates of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra Organized Crime Family are constantly looking to make illicit financial gains by infiltrating legitimate business or exploiting regulatory rules as well as federal and state laws,” said Brandon Corby, Eastern Organized Crime Task Force Commander, Pennsylvania State Police. “The Pennsylvania State Police with our FBI partners are committed to eradicating this type of criminal behavior and hold those engaged in such activities accountable. “
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Organized Crime Task Force and the Pennsylvania State Police, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael T. Donovan.
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
615 Chestnut Street, Suite 1250
Philadelphia, PA 19106
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