Former Quincy Man Pleads Guilty to $1.7 Million Real Estate Fraud Scheme
BOSTON – A former Quincy man, who had been a fugitive for more than 20 years prior to his arrest in April 2017, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston in connection with a $1.7 million real estate investment fraud scheme in Quincy.
Scott J. Wolas, 69, pleaded guilty to seven counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, misuse of a Social Security number, and tax evasion. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for Oct. 2, 2018. Wolas remained a fugitive for more than 20 years until his arrest in Delray Beach, Fla., in April 2017.
From at least 2009 through 2016, Wolas, using the name Eugene Grathwohl, operated a real estate business known as Increasing Fortune Inc. and worked as a licensed real estate agent for Century 21 in Quincy. From 2014 through 2016, he solicited investments for the development of the Beachcomber Bar property on Quincy Shore Drive and for the construction of a single-family home on the adjacent property. He collected more than $1.7 million from at least 20 investors and promised each of them a significant return on their investments. He further promised to pay out at least 125% of the profits related to the single-family home construction. However, Wolas used the money mostly for personal expenses unrelated to development of the real estate projects.
Wolas was scheduled to close on the Beachcomber property on Sept. 15, 2016. A week before, however, he left Quincy and ceased all contact with his then-girlfriend, his co-workers, and his investors. Law enforcement then discovered that Grathwohl was actually Wolas, a former lawyer who had been a fugitive since 1997 after being charged with fraud and grand larceny in New York. The real Eugene Grathwohl resided in Florida and was known to Wolas.
On Nov. 17, 2016, law enforcement officers interviewed Wolas’ ex-wife, Cecily Sturge, of Delray Beach, Fla., who stated that she had not been in contact with her ex-husband for approximately 15 years. Sturge continued to say that this was so, despite evidence of contact between her cell phone and one known to belong to Wolas that demonstrated more recent communication between the two.
After further investigation, Wolas was arrested on April 7, 2017, at a condominium he was renting in Delray Beach, Fla. Investigators learned that Wolas had first rented the room in the condo from Nov. 12 through Nov. 21, 2016, through an online rental website in the name of Cecily Sturge. Messages exchanged between the condo owner and Sturge depicted a photo of Sturge and messages claiming that Wolas (using the name Cameron Sturge) was Sturge’s brother and a retired paleontologist in need of a place to stay. The owner of the condo told authorities that Sturge and Wolas arrived at the condo together in the same car on Nov. 12, 2016, five days before Sturge’s interview with law enforcement.
Sturge was divorced from Wolas in 2001 by default judgment in Palm Beach County, Fla. In February 2017, Sturge filed a petition to modify the judgment in order to obtain the contents of Wolas’ retirement account, which had a balance of approximately $647,000, from the New York law firm where he worked prior to being indicted in 1997 by New York authorities. In pleadings filed in February and March 2017 regarding that matter, Sturge swore that Wolas’ whereabouts were unknown to her, despite telephone records showing frequent contact between the two. In addition, copies or drafts of documents filed in the Florida proceeding, along with a thumb drive, were found in the room where Wolas was arrested. The United States previously obtained a court order freezing the retirement account pending the resolution of the criminal proceedings.
Sturge previously pleaded guilty to making a materially false statement to a federal agent and was sentenced in May 2018 to one year of probation.
The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss. The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a minimum of two years in prison, which must be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed, one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of misuse of a Social Security number provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain/loss whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; Scott Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division; and Quincy Police Chief Paul Keenan made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra S. Bower of Lelling’s Criminal Division and David G. Lazarus of Lelling’s Civil Division are prosecuting the case.