Vestavia Hills Man Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud Scheme
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Today, a Vestavia man pleaded guilty to a bank fraud scheme in which he provided fraudulent information to financial institutions for the purpose of purchasing boats, luxury vehicles, and heavy equipment, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr.
Christopher A. Montalbano, 38, of Vestavia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Annemarie C. Axon to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.
According to the plea agreement, between 2015 and 2020 Montalbano fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in loans from at least sixteen different financial institutions by submitting fraudulent information to the financial institutions in loan applications and in supporting documentation. Montalbano obtained these loan proceeds in his personal name, through a shell company, or in the name of a co-conspirator. Montalbano specifically used the loan proceeds to pay for an extravagant lifestyle which included traveling on a private jet aircraft, employing private pilots, employing a personal assistant, purchasing multiple high-end vehicles including Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and purchasing multiple real properties, including a residential home in a gated community, a lake house, and farmland.
To further facilitate the bank fraud scheme, Montalbano created internet websites for some of his shell companies including Land Work Tractor & Equipment (LWT&E), previously located in Florida and then Vincent, Alabama. On the LWT&E website, Montalbano posted photographs of agricultural and construction equipment, UTVs and boats which were purportedly in LWT&E’s possession and for sale. However, the majority of these photographs were copied and taken from the internet websites of legitimate equipment dealers. As a further part of the scheme, Montalbano purchased adjoining properties totaling approximately 150 acres in Vincent, Alabama, where LWT&E was purportedly located. Montalbano then gated the private access road(s) which both prevented unscheduled access, and severely limited the lenders’ ability to verify LWT&E’s possession of the equipment being sold and/or the validity of the equipment pictures on LWT&E’s internet website.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud is 30 years in prison.
The maximum penalty for money laundering is 10 years in prison.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robin B. Mark and Kristen Osborne are prosecuting the case.