Syracuse Man Pleads Guilty to Sophisticated Investment Fraud Schemes
While on Federal Probation, Donald Geiss, Jr. Created False Identities to Defraud Investors
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Donald M. Geiss, Jr., age 43, of Syracuse, pled guilty today to four counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft in relation to various schemes to defraud victims in New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, and California, announced United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and James N. Hendricks, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
In pleading guilty, Geiss admitted that between approximately August 2016 through August 2017 he defrauded an individual (“Victim 1”) out of a total of $141,000 after fraudulently convincing Victim 1 that he (Geiss) was a private equity investor seeking to make investments in Central New York. In doing so, Geiss used the alias, “Dom.” In June 2017, Geiss defrauded another individual (“Victim 2”) out of approximately $6,500 after fraudulently convincing Victim 2 to enter into a sales contract for heavy equipment belonging to Victim 1’s company that Geiss purported to have the authority to sell (without Victim 1’s knowledge). In August and September 2017, Geiss defrauded a third individual (Victim 3) out of $3,000 by convincing Victim 3 that he (Geiss) was in the final stages of negotiating the sale of a computer algorithm to a well-known multinational finance and insurance corporation in New York (the “Insurance Company”). As part of this fraud on Victim 3, Geiss forged e-mail messages and text messages from individuals (Victims 4 and 5) who actually worked for the Insurance Company but who had no knowledge of Geiss or his actions. These forged electronic communications formed the basis of the aggravated identity theft charges. Based on Geiss’s assurances, including the forged electronic communications purportedly from Victims 4 and 5, Victim 3 sent $3,000 by wire to Victim 2 and $5,000 by wire to Victim 1, believing that paying them would facilitate the supposed transaction with the Insurance Company. In reality, Geiss had no pending deal with the Insurance Company and had Victim 3 make the payments in an attempt to keep Victim 1 and Victim 2 from realizing they had been defrauded.
Separate and apart from the schemes described above, Geiss also pled guilty today to defrauding people he met through the internet. As part of this guilty plea, Geiss admitted that he used the online alias, “Dominic LaRossa,” to convince people that he was an airline pilot. Geiss, acting as the supposed “LaRossa,” collected more than $5,000 from victims he met online in exchange for fake and fraudulent “discount” airline tickets, which did not exist. Geiss also defrauded several victims out of money in relation to an online video game platform, including convincing one individual (Victim 6) to purchase several online video game profiles from other people. Relying on Geiss’s fraudulent assertions, Victim 6 paid a total of approximately $13,300 to purchase online video game profiles created by others, and Geiss never reimbursed, and never intended to reimburse, Victim 6.
Geiss will be sentenced on October 11, 2019, by Senior United States District Judge Norman A. Mordue. The aggravated identity theft charges to which Geiss pled guilty carry a mandatory sentence of 2 years in prison consecutive to any other prison sentence, and the wire fraud charges filed against Geiss carry a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison for each count of conviction. At sentencing, Geiss also faces a fine of up to $1.5 million, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors. In his plea agreement, the defendant agreed to submit to money judgments totaling over $153,000, and to pay restitution to his victims.
Geiss was on federal probation related to a prior conviction when he committed the crimes for which he pled guilty today, and a separate petition charging Geiss with violating the terms of his probation has been filed by United States Probation and Pretrial Services. With respect to the probation violation petition, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If the defendant is found to have violated the terms of his probation, he faces up to two additional years in prison. The probation violation petition is also pending before Senior Judge Mordue.
This case was investigated by the FBI, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael F. Perry.