Bergen County Man Admits to Fraudulent Short Sale Scheme to Defraud Mortgage Lenders and Tax Evasion
NEWARK, N.J. – A Bergen County, New Jersey, man today admitted his role in a scheme with his son to use straw buyers and short sales on properties to defraud mortgage lenders out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and to avoid paying taxes on the proceeds of the scheme, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
George Bussanich Sr., 60, of Park Ridge, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court to a superseding information charging him with one count of bank fraud conspiracy and one count of tax evasion. His son, George Bussanich Jr., 39, of Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to tax evasion before Judge Cecchi in October 2017 and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 25, 2019.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Between 2009 and 2012, Bussanich Sr. and Bussanich Jr. conspired to defraud mortgage lenders through the sham short sales of two properties located on Jefferson Avenue in Emerson, New Jersey, and Lillian Street in Park Ridge.
Bussanich Sr. controlled various purported medical clinics and surgical centers in New Jersey. He recruited his business partner and an employee from a sleep clinic in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, to pose as legitimate, unrelated buyers of the properties. In order to conceal his involvement, Bussanich Sr. used a business entity he controlled to fund each short sale transaction and the subsequent repurchase of those properties. Bussanich Jr., the owner of record of both properties, negotiated the short sales with the lenders using materially false information that misrepresented the circumstances of the short sales, the relationships of the parties, and the source of funding for the transactions.
Approximately two years after the fraudulent short sales, Bussanich Sr. bought the properties back from the straw purchasers using money that he owed his business partner from an earlier venture.
Bussanich Sr. also failed to disclose on his tax returns hundreds of thousands of dollars in income that he received from his purported medical clinics and surgical centers. He used those funds to purchase high-end luxury vehicles worth a total of over $300,000, including two Land Rover sport utility vehicles and a Ferrari Spyder. He also used those funds to purchase official bank checks to fund the fraudulent short sales.
The bank fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a maximum potential fine of $1 million. The tax evasion charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum potential $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 23, 2020.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, and special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ari B. Fontecchio of the Office’s Economic Crimes Unit, and Nicholas P. Grippo, Attorney in Charge of the Trenton Office.