NJ family bought 7 luxury cars after running million-dollar Ponzi scams
An adult son and parents from Bergen County have pleaded guilty to cheating investors out of millions of dollars through two investment scams.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Tuesday said the family defrauded many of their victims a second time after they were first busted.
George Bussanich Sr., 60, of Park Ridge, and 39-year-old George Bussanich Jr., of Saddle River, pleaded guilty yesterday before Superior Court Judge Margaret M. Foti in Bergen County.
Wilma Bussanich, 58, also of Park Ridge, pleaded guilty to third-degree money laundering. She faces a sentence of probation.
In what prosecutors called a classic Ponzi scheme, the Bussaniches made dividend payments to investors out of the initial principal funds, tricking investors into believing their investments were generating profits.
Meanwhile, they used the millions to buy multiple homes and seven luxury cars – including two Maserati Quattroportes and a Ferrari F430 Spider, each of which can cost well over $100,000, and a Mercedes ML350. They also paid for lavish shopping, dining, travel and entertainment bills.
Bussanich Sr. pleaded guilty to first-degree conspiracy to commit securities fraud and money laundering. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend that he be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Bussanich Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree securities fraud and second-degree money laundering.
Prosecutors said he solicited investor funds with his father and mother. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to eight years in prison.
The three are responsible to pay full restitution to the victims. So are several others involved in the scams, who previously pleaded guilty to third-degree charges of money laundering, including 60-year-old Heidi Francavilla, of Park Ridge; 67-year-old accountant Robert Schooley, of Park Ridge; and 37-year-old Christopher Hanna, of Parlin. Attorney Bryan Nazor, 47, of Chestnut Ridge, New York, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft. All four face probation.
The Bussaniches, Francavilla and Schooley were arrested in September 2015.
A $5.5 million settlement reached in August 2014 by the Bureau of Securities, within the Division of Consumer Affairs, resolved a lawsuit that accused the Bussaniches of stealing $4 million from investors between May 2009 and July 2013.
Authorities said the father and son misled victims in the sale of unregistered investment notes in Metropolitan Ambulatory Surgical Center. MASC was not an actual surgical center, but a holding company controlled by Bussanich Sr.
The consent order obtained by the Bureau of Securities in August 2014 barred Bussanich Sr. and his son from the securities industry in New Jersey, prohibiting them from any involvement in selling securities.
Instead, the very next month prosecutors said, the Bussaniches began soliciting investments in a phony company called Global Fund Management that they created with Schooley, who was an accountant for the family.
Between September 2014 and September 2015, 15 of the original 26 investors lost another $3 million in the fake business venture. Once again, the Bussaniches took most of the investor funds for their personal use, prosecutors said.
“What makes this case even more egregious is that they defrauded many of the same elderly retirees a second time after the first scheme was exposed, playing on their desperation to recover their lost savings,” Attorney General Grewal said.
The defendants agreed to forfeit all assets seized in the investigation.
Sentencing for George Bussanich Sr., George Bussanich Jr. and Wilma Bussanich has been scheduled for June 28, before Judge Foti.
More from New Jersey 101.5: