A New York restaurateur has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud her establishment’s mortgage holder, lenders, suppliers and customers. The woman faces a sentence of up to 20 years in a federal prison when she is sentenced on June 24. News of the plea was released by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on March 5. The Banksville restaurant served gourmet French cuisine and was a Westchester County fixture for decades before filing for bankruptcy in 2019.
The woman has admitted to presenting falsified bank statements to lenders as she struggled to find money to keep her failing eatery afloat. The statements were altered to show positive instead of negative balances, and records of bounced checks and service fees were removed according to U.S. attorneys. When one of the lenders discovered that the documents were fraudulent, the woman is said to have set up an email account to pose as a bank officer. She then used the account to assure the lender that the statements were genuine.
Federal prosecutors say the woman also used a credit card number belonging to one of her customers to charge about $80,000 in restaurant supplies and lied to a bankruptcy trustee about her establishment’s insurance coverage. Checks she subsequently gave the customer to cover the charges bounced. When questioned about these events, the woman initially denied any involvement and blamed others.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys may advise individuals accused of committing white-collar crimes to avoid making untrue statements to investigators or U.S. attorneys. This is because the most damaging evidence in these cases is usually made up of documents and electronic records that are difficult or impossible to dispute. Attorneys could suggest that suspects instead ask for a lawyer immediately and then remain silent until their legal representative arrives.