Finance ‘whiz’ admits ‘Suite Scam’ that bilked investors of $1.6 million

CLIFFVIEW PILOT SPECIAL REPORT: Scam artist Robert Sucarato admitted this morning that he ripped off investors to the tune $1.6 million, then used the money for department-store shopping sprees and to pay his EZPass bill.

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Robert J. Sucarato, aka Succati

Robert J. Sucarato, 41 — who CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned used the name Robert Succati on Facebook — pleaded guilty to wire fraud before a federal judge in Camden.

He was returned to the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in Philadelphia to await sentencing, which U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb set for May 2 in Camden.

The Bernard Madoff scandal made investors wary that they could get double-digit returns in a collapsing market, despite Sucarato‘s promises as owner and president of New York Financial Company (“NYFC”), a hedge fund firm that did its business online while he pretended to operate prestigious offices with large staffs.

Investors began asking questions, and soon federal regulators were on his tail.

Federal prosecutors said Sucarato, a former School Board candidate in Old Bridge, pulled what is known as a “Suite Scam,” holding up in a funky flatiron-styled building at the 22nd floor of 67 Wall Street, an historic revival tower, where he rented “virtual space” for $100 a month before shifting his base of operations to to an equally powerful address: 501 Fifth Avenue.

The government certainly intends to send Sucarato and other scammers a message

With the prestigious addresses came office space, conference rooms, and receptionists shared with several other companies for a nominal rent — $100 a month.

Sucarato, who now lives in Holmdel, lied about his bona fides, including that he managed a pair of hedge funds since 1993 that outperformed the market, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said. He also claimed to hold a B.S. in finance and economics, magna cum laude, from NYU — but never went to school there, according to the federal complaint.

Suarato boasted of officers and managers, as well as a staff of “over 20 experienced traders,” and cited $7.2 billion in assets, with a 10-year compounded return exceeding 1800% — all bogus, Fishman said.

The U.S. Attorney said Sucarato created a false audit report, purportedly prepared by a major accounting firm, that showed NYFC with a net worth of nearly $800 million, and even provided quarterly statements “in order to maintain the investors’ confidence in their investment with NYFC

“These statements falsely reported to the investors that their investments were growing in value due to Sucarato’s profitable trading.”

At the same time, Sucarato was moving money around bank accounts and pulling out what he wanted when he wanted, for shopping sprees at Macy‘s, Teddy Bear, L.L. Bean, and elsewhere, federal authorities said.

Filched investors couldn’t be blamed for being impressed — at least those who weren’t from out-of-state and managed to pop into his office for an appointment.

Federal regulators two years ago fined Sucarato $1.2 million and ordered him to repay investors.

In soliciting, accepting, and receiving money from individuals to invest in the Funds, Sucarato acted as a “commodity pool operator” and was, therefore, required to be registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”). That didn’t happen, Fishman said.

Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s South Jersey Resident Agency. Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Stephen Stigall of the Criminal Division in Camden handled the case. But it is Fishman who has set the tone since becoming U.S. Attorney in December, 2009.

Catching crooked politicians was de rigueur then — and there still seem to be plenty for his office to pick off. But Fishman’s investigators have also spent the better part of the past 14 months flushing out connivers who flew under the radar while the Madoffs of the world got the headlines. Victims have said they’re thrilled to see such thieves tracked down and put behind bars, considering how many lives they ruin.

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