It seemed that state and federal prosecutors had thrown all they could at Bergen County’s George Bussanich and his son for a series of multi-million-dollar investment scams the past several years.
But state authorities announced a new case Friday that also includes Bussanich's daughter and son-in-law as co-defendants.
George Bussanich Sr., 62, of Park Ridge is already serving a 27-month federal prison stretch in Allenwood, PA for defrauding mortgage lenders and is due for release in 10 months.
His son, George Bussanich Jr., 41, of Saddle River is up for parole this November from an eight-year sentence he began serving at a state prison in Burlington County 13 months ago for money laundering and securities fraud.
Both now could be looking at even more time behind bars.
Attorneys with the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice charged both men and three others Friday with conspiring to scam two investors and two mortgage lenders of more than $500,000 through bogus real estate deals.
The key figure in the new case is George Sr.’s daughter, Melanie Whitney, 42, of Mahwah.
By “by overstating her professional real estate experience,” Whitney “convinced two men to enter into business partnerships with her, deceiving each into investing more than $75,000 in fraudulent real estate deals,” state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Friday.
Whitney deposited the money into bank accounts controlled by her father, brother and a fifth defendant, 73-year-old Bruce Evanter, who’s listed online as a co-CEO of a Mahwah company called Atlantic Wind Development, the attorney general said.
Whitney then withdrew various amounts of the laundered money for personal use, he said.
She also falsified mortgage applications to defraud two mortgage lenders out of real estate invest capital, then used her dad, brother and Evanter to launder those funds, too, Grewal said.
Charged with conspiracy and money laundering are Melanie Whitney and both her father and brother. She’s also charged with records tampering.
Whitney’s father is also charged with theft by deception and her husband, Joseph Whitney, 42, with conspiracy.
Evanter is charged with conspiracy and money laundering.
And, so, the saga continues.
George Sr. and Jr. had agreed in August 2014 to pay $5.5 million – including $4 million in investor restitution -- to settle a lawsuit filed by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities accusing them of defrauding 26 investors, many of them senior citizens.
Both father and son had conned the elderly victims into investing in a purported surgical center that was actually a holding company that the elder Bussanich controlled, state authorities said at the time.
As part of their settlement, both the elder and younger Bussanich agreed to a prohibition from them ever selling securities again.
The very next month they began soliciting investments in another bogus company -- from 15 of the very same investors, authorities said.
In what Grewal called a classic Ponzi scheme, the Bussaniches paid dividends from the original principal while fooling investors into believing their money was generating profits.
Most of the rest of the $3 million that they raised paid for several 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, the attorney general said.
Investor money also paid for lavish shopping, dining, travel and entertainment, authorities said.
Three Bussaniches – George Sr., George Jr. and Wilma Bussanich – were arrested by state authorities in September 2015 and took guilty pleas.
Wilma Bussanich got probation, while both her husband and son were sentenced to state prison time. The elder Bussanich was then sentenced in a federal case.
New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Amy Sieminski is prosecuting the defendants in the new state case following an investigation led by Detective John Cicchino of the DCJ’s Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
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