Having been sentenced to federal time, two members of a Bergen County family of con artists received state prison terms Friday in Hackensack for defrauding investors in back-to-back multi-million dollar scams.
George Bussanich Sr., 61, of Park Ridge, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison, while George Bussanich Jr., 40, of Saddle River, was sentenced to eight years in state prison.
Bussanich Sr.’s wife, Wilma Bussanich, 58, was sentenced Friday to five years of probation and 125 hours of community service for a previous guilty plea to money laundering.
Last March, George Bussanich Sr. pleaded guilty in Superior Court in Hackensack to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and money laundering. His son pleaded guilty to securities fraud and money laundering.
While awaiting Friday’s proceedings, the elder Bussanich was sentenced this past November in U.S. District Court in Newark to 27 months of federal prison time for defrauding mortgage lenders out of more than $300,000.
His son was sentenced to eight months of federally-monitored home confinement.
The New Jersey case involved a pair of swindles.
“Justice demanded that this father and son face substantial prison sentences for their crimes,” state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Friday.
“It was bad enough that they stole the life savings of elderly investors to bankroll their own expensive homes, cars and entertainment,” Grewal said, “but they did not stop there.
“Instead, they defrauded many of the same retirees a second time after the first scheme was exposed, playing on their desperation to recover their lost savings.”
After defrauding 26 investors in the first scam, the father and son agreed to pay $5.5 million, including $4 million in investor restitution, to settle a lawsuit filed by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities.
They then proceeded to defraud 15 of the same investors of $3 million in a second scam.
“These defendants perpetrated a classic Ponzi scheme in which they used a small fraction of the invested funds to pay investors purported ‘dividends’ or ‘returns’ and conceal that they were diverting most of the funds for their personal use,” said state Division of Criminal Justice Director Veronica Allende.
All three Bussaniches are “jointly and severally liable for full restitution to the victims, along with four additional defendants who are awaiting sentencing,” Grewal said Friday.
The defendants “agreed to forfeit all assets seized in the investigation,” he added.
Scheduled for Feb. 18 sentencings on guilty pleas in Superior Court in Hackensack:
- Bryan Nazor, 48, of Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., an attorney who previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft.
- Heidi Francavilla, 61, of Park Ridge, who previously pleaded guilty money laundering.
- Robert Schooley, 58, of Park Ridge, an accountant who previously pleaded guilty to money laundering.
- Christopher Hanna, 38, of Parlin, who previously pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Special Deputy Attorney General Brandy Malfitano, currently assigned as an assistant Bergen County prosecutor for the case, and Deputy Attorney General Amy Sieminski prosecuted the defendants for the state Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.