YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The male half of a duo from Woodcliff Lake who admitted conning friends and others out of nearly $1 million in bogus investments was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison today.
The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office White Collar Crimes Unit first investigated and brought charges against Joseph Suarez ( above, left ) — owner of Suarez Investment and Development — and former Florida attorney Katherine Ferro ( right ) in connection with a $450,000 ripoff of a man whose father had just died.
The case was picked up by the FBI and Securities Exchange Commission as more victims came forward and the losses hit seven figures.
One scheme involved buying and selling diesel fuel and another providing loans to small businesses on the promise of reimbursement through future credit card payments, Suarez admitted last June.
He and Ferro then slid the investments to other accounts for their own use, authorities said.
Most of the victims “felt comfortable investing” with the two “because of their long friendly relationship and the fact that some of the victims considered Joseph Suarez as being one of their very best friends,” Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said when his detectives arrested the pair in 2010.
“Once the due dates had passed regarding the return of the money, the victims regularly called Joseph Suarez and questioned him about when their overdue payments would be made,” the prosecutor added.
“The victims explained that Mr. Suarez always told them not to worry and had an excuse as to why he had to wait for the money but he assured the victims that they would get their money back,” he said. “He and Elizabeth eventually issued them all the bad checks in the amount they were owed.”
Last June, Suarez, 48, admitted participating in the scheme, pleading to a single count of wire fraud.
Ferro had already pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was disbarred. She’s still awaiting sentencing.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini sentenced Suarez to two years of supervised release and ordered him to pay an as-yet determined amount of restitution.
Fishman credited special agents from the FBI and IRS, and thanked Molinelli and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s New York Regional Office, for making the case, prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mala Ahuja Harker of his Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
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