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NEW YORK – Michael D'Alessio, a White Plains developer who pleaded guilty to a federal charge of defrauding investors out of about $58 million, was sentenced Friday to six years in prison.
D'Alessio, 53, once a successful developer who had an office on Water Street in White Plains, was arrested in August on a federal wire-fraud charge in connection with an alleged years-long scheme to defraud investors in luxury real estate development projects in Westchester County, Manhattan and the Hamptons.
D'Alessio promised investors that he would develop and build luxury homes and condominiums that would yield big returns, but when the real estate market took a downturn, he resorted to fraud, said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
'In the end, all he built was a Ponzi scheme that he used to rip off his investors of their hard-earned life savings to the tune of $58 million,' Berman said in a statement. 'Others who would consider funding a life of luxury with the proceeds of fraud should take heed. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to see that such fraud is met with justice, and that those who would commit such crimes understand that crime doesn’t pay.”
In addition to the prison term, D'Alessio was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay forfeiture in the amount of $58 million.
In November, D'Alessio pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman to one count of committing wire fraud, as well as one count of concealing assets from a bankruptcy court.
The government recommended the court impose a sentence of 97 to 121 months in prison, along with $57.9 million in restitution, arguing that D'Alessio's criminal conduct was 'brazen, predatory and calculated to avoid detection,' according to Berman's sentencing memorandum.
'He victimized hundreds of people through outright lies, and he corrupted the bankruptcy proceeding (that he was forced into) with more lies when his Ponzi scheme fell apart,' he said.
D'Alessio's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, petitioned the court, saying that D'Alessio is a 'fundamentally decent man who unfortunately committed serious crimes' as he suffered from the 'vicious grip of a compulsive gambling disorder' that Brafman said was further intensified by D'Alessio's use of a prescription medication.
Brafman suggested to the court a sentence of 36 months — or three years — in prison followed by three years of supervised release would be 'sufficient, but not greater than necessary' to accomplish the goal of the sentencing.
The wire fraud charge carried a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense; and the charge of hiding assets from a bankruptcy court carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Last year, nearly 20 investors, including some with ties to Westchester, filed several lawsuits in state Supreme Court against D'Alessio and Michael Paul Enterprises, as well as several other entities under D'Alessio's control, claiming that he and his companies lured investors into seven development projects by promising 9 to 16 percent annual returns.
And after receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars of investments for a specific project, D'Alessio 'began siphoning the investor funds for personal use,' commingling funds earmarked for a certain project with his other projects, while misinforming investors about the projects' progress and their costs, according to the complaints.
The investors included Rella Fogliano and Joseph Breda with The MacQuesten Cos., a Pelham-based developer; Attis Properties of Harrison; and Stacey Gendels, Bonni Stanley and Marilyn Shendell, who are associated with Cornell Pace, a New Rochelle-based property-management and investment company.
GUILTY PLEA: Michael D'Alessio, White Plains developer, faces prison
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CHARGED: Feds arrest White Plains developer Michael D'Alessio for wire fraud
SUED: White Plains developer accused of siphoning millions from investors
CREDITORS: Banks seek to force White Plains developer into bankruptcy
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