Mother-son plead guilty in $14 M bank fraud

BY STACI WILSON

A mother-son team admitted Tuesday in United State District Court,Binghamton,N.Y., to bilking over $14 million from an area credit union over an 18-month timeframe.

Scott Lonzinski, 32, Clifford Twp., and Laura Conarton, 46, formerly ofGreat Bend, used fictitious certificates of deposit as collateral to secure loans from the now defunct Broome County Teachers’ Credit Union, said United State Attorney Richard Hartunian in a press conference held inBinghamtonfederal court Tuesday afternoon.

Lonzinski and Conarton each pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud. Both face up to 30 years in prison. The pair is scheduled to be sentenced in December.

Hartunian said the case represented “one of the largest schemes ever in the area.”

Investigators said Lonzinski used the 10 loans fraudulently acquired through BCT to finance his construction business, remodel his home and purchase vehicles for personal and business use.

Over $5 million worth of Lonzinski and Conarton’s assets have been seized, including property, vehicles, cash and bank accounts.

Investigators said they expect to  recover over $6 million in assets, a little over 40 percent of the $14-plus million owed to the National Credit Union Administration.

Hartunian also said the ponzi-like scheme had a direct impact on BCT. The NCUA took over day-to-day operations of the BCT and the credit union’s assets were eventually sold to Visions Federal Credit Union. No members or clients of BCT lost money as a result of the liquidation of BCT.

Hartunian said Conarton had worked for 10 years in banking and used the knowledge of documents and the loan process gained there to perpetrate the fraud activity.

Cliff Holly, Special Agent in charge of the FBI,Albany,N.Y., field division, said the National Credit Union Administration uncovered the scheme during an examination of the Lonzinski loans. The NCUA then reported the suspected crime to authorities on June 8, 2011.

One day later, investigators seized $4.9 million from the Honesdale National Bank.

Since then, Holly said, the investigation focused on the identification of Lonzinski and Conarton’s assets.

“The case demonstrates that even institutions can be victims of fraud,” Holly said.

Hartunian said, “The road to financial ruin is paved with schemes like todays.”

While no agreement to sentencing was made as part of the plea deal, Hartunian said other’s convicted in similar cases had received significant sentences.

Assets seized during the investigation include:

*Cash proceeds of a sale of real property subject to forfeiture: 4436 SR 247, Clifford Twp., $494,141.

*Real property to be forfeited: parcel on Old Rt. 11, Hallstead, purchase price of $440,000.

*2011 BMW X5

*2010 BMW 328XI

*2009 Ford Shelby Mustang

*two, 2011 GMC Sierra 2500

*two, 2011 Arctic Cat F-8

*2009 Chevy Silverado

*2011 Peterbilt 288

Three bank accounts at Honesdale National Bank were also forfeited in the amounts of: $3,600,949.31; $715,691,97; and $25,850.92.

And cash forfeited was $333,000.