Former Controller Of Manhattan Company And Three Family Members Charged With Embezzling $17 Million | USAO-SDNY

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Dermot Shea, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), and Patrick J. Freaney, Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Secret Service (“USSS”), announced today the unsealing of a criminal indictment charging SABITRI LAFOREST, GARRY LAFOREST, TATIANA LAFOREST a/k/a “Tatiana Mays,” and SANJAY LAFOREST with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with their scheme to defraud SABITRI LAFOREST’s employer, a Manhattan-based electrical contracting company, of at least approximately $17 million.

The defendants were arrested this morning: SABITRI LAFOREST and GARRY LAFOREST in Parkland, Florida, TATIANA LAFOREST in Queens, New York, and SANJAY LAFOREST in New York, New York.  Later today, TATIANA LAFOREST and SANJAY LAFOREST will be presented in federal court in Manhattan before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn; SABITRI LAFOREST and GARRY LAFOREST will be presented in federal court in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia O. Valle. 

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “The defendants lived a life of luxury: international travel, fancy apartments and homes, a 2020 Ford Shelby GT500, and a 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, as well as ownership in successful restaurants.  But, as alleged, this was all paid for with $17 million that the defendants stole from the company that employed Sabitri Laforest for over 30 years.  Thanks to our partners at the NYPD and U.S. Secret Service, the defendants’ alleged greed has led to their facing federal charges of embezzlement and money laundering.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said:  “As alleged in this federal indictment, these defendants exploited a position of trust to engage in a vast scheme of criminal plunder. These arrests and the work of our NYPD detectives, the United States Secret Service and the prosecutors of the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York will ensure they face justice.”

USSS Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge Patrick J. Freaney said:  “Bringing those to justice who commit financial fraud remains a key focus of the U.S. Secret Service.  In this instance, the accused allegedly used her professional position as controller to embezzle approximately $17 million which was then allegedly laundered with the aid of family members.  Not only are these alleged actions a violation of trust, but also a violation of law. The Secret Service looks forward to our continued partnership with the New York City Police Department in our joint pursuit of those who seek to commit financial crimes.  Special thanks to the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Intelligence Analysts and the Miami Field Office of the Secret Service for their considerable support in the success of this investigation.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment:[1]

Between at least 2013 and 2020, SABITRI LAFOREST, GARRY LAFOREST, TATIANA LAFOREST, and SANJAY LAFOREST used SABITRI LAFOREST’s position as the controller of an electrical contracting company (“Victim-1”) to embezzle over $17 million from Victim-1.  The defendants used SABITRI LAFOREST’s access to Victim-1’s bank account to make payments to a charge card account that TATIANA LAFOREST opened.  The defendants regularly charged hundreds of thousands of dollars to the account, all paid for each month using Victim-1’s money. 

The defendants used the charge card account to pay for, among other things, over $639,000 in air travel, over $242,000 in tickets for a New York City professional basketball team, over $250,000 in rent for two luxury apartments in Manhattan leased by TATIANA LAFOREST and SANJAY LAFOREST, over $100,000 in home improvements for a Florida home purchased by SABITRI LAFOREST and GARRY LAFOREST, and a 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 and a 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1.

The defendants also laundered millions of dollars of the proceeds of their embezzlement scheme by transferring the money to other financial accounts controlled by themselves and their family members, and by making payments to a restaurant in Elmont, New York, owned by SABITRI LAFOREST and GARRY LAFOREST, and a group of hospitality companies, including two Manhattan restaurants, owned by SANJAY LAFOREST.

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SABITRI LAFOREST, 59, and GARRY LAFOREST, 64, of Parkland, Florida, TATIANA LAFOREST a/k/a “Tatiana Mays,” 36, of Queens, New York, and SANJAY LAFOREST, 38, of New York, New York, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of  18 U.S.C. § 1349, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by a judge.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the NYPD’s Financial Crimes Task Force and the USSS.  Ms. Strauss also thanked the New York/New Jersey High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Intelligence Analysts for their support and assistance in this matter.

This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Matthew R. Shahabian is in charge of the prosecution.

 


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the description of the Indictment set forth in this release constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

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