TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP) announced today that a Toms River investment advisor and his father were sentenced today for stealing $175,000 from a widow, who had entrusted the son with power of attorney.
Andrew M. Lesnak, 54, of Toms River, was sentenced today by Superior Court Judge Frances McGrogan in Bergen County to five years in state prison. His father Andrew G. Lesnak, 84, of Hampton Bays, NY, was sentenced to two years of probation. Both men pleaded guilty on June 29. Andrew M. Lesnak pleaded guilty to second-degree Conspiracy and second-degree Theft by Deception. Andrew G. Lesnak (Sr.) pleaded guilty to third-degree Theft by Receiving Stolen Property. At the time of their pleas, the defendants provided checks totaling $175,000, which covers the full amount of restitution.
The younger Lesnak was an investment advisor for the widow and her husband. Following her husband’s death in 2007, the 69-year-old widow, who had no children or relatives close-by, turned to Lesnak for help with her finances.
An OIFP investigation uncovered that in 2010, the younger Lesnak convinced the widow to surrender an annuity product. Lesnak applied $175,000 of those annuity proceeds towards two cashier’s checks. The first check, in the amount of $168,152.66, was made out to Chase Home Equity. The second check, in the amount of $6,847.34, was made out to Chase Bank.
The investigation further revealed that the defendants, without the widow’s knowledge or consent, used the larger check to pay off a home equity line of credit held against the elder Lesnak’s home in Pine Brook. The smaller check was deposited into the elder Lesnak’s checking account. Later an identical amount was withdrawn from that account in cash. On the same day, that amount (to the dollar), was deposited into the younger Lesnak’s business account.
“These defendants exploited a widow who needed sound investment advice and support in her retirement years, and deplorably used her life savings for their own enrichment,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Many senior citizens have family and friends to guide them through managing their retirement, but unfortunately many fall prey to conscienceless opportunists.”
“The crimes in this case were extremely disturbing, but were made even more despicable given that the victim turned to the defendant in a time of need,” said Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi. “Where most advisors would seek to lead their clients to a good investment, these defendants shamelessly saw a financial opportunity for themselves.”
In February 2012, the widow entered an assisted living facility. She grew suspicious of the younger Lesnak when he would not respond to her calls. A new attorney-in-fact discovered a significant amount of her assets were not accounted for. In addition to other transactions, the new attorney-in-fact questioned the two cashier’s checks totaling $175,000 because the widow did not have any accounts at Chase.
Deputy Attorney Oriana Nadraga prosecuted the defendants and handled today’s sentencing hearing for the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor. DAG Nadraga, lead Detective Jacqueline Latty, Detective Ralph Anilo, and Principal Research Analyst Bethany Schussler coordinated the investigation. Sgt. Joseph Jaruszewski provided assistance. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Ronald Chillemi thanked Ombudsman James W. McCracken and the New Jersey Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly for referring the matter.
Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Chillemi noted that some important cases have started with anonymous tips. People who are concerned about insurance cheating and have information about a fraud can report it anonymously by calling the toll-free hotline at 1-877-55-FRAUD, or visiting the Web site at www.NJInsurancefraud.org. State regulations permit a reward to be paid to an eligible person who provides information that leads to an arrest, prosecution and conviction for insurance fraud.