Four plead guilty to $138K Mahoning Co. business scam
Four people have pleaded guilty and a fifth suspect also plans to plead guilty to charges filed in connection with a phony loan scheme to bilk a Mahoning County business owner out of $138,000.
Four people have pleaded guilty, and a fifth suspect also plans to plead guilty, to charges filed in connection with a phony loan scheme to bilk a Mahoning County business owner out of $138,000.
Twenty-five-year-old Haki Toplica of Staten Island, NY pleaded guilty on Tuesday in U.S. District Court to four counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy.
Toplica has been in the county jail since last September when Springfield Township police arrested him on charges of theft from an elderly person and auto theft.
In March, a federal grand jury indicted Toplica and four other New Yorkers; Luisa Goris, Kathryn DeLaTorre, Haider Islam, and Robert Russo on charges that included conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and interstate transportation of stolen property.
According to an affidavit, Toplica convinced the 69-year-old alleged victim to fork over $138,000 in fees and titles to 55 vehicles including tractors, a motor home, trailers, dump trucks, several restored classic cars, and a Ford Mustang to secure loans he needed to downsize his company.
The affidavit does not name the business, but according to state records, the alleged victim operates Edan Farms of Springfield Township, which supplies tractors and drivers for FedEx.
The indictment says Toplica, masquerading under the name Harry Cohen, offered the victim loans of $475,000, $3 million, and $10 million, and $20 million, none of which the victim ever received.
In September, Toplica allegedly told the victim that he was on his way to deliver the ten-million-dollar loan to the business owner when he was pulled over by a “dirty cop” in Pennsylvania who stole the money from him.
Toplica was pulled over in August by State Police in Clarion County for speeding. At that time, police seized $27,070 Toplica was carrying.
The four others named in the indictment allegedly played various roles in the scheme, including setting up bank accounts to receive the victim's money and to take the titles to his vehicles.
Two others also entered pleas Tuesday. Goris and Russo pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Goris also entered a guilty plea to wire fraud.
De La Torre pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy and wire fraud.
Islam is scheduled to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on October 9.
The four who have already pleaded guilty are scheduled for sentencing hearings in January.
The indictment asks the court to collect $172,289 from the accused, as well as the $27,000 confiscated by Pennsylvania State Police.