BOSTON –- (RealEstateRama) — A man who had been a fugitive for more than 20 years before his arrest in Florida in April 2017, was indicted yesterday in connection with a $1.7 million real estate investment fraud scheme in Quincy, Mass. His ex-wife was also indicted for lying about the whereabouts of her former spouse prior to his arrest.
Scott J. Wolas, 68, who, according to court documents, also used aliases identified by initials EJD, DD, FA, EA, and CS, was indicted on seven counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. In April 2017, Wolas was arrested in Delray Beach, Fla., and charged in a complaint. He has been detained pending trial.
Cecily Sturge, 69, of Delray Beach, Fla., was indicted on charges of making a materially false statement to a federal agent about the whereabouts of her ex-husband, Scott J. Wolas. Earlier this month, Sturge was arrested and charged by criminal complaint.
According to court documents, from at least 2009 through 2016, Wolas, using the name Eugene Grathwohl, operated a real estate business known as Increasing Fortune Inc., and worked as a licensed real estate agent for Century 21 in Quincy. From 2014 through 2016, he solicited investments for the development of the Beachcomber Bar property on Quincy Shore Drive and for the construction of a single-family home on the adjacent property. He collected more than $1.7 million from at least 20 investors and promised each of them a significant return on their investments. He allegedly promised to pay out at least 125% of the profits related to the single-family home construction. The court documents also indicate that the bank account into which Wolas deposited investor funds has been drained, and that Wolas used the money mostly for his personal expenses unrelated to development of the real estate projects.
Wolas was scheduled to close on the Beachcomber property on Sept. 15, 2016. A week before, however, he left Quincy and ceased all contact with his then-girlfriend, his co-workers, and his investors. Law enforcement then discovered that Grathwohl was actually Wolas, a former lawyer who had been a fugitive since 1997 after being charged with fraud and grand larceny in New York. The real EJG resides in Florida and is known to Wolas.
According to court documents, law enforcement officers interviewed Sturge, Wolas’ ex-wife, on Nov. 17, 2016. During the interview, Sturge said that she had not been in contact with her ex-husband for approximately 15 years. Sturge continued to say that this was so, despite evidence of contact between her cell phone and one known to belong to Wolas that demonstrated more recent communication between the two.
After further investigation, Wolas was arrested on April 7, 2017, at a condominium he was renting in Delray Beach, Fla. Investigators learned that Wolas had first rented the room in the condo from Nov. 12 through Nov. 21, 2016, through an online rental website in the name of Cecily Sturge. Messages exchanged between the condo owner and Sturge depicted a photo of Sturge and messages claiming that Wolas (using the name Cameron Sturge) was Sturge’s brother and a retired paleontologist in need of a place to stay. The owner of the condo told authorities that Sturge and Wolas arrived at the condo together in the same car on Nov. 12, 2016, five days before Sturge’s interview with law enforcement.
Sturge was divorced from Wolas in 2001 by default judgment in Palm Beach County, Fla. In February 2017, Sturge filed a petition to modify the judgment in order to obtain the contents of Wolas’ retirement account, which had a balance of approximately $647,000, from the New York law firm where he worked prior to being indicted in 1997 by New York authorities. In pleadings filed in February and March 2017 regarding that matter, Sturge swore that Wolas’ whereabouts were unknown to her, despite telephone records showing frequent contact between the two. In addition, copies or drafts of documents filed in the Florida proceeding, along with a thumb drive, were found in the room where Wolas was arrested. The United States has obtained a court order freezing the retirement account until the resolution of the criminal proceedings.
The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss. The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a minimum of two years in prison, which must be served consecutively to any term for the wire fraud, one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney William Weinreb; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Joel P. Garland, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; Scott Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Boston Field Division; and Quincy Police Chief Paul Keenan, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra S. Bower of Weinreb’s Criminal Division and David G. Lazarus and Brendan Mockler of Weinreb’s Civil Division are prosecuting the case.