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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information:

July 14, 2006

Office of The Attorney General
- Zulima V. Farber, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
- Gregory A. Paw, Director

 

Peter Aseltine
609-292-4791

 

Ocean County Woman Sentenced for Family Fraud Schemes
Fourth Family Member Sentenced In Elaborate Criminal Enterprise Involving
Fake Bank and Money Laundering Through A.C. Casinos

TRENTON – Attorney General Zulima V. Farber and Division of Criminal Justice Director Gregory A. Paw announced that an Ocean County woman was sentenced to state prison today for conspiring with three members of her family to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars through a variety of fraudulent schemes. The other family members were previously sentenced to prison.

Superior Court Judge Michael A. Donio of Atlantic County sentenced Rita Issa, 36, of Point Pleasant Beach, to three years in state prison on a charge of conspiracy to commit theft by deception. She also was ordered to pay $71,000 in restitution to AAA Mid-Atlantic in connection with travelers checks that she admitted she obtained fraudulently. She pleaded guilty on Aug. 18, 2005 and agreed to cooperate in the investigation of the family’s elaborate criminal enterprise, which also involved her father-in-law, Antwan Issa, 64, her husband, Roger Issa, 31, and her brother-in-law, Robert Issa, 42, all of Point Pleasant Beach.

“Through an effective investigation and prosecution, we have assured that the family that stole together is going to prison together,” said Criminal Justice Director Paw. “These four family members were linked by their greed and their complete disregard for the law. ”

According to Director Paw, an investigation by the Dover Township Police Department and New Jersey State Police, coordinated by the Division of Criminal Justice, revealed that the four family members illegally obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and luxury merchandise through various mortgage, real estate, bank fraud, and identity theft schemes. The family members used Atlantic City casinos to launder their illegal proceeds, making deposits at the casinos, then withdrawing the balance of the monies in cash after minimal gaming activities.

The investigation revealed that, among other ploys, the family created a phony bank, complete with telephone numbers answered by family members, to verify the issuance of fraudulent checks.

The other family members also pleaded guilty and were sentenced by Judge Donio as follows:

  • On June 2, Antwan Issa was sentenced to eight and one-half years in state prison on two counts of theft by deception, a second-degree crime;
  • On May 31, Roger Issa was sentenced to 10 years in state prison on a charge of racketeering conspiracy, a first-degree crime; and
  • On May 31, Robert Issa was sentenced to 13 years in state prison on a charge of racketeering conspiracy, a first-degree crime.

A state grand jury indictment returned on March 15, 2005 alleged, among other things, that in November 2002, Robert, Roger, and Rita Issa assumed the identity of a relative, Dolly Issa, and sold her home in Wayne to obtain $87,947. In another instance, Robert Issa posed as a financial expert, befriended a doctor under the guise of providing assistance to obtain a loan, then used the doctor’s financial and personal information to fraudulently obtain a $450,000 mortgage loan.

In January 2004, Robert Issa rented a Neptune City storefront to open a branch office of Bank United, a nonexistent bank. The defendants printed Bank United checks, which they used to purchase valid AAA VISA Travelers checks. The VISA Travelers checks and fraudulent Bank United checks were used to purchase, among other things, more than $50,000 in expensive watches and jewelry. The indictment charged that Robert and Rita Issa used phony Bank United checks to open accounts at Commerce Bank and steal more than $140,000 in bank funds.

The investigation was coordinated by Deputy Attorneys General Andrew Butchko and Kerry Menchen assigned to the Division of Criminal Justice - Casino Prosecutions Bureau. The investigation was led by Detective Mark Catalano of the Dover Township Police Department and State Police Detective Sgt. Paul Spirit for the Division of Gaming Enforcement.

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