A Farmingdale man led a fraud ring that stole more than $2 million from 35 small-business owners and others across Long Island and as far away as California and Florida, Suffolk County prosecutors said Wednesday.
Demetrios Boudourakis, 45, was charged with grand larceny, money laundering and other crimes for his role in the advance fee loan scheme, according to court records. One victim was scammed out of more than $150,000, court papers say.
“This was a classic boiler room operation,” Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said during a news conference Wednesday in Hauppauge.
Boudourakis and his associates, through the dark web, obtained the names of people who had been denied loans, Sini said. They would then call those people to tell them they had qualified for loans but would have to pay interest and fees upfront.
“There are criminal enterprises out there that make a living out of essentially identifying vulnerable individuals who can be preyed upon, essentially identifying potential victims,” Sini said. “That is exactly what happened here.”
Once the defendants received cashier checks or wire transfers for the fees and interest, Sini said, they came up with excuses to explain why the loans were not forthcoming — or simply refused to return calls.
Boudourakis, also known as “Jimmy,” pleaded not guilty at arraignment in Central Islip Wednesday. He is scheduled to return to court Friday. His attorney, Terrence Buckley of Islandia, did not return a call for comment.
Suffolk County District Judge Gaetan B. Lozito set bail for Boudourakis at $1 million bond or $500,000 cash, according to court records.
Sini said the alleged fraud began in October 2016 and continued until just recently, operating first out of an office in Melville and then out of a building in Seaford, where a “Wolf of Wall Street” poster hung on the wall.
The investigation into the alleged scheme began a year ago and involved numerous agencies, including the Suffolk and Nassau police and sheriff’s departments, New York State Police, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Five other defendants pleaded not guilty at arraignment Wednesday. They include Nadim Afzali, 30, of Hicksville, charged with scheme to defraud and ordered held of $250,000 bond or $100,000 bail; Tanya Balbi, 39, of Farmingdale, charged with scheme to defraud and ordered held on $50,000 cash or $25,000 bond; Christopher Looney, 21, of Bethpage, charged with grand larceny and scheme to defraud and ordered held on $150,000 bond or $75,000 cash; Johnson Joseph, 38, of Brentwood, charged with grand larceny, money laundering and scheme to defraud and ordered held on $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash; and Jude Brun, 36, of Elmont, charged with scheme to defraud and ordered held on $150,000 bond or $75,000 cash.
Afzali’s attorney, Ian Fitzgerald of Central Islip, said his client had only worked with Boudourakis for a short period of time. “He has no knowledge of theft, if that is indeed what happened,” Fitzgerald said.
Joseph's attorney, Martin Lorenzotti of Central Islip, said his client is presumed innocent and will fight the charges in court.
Attorneys for the other clients arraigned Wednesday did not return calls for comment.
The seventh defendant, Michelle Soccodato, 31, of Hicksville, is charged with scheme to defraud and is scheduled for arraignment Thursday. It was not clear Wednesday if Soccodato was represented by an attorney.
Sini said anybody who believes they were a victim of Boudourakis and his associates should contact his office.
“These individuals weren’t stealing from the rich,” Sini said. “They were stealing from small businesses and ordinary people.”