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Crime and courts briefs


Former brokerage exec

pleads guilty, faces 5 years

The former head of operations at a securities brokerage firm based in Syosset has pleaded guilty to tax evasion and filing a false tax return, federal prosecutors announced yesterday.

Dominick Pannitti, 38, entered the plea in the U.S. Eastern District Court in Central Islip on Thursday to one count of each charge. Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department's Tax Division said in a news release that Pannitti, formerly of North Bellmore, used his position at the firm to take advantage of an automated system designed to adjust customers' trading accounts for amounts less than $1,000.

In 2005 and 2006, prosecutors said, Pannitti used the system to credit his own trading accounts, which were set up in the name of a corporation he owned, more than 850 times in increments of less than $1,000. Pannitti wasn't entitled to most of the credits, which came to more than $570,000, prosecutors said. He also failed to report the income on his 2005 and 2006 federal income tax returns.

He faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine on the tax evasion count, and a maximum three years in prison and up to another $250,000 fine for the count of filing a false return.


Man convicted of

auto-insurance scheme

A Long Island man was convicted in federal court in Manhattan yesterday of a racketeering conspiracy and other charges in a case prosecutors once described as the largest no-fault auto insurance fraud ever.

Mikhail Zemlyansky, 37, of Hewlett, was also convicted of securities fraud charges in a scheme to cheat investors in two so-called settlement-claims companies that said they were raising money to fund lawsuits.

Prosecutors in 2012 alleged Zemlyansky was a leader in a fraud ring that recruited auto accident victims to go to bogus medical clinics it controlled and get unnecessary treatments to collect $50,000 in no-fault medical coverage available in New York.

In an earlier trial, jurors could not agree on a verdict on that charge. Zemlyansky was immediately detained by U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken after the verdict yesterday. His maximum prison time could exceed 100 years, officials said.

Defense lawyer Ron Fischetti said he intended an appeal.


Lawyer accused of stealing

$20G from escrow fund

A Mineola attorney was arrested yesterday for stealing $20,000 in escrow funds from a couple who hired him to help sell their Queens home, the Nassau District Attorney's office said.

Bill Tsoumpelis, 48, of St. James, was charged with third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony, before being released on his own recognizance after his arraignment, said acting District Attorney Madeline Singas in a news release. He pleaded not guilty, prosecutors said.

At the home's closing on Aug. 21, 2014, the couple and the buyer agreed to have the sellers put $20,000 in an escrow account held by Tsoumpelis "due to asbestos supposedly being found in the pipe installation" of the home, prosecutors said.

The issue was resolved within a few days and the couple asked Tsoumpelis for their money, prosecutors said.

Tsoumpelis told the couple he first wanted to get a release from the home buyer's attorney authorizing the release of the money, prosecutor said.

The buyer's attorney told Tsoumpelis he could return the money but he wrote a check from his law firm's operating account, rather than his escrow account, for $21,932, payable to one of the sellers, prosecutors said.

The check was incomplete -- the amount of money was only stated in numerals and wasn't written out -- so the sellers' bank would not accept the check, prosecutors said.

Further attempts by the couple to get the money from Tsoumpelis were unsuccessful, prosecutors said.

In November, the couple filed a complaint with the district attorney's office, leading to an investigation and Tsoumpelis' arrest.

Prosecutors said if convicted, Tsoumpelis faces up to 21/3 years to 7 years in prison. He is due back in court March 23.


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