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General manager of auto dealership charged with embezzling, fraud

The general manager of a chain of automobile dealerships in the metropolitan area was charged Monday with embezzling more than $3 million from his company and defrauding an insurance company of $860,000 by claiming his powerboat was stolen, according to officials.

Chris Orsaris, the general manager of Major World, pleaded not guilty Monday at arraignment before U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler in Central Islip, who ordered him held without bail temporarily pending future hearings.

Orsaris' attorney Joseph Conway, of Garden City, said his client was ready to post $2 million in bail, but federal prosecutor Burton Ryan said that amount was inadequate considering the nature of the frauds.

Ryan said an investigation by federal agents and New York City police showed that Orsaris had set up three phony consulting companies and between 2004 and 2009 had the automobile dealership issue checks ostensibly for commissions on automobile sales to the consulting companies.

As part of his pay as general manager, Orsaris was paid a commission for each used car sold, as well as a percentage of the profits Major made each month in arranging financing of automobile purchases, Ryan said.

But Orsaris had a series of 80 checks made out ostensibly for sales commissions at a greatly inflated rate to the consulting companies he had set up, Ryan said. On these checks, Orsaris forged the signatures of the company executives who were authorized to issue them.

In the second alleged scheme, Orsaris had purchased a 50-foot-long Sea Ray Cruiser in 2005 from a Lindenhurst marina for $860,000, according to court papers. The following year, Orsaris had the boat in dry dock at the College Point Yacht Club in Queens, but reported it missing to his insurance company, the court papers said. Orsaris claimed that the boat was stolen from the World's Fair Marina in Flushing where he had supposedly docked it, the papers said.

Ryan said the boat was traced to the College Point Yacht Club by a unit of the New York City police that specializes in investigating maritime thefts.

Orsaris was charged with conspiracy, forging checks and making a false statement to a government agent about the location of the boat.

Prosecutors also moved to have Orsaris forfeit to the government residences he owns in Southampton, Whitestone, Manhattan and Miami Beach.

A lawyer for Major World, Steven Harfenist, of Lake Success, would only say Monday that the company expects that the situation will be resolved in the courts.

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