By: Najla Alexander
NJ AG authorities announced that a state grand jury indicted a father and son from Bergen County for allegedly defrauding investors and mortgage lenders of more than $2.5 million through an investment scam involving Jersey Shore real estate.
Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin stated that George Bussanich, Sr., 65, of Park Ridge, and George Bussanich, Jr., 43, of Upper Saddle River, were indicted on charges of conspiracy, theft, and money laundering in connection with the scam involving the purchase and renovation of residential homes for the purpose of profitable resale — so-called "fix and flip" properties.
The alleged offenses occurred from August 2018 to March 2020, officials said
According to officials, an investigation showed that the defendants deceived victims into believing they were funding the purchase, renovation, and resale of four residential homes in Ocean County, New Jersey — two properties in Ship Bottom, one in Manahawkin, and another in Surf City.
That investigation was conducted by the Attorney General's Office of Securities Fraud and Financial Crimes Prosecutions (OSFFCP) and the Violence Suppression and Organized Crime Bureau within the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ), officials say.
Authorities say Bussanich Sr., Bussanich Jr., another family member, Melanie Whitney, and others were previously charged on February 5, 2021, in a state criminal complaint on related charges.
Whitney, the daughter of Bussanich Sr. and sister of Bussanich Jr., pleaded guilty on March 7, 2023, to theft by deception and is awaiting sentencing, officials said.
As part of the scam, officials stated, Whitney misled two investors into partnering with her to invest in residential properties that could be purchased, renovated, and sold for a profit.
The mortgage lenders provided additional financing to purchase and renovate the homes based on the increase in property value anticipated from the renovation work, according to officials.
Meanwhile, officials said the victims were unaware of Bussanich Sr.'s and Bussanich Jr.'s true roles and involvement in the alleged scam.
Officials stated the indictment alleges that Bussanich Sr. and Bussanich Jr. largely diverted the victims' money for personal use through entities they controlled.
Both of those defendants also allegedly laundered the stolen funds through bank accounts and corporate entities they controlled to promote the scam, conceal their involvement, and disguise the nature of the stolen money, officials say.
In addition, Bussanich Jr. is accused of submitting false loan applications to a lender to obtain financing for the real estate investment scam.
"These defendants allegedly defrauded investors and mortgage lenders for personal gain," said Attorney General Platkin.
"We will remain steadfast in holding them accountable to deter these defendants and others from engaging in investment scams in New Jersey."
"These defendants cannot be allowed to prey on victims without fear of consequences," said OSFFCP Legal Chief Pablo Quiñones.
"Bussanich Sr. and Bussanich Jr. allegedly deceived investors and mortgage lenders as part of a 'fix-and-flip' property investment scam and brazenly laundered the theft proceeds to enrich themselves. Our Office will continue to stand vigilant against financial fraud and do our part to ensure these offenders are brought to justice."
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Assignment Judge Robert T. Lougy in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Bergen County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment, officials say.
According to officials, the indictment charges Bussanich Sr. and Bussanich Jr. with conspiracy, two counts of theft by deception, three counts of money laundering, and one count of credit card fraud.
Authorities say Bussanich Jr. was also charged with falsifying records.