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Va. banker gets 30 months for fraud

A bank official who helped Loudoun County restaurateur Osama El-Atari defraud banks out of more than $71 million was sentenced Friday to 30 months in prison by a federal judge in Alexandria.

Sissaye Gezachew, 32, of Springfield, was an assistant vice president and senior credit analyst for United Bank in 2007 and 2008, when he began working with El-Atari, then the owner of a string of restaurants.

According to documents in El-Atari's case, Gezachew showed El-Atari how to create and use phony insurance policies, showing huge cash values, to obtain multimillion-dollar loans from banks.

The first loan to El-Atari came from Gezachew's bank, for $5 million, and United later loaned El-Atari another $12.2 million, court records show. Using fraudulent insurance policies, El-Atari obtained loans totaling more than $71 million from eight different banks, sometimes using one loan to repay another. The total loss to the banks was $53 million, federal prosecutors said.

El-Atari was sentenced last Friday to 12 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Gezachew helped El-Atari by supplying him with fraudulent documents, including a phony tax return and a balance sheet from a nonexistent accountant, and by setting up fake domain names and e-mail accounts for El-Atari to submit to the bank in support of the fraudulent loan applications. El-Atari paid Gezachew for his help, Gezachew admitted in court papers.

Gezachew pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. As part of his sentence by U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, Gezachew was also ordered to pay $18 million in restitution to United Bank.

-- Tom Jackman

By Tom Jackman  |  September 3, 2010; 3:45 PM ET
Categories:  Financial Crimes , From the Courthouse , Loudoun , Tom Jackman , Updates  
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30 months is ridiculous. He should get a year for each amount of the median U.S. salary that he's stolen and can't pay back. Handing out sentences like these is a joke and just encourages the thieves to take these kind of risks.

Posted by: Calabrese99 | September 4, 2010 4:08 AM | Report abuse

30 months????? That's it???

Wow...I'm stunned. This guy defrauded such a massive amount and he's only getting 30 months.

Well, who knows...maybe he provided some valuable intel to bring down some other crooked people. At least we can hope.

Posted by: stinkyliberals | September 4, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

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