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Friday, August 26, 2016

Feds: Employee Stole $700K from Playhouse Square Owner

A former assistant to the chairman of the real estate company that owns Westport’s Playhouse Square pleaded guilty today to a charge related to stealing more than $700,000 from the company, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office said.

Debra Biagi, 50, of Fogelsville, Pa., formerly of Greenwich, waived her right to indictment and pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Alker Meyer in New Haven to one count of wire fraud, prosecutors said.

The plea stemmed from her theft from her employer, HB Niktin Group of Greenwich, and related companies and individuals, they said.

Privately owned HB Nitkin Group owns Westport’s Playhouse Square on Post Road East as well as a portfolio of properties that includes the former home of Southport Brewing Company, and retail space in Greenwich, Hartford, Glastonbury, Branford, Cromwell, Orange, Danbury, and White Plains, N.Y.

According to prosecutors, Biagi served as an assistant to the chairman of the company with responsibilities that included managing the accounts payable for the company.

From approximately February 2014 to December 2015, she defrauded the company, as well as key company individuals and members of their families who retained financial and banking information at the company, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

As part of the scheme, she created fraudulent invoices made out to fictitious companies detailing charges for items such as masonry, carpentry, electrical and plumbing work. 

She then used victims’ checkbooks to make checks out to the fictitious companies, purportedly to pay the fraudulent invoices, according to prosecutors.

Biagi then deposited the checks into her personal bank account, at times endorsing the check with an illegible signature to hide her misconduct, and subsequently withdrew the monies for her personal use, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Biagi also, as needed, misappropriated the signature stamp of the company’s chairman and used it to “sign” misappropriated checks and to falsely suggest that the paid expenditure was both legitimate and authorized.

In total, she stole $711,074.39 during the course of this scheme, a news release said.

Sentencing was set for Nov. 21, at which time Biagi faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, according to prosecutors.

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Posted 08/26/16 at 04:11 PM  Permalink



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