Pittsburgh attorney pleads guilty to bank fraud

By Jim Boyle | Feb 10, 2015

PITTSBURGH - An attorney accused of embezzling funds from the law firm that employed him pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to a charge of bank fraud.

Erik Sobkiewicz, 51, of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge David Cercone. According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, Sobkiewicz was an attorney involved in a number of interrelated schemes.

The first scheme involved Sobkiewicz using the resources of his employer to advance businesses that he, unbeknownst to the law firm, controlled. He had the firm invoice those businesses, knowing that the businesses would not pay the bills.

The billings convinced the law firm into believing that what Sobkiewicz was engaged with a legitimate client. In addition, he diverted money from a real estate closing owed to the law firm to a personal account, and he diverted client funds held in the law firm’s escrow account to his personal account.

Sobkiewicz was also involved in several loan fraud schemes, according to authorities. He applied for a series of loans from Indiana First Savings Bank. For the last of the loans, which was for $350,000, Sobkiewicz used the securities account of a third party as collateral for the loan without permission.

He also falsely represented that Indiana First Savings Bank would be in first lien position with regard to the collateral property when, in fact, it was not going in such a position position because of a previous loan Sobkiewicz obtained by using the same property as collateral.

Another loan fraud scheme involved Milestone Bank and a property in Philadelphia that Sobkiewicz claimed he was developing. As with Indiana First Savings Bank, Sobkiewicz falsely represented to Milestone Bank, the lender in the Philadelphia transaction, that it would sit in first lien position when, in fact, Milestone Bank was going to be in second lien position because of a previous loan obtained by Sobkiewicz.

The defendant forged a mortgage satisfaction of the lender in first lien position to make it appear as though Milestone Bank would be in first lien position.

In addition, Milestone Bank wanted to see that Sobkiewicz had invested his own money into the Philadelphia property and that he had equity in the property. He was able to show them a $600,000 investment of purportedly his own money. In reality, however, the $600,000 was not Sobkiewicz’s money.

He obtained that money by soliciting the investment of another individual using a series of misrepresentations, including that the investor would be in second lien position behind only Milestone Bank with regard to the Philadelphia property and in first lien position with regard to other properties owned by Sobkiewicz. In reality, the investor is in third lien position with regard to the Philadelphia property and in the second lien position with regard to the other properties.

Sentencing has been scheduled for May 21 at 10 a.m.. Guidelines suggest a total sentence of 50 years in prison, a fine of $1,250,000, or both. However, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

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