Friday, May 12, 2006

Rabbi's son charged in $50 million bank scam

A millionaire real estate developer and son of a prominent Monmouth County rabbi was charged yesterday with trying to defraud a bank of more than $50 million.

Solomon Dwek, 33, of Ocean Township, was accused of depositing a bogus $25million check at the PNC Bank in Eatontown last month and spending $22 million of it before he was caught. He then tried to deposit a second bogus $25 million check at a different PNC branch, but employees stopped him, federal authorities said.

When PNC officials confronted him, he promised to return the money he had spent but never did, according to an FBI complaint filed in federal court in Newark. Bank officials filed a civil complaint against him and contacted federal law enforcement authorities.

Dwek was arrested at his home early yesterday by FBI agents and officers from the county prosecutor's office. He was charged with bank fraud, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Howe said during a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk in Newark.

"The government has made some allegations involving criminal behavior. We view this as a civil dispute," Dwek's attorney, Michael Himmel, said after the hearing. "I'm disappointed that it got this far."

Dwek appeared in court with his feet shackled and his hands cuffed behind his back. Federal marshals made him remove his belt after his arrest. As he stood before Falk, he tugged clumsily at his pants to keep them from falling down.

Dwek's father is Rabbi Isaac Dwek, a leader in the Sephardic Jewish community and the head of the Synagogue of Deal. His father and other family members were in court with him.


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