Bank fraudster sentenced

Published 9:14 pm Monday, October 15, 2012

A Chesapeake man will spend 14 years in prison for his part in an elaborate scheme that contributed to the failure of the Bank of the Commonwealth.

George P. Hranowskyj, 47, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson.

Prosecutors called it a fitting sentence for a man who, with his business partner Eric Menden, leveraged such control over the institution that bank employees called it the “Bank of Eric and George.”

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“Mr. Hranowskyj’s agreement to perform personal and professional favors for Bank insiders in exchange for unfettered access to millions of dollars in credit exposes the ugly underbelly of how certain insiders treated the Bank of the Commonwealth as their personal piggy bank,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride.

“His sentence of 14 years in prison sends a strong and unequivocal message that white-collar criminals will be held accountable for the often devastating impact of their crimes on our communities.”

Hranowskyj and Menden own 75 commercial and residential properties in and around downtown Suffolk. The city intervened in two adjacent properties on West Washington Street to stabilize the buildings, because they were damaged and deteriorated, according to a city press release. The two owe the city about $300,000 in fines, clean-up and demolition expenses and court costs for building code violations.

Hranowskyj, according to a court press release, called himself “Big Daddy” to bank employees. He overdrew his accounts by $600,000, demanded the bank lower his rates and cash his employees’ paychecks even though his account was in the red, did favors for bank insiders in exchange for preferential lending treatment, and assisted insiders in concealing the extent of the bank’s non-performing assets by purchasing bank-owned property, according to the release.

At the time the bank failed on Sept. 23, 2011, Hranowskyj and Menden were the bank’s largest lending relationship. Together, they guaranteed about $41 million in loans, almost all of which was on an interest-only basis.

Both men were regularly permitted to overdraw their accounts, according to the release. According to the press release, Hranowskyj obtained loans for luxury vehicles and beachfront properties simply by sending an email to a bank insider asking for the money.

The schemes so deteriorated the health of the bank that it was asked to withdraw its application for $28 million from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. In July 2010, the Federal Reserve and other regulators prohibited the bank from extending, renewing or restructuring loans to specific troubled borrowers, including Hranowskyj and Menden.

In addition to the fraud involving the bank, Hranowskyj was sentenced for a separate scheme in which he falsified applications for federal and state historic tax credits. The business partners then sold the tax credits to investors, raking in about $8.7 million.

Menden pleaded guilty to his role in the schemes last month and was sentenced to 11.5 years in prison.

The Bank of the Commonwealth had a location in Suffolk on West Constance Road.