Bay Ridge businessman pleads guilty to grand larceny as a hate crime

January 20, 2016 Meaghan McGoldrick
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A Bay Ridge businessman has pleaded guilty to grand larceny as a hate crime, and other counts, after scamming senior citizens out of more than $4.5 million in hard-earned savings.

The defendant – 70-year-old Staten Island resident Paul Simoneschi – owned and operated Simmons Planning Group & Agency Inc., located at 8403 Seventh Avenue, from 2009 to 2014, where he sold insurance policies and annuities to his clients, according to Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who announced the plea on Thursday, January 19.

According to his indictment, Simoneschi is said to have developed long-term relationships with some of his clients – many of them senior citizens, as well as Italian immigrants whom he spoke to in Italian – and then stole from them by either recommending that they surrender their insurance policies and invest the money with him, or simply surrendering their insurance policies without their permission or knowledge, forging names and subsequently depositing the checks into accounts that he controlled.

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“Shamefully, this defendant destroyed the retirements of elderly people who trusted him with their life savings,” said Thompson. “Some of them considered him a friend, but that did not stop him from taking advantage of their age and lack of financial knowledge to steal their money.”

According to the D.A., Simoneschi tried to cover up his tracks by providing false documents to a number of his victims, including copies of “new” policies opened on their behalf. Victims allege that, at times, the Bay Ridge businessman gave them checks purported to be distributions from their policies or accounts, when really the paperwork was from accounts that he controlled.

Simoneschi was arraigned on a 63-count indictment containing charges of first-degree scheme to defraud, one count of first-degree money laundering, and 13 counts of second-degree grand larceny as a hate crime, among others.

He  pleaded guilty to grand larceny as a hate crime, scheme to defraud and money laundering.

Additionally, Simoneschi’s corporation, Simmons Planning Group & Agency, Inc., pleaded guilty to first-degree scheme to defraud, first-degree money laundering and second-degree grand larceny.

Simoneschi will be sentenced on March 21 at which time he faces four to 12 years in prison and restitution totaling $4,477,562.

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