LaSaracina sentencing remains on hold; those wronged by accused ex-accountant speak about personal losses (CT)

Norwich, Conn. —Victims of former Norwich accountant F. Robert LaSaracina on Thursday spoke about their personal losses while prosecutors and defense lawyers continue to haggle over just how much LaSaracina stole.

LaSaracina pleaded guilty in July to charges of federal wire fraud and failure to pay employment taxes. He awaits sentencing while U.S. District Judge Christopher Droney attempts to determine how much restitution to order.

With exact numbers still unclear, Droney continued the hearing to next week. Sentencing will come at a later date.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael McGarry said victims’ losses could be as high as $7 million, but current estimates put the number in the area of $4.7 million. He has recommended a sentence of between 63 to 78 months in prison.

LaSaracina’s attorneys, Hubert Santos and Jessica Santos — who attribute much of LaSaracina’s problems to a gambling addiction — say the number is closer to $2.5 million.

While attorneys for both sides met for four hours Wednesday to reconcile differences, Jessica Santos said Thursday that many of the alleged victims actually provided personal loans to LaSaracina. Other victims have not spoken to investigators.

McGarry said they may have been loans, but “what he didn’t tell everybody is ‘I’m running a Ponzi scheme. I’m going gambling.’ ”

LaSaracina pleaded guilty to defrauding investors — many of whom were friends — by taking investment money for his personal use or to pay off other investors. Topping the victim list is the Kauppinen family, who lost millions while LaSaracina was their trustee.

LaSaracina’s mishandling of the account was uncovered by Waterford attorney Linda Kidder, who started asking questions when she took over an account for Ilona Kauppinen.

Kidder outlined some of LaSaracina’s fraudulent activities, including the mortgaging of multiple trust properties, lying to the probate court and cashing nearly $170,000 in checks from the trust account.

As part of his plea agreement, LaSaracina admitted to defrauding the trust of $1.2 million. Kidder noted the Norwich Probate Court ordered LaSaracina to pay $4.2 million.

Kidder said LaSaracina used his position of trust, coupled with his charisma and connection in the community, to bilk his clients.

Ilona’s former husband, Kenneth Korsu, told Droney on Thursday that LaSaracina betrayed the trust of the family, who is now suffering from the losses.

“He’s worse than Bernie Madoff,” Korsu said. “He stole from his friends.”


LaSaracina sentencing remains on hold
Those wronged by accused ex-accountant speak about personal losses
Greg Smith
November 4, 2011
The Bulletin/