April 14, 2021
A New Jersey man with links to the Philadelphia mob will spend four years in prison for his role in a predatory scheme that involved stealing down payments for properties he falsely claimed he would finance, federal prosecutors announced.
Stephen Sharkey, 51, of Swedesboro, pleaded guilty last September to engaging in two fraudulent mortgage-closing schemes and one ruse on behalf of a home seller, netting him more than $385,000 from his innocent victims. Sharkey would use aliases to disguise his identity when swindling his victims.
According to prosecutors, Sharkey worked with an associate, Anthony Ambrosio, to coax victims into providing down payments for homes in advance of real estate closings. The two men would tell their victims that they were going to fully finance the purchases, but would instead steal the money and make excuses for the deals falling apart.
In the third scheme, while dealing with a home seller, Sharkey stole all of the proceeds of a sale of a house by secretly going to closing without informing the seller. The home belonged to the estate of the victim's deceased parents. Sharkey deposited all of the proceeds into his own bank account, prosecutors said.
One of the mortgage-closing schemes in 2019 targeted Ambrosio's own brother-in-law, who was defrauded of $208,000.
Immediately after obtaining the funds from that victim, Sharkey cut checks to ARMM Investments, LLC, a company owned by George Borgesi, a longtime associate of reputed Philly mob boss Joey Merlino.
Both Sharkey and Borgesi previously were convicted in the early 2000s federal racketeering case against Merlino and several of his associates in Philadelphia's La Cosa Nostra. Borgesi was named as a capo in that indictment and Sharkey was a bookmaker.
When the 2019 deal with Ambrosio's brother-in-law broke down, Sharkey and Ambrosio lured a second victim into financing the mortgage. That victim wired Sharkey $100,000, but the deal again fell apart after Sharkey converted the funds for his own use. The victim was convinced by Ambrosio to send the seller another $25,000 to hold the deal open, yet the deal never materialized.
"Real estate fraud was just the latest racket for Stephen Sharkey," said Michael J. Driscoll, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. "He blatantly preyed on innocent victims here, destroying two families’ plans of buying homes and stealing a third person’s inherited property. A chunk of these fraudulent proceeds was diverted to a longtime Philadelphia mob figure, underscoring Sharkey’s continued association with organized crime. The FBI and our partners are going to keep investigating and locking up those committed to making money through illicit means."
Sharkey pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering. He was sentenced to four years and one month in prison, three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $296,000 restitution. He will also have to forfeit the same amount of money as part of the plea.
Ambrosio, who previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy charges, was sentenced last November to a 17-month prison term.