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U.S. v. PALAEZ

April 30, 2003

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AGAINST VICTOR PALAEZ, DEFENDANT


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert W. Sweet, United States District Judge

SENTENCING OPINION

On February 5, 2003, Victor Palaez ("Palaez") pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and one count of bank fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344.

The Offense Conduct

The following information was derived from the information within the charging instrument as well as that contained in an investigative report of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In Bronx County, New York in October 1999, Palaez received a stolen check from a co-conspirator in the sum of $125,226. He transferred the stolen check to another co-conspirator who negotiated the check without the authorization of the payee. Subsequently that person provided Palaez with a portion of the proceeds from that check.

In conjunction with this transaction, Palaez was interviewed by law enforcement officials on August 23, 2002, at which time he noted that John Serendensky ("Serendensky") had given him four checks, which totalled $107,800, to negotiate through his account at the Bank of New York, as well as that of his girlfriend, Natahlia Burgos ("Burgos"). Palaez received a fifth check in the sum of $12,500 from Serendensky. That in fact represented his share from the stolen $125,226.50 check that he had provided to Serendensky, which was dated October 4, 1999, and made payable to THEA COM.

According to Palaez, Serendensky, at such time that he initially approached him with regard to the negotiation of the official bank checks, assured Palaez that they were neither stolen nor fraudulent. Though Serendensky never advised him of the origin of the checks, he did say that he was willing to pay Palaez $1,000 for each one that he successfully negotiated. At Serendensky's directive, the checks were deposited into Palaez's account. Once the checks cleared, Palaez was to withdraw the cash proceeds in amounts of less than $10,000 as Serendensky wanted Palaez to avoid having to file a currency transaction report. After Palaez agreed to assist Serendensky in this endeavor, he was then asked if Palaez had access to any other accounts. Palaez offered the use of the account of Burgos.

Palaez was then shown photocopies of five official Bank of New York checks which referenced the following:

Check No. Date Payee Amount

143233727 09/27/99 Victor Palaez $36,300

143233728 09/27/99 Natallia Burgos $36,300

331145163 09/29/99 Victor Palaez $17,600

331145164 09/29/99 Natallia Burgos $17,600

331150122 10/21/99 Victor Perez $12,500

Total: $120,300

Palaez noted that he had received each of the aforementioned checks from Serendensky, the first two of which were received at the same time. The $36,300 check that was payable to himself was deposited into his account, while the second was deposited into Burgos's account. The proceeds were drawn from both accounts in sums less than $10,000. Palaez gave the money to Serendensky who in turn advised the defendant that he would pay him 10% of the face value for any checks that he could negotiate.

Serendensky gave Palaez the two checks for $17,600 at the same time, and the defendant followed the identical procedure as he did with the others. Palaez kept $4,000 from the first four ...


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