Closing company owner sentenced to 6 years in scam
By Brian Bowling
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:34 p.m.
A Butler County businessman who stole millions from his clients will spend six years and six months in prison despite his claim that he took the money to keep more than 200 people employed at his seven businesses, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
“Our economic times do not provide an excuse to make times harder for other people,” said U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon.
Jeffrey Garbinski, 45, of Franklin pleaded guilty in April to money laundering and to conspiring to commit wire, bank and mail fraud. Bissoon also sentenced him to five years of probation and ordered him to pay more than $2 million in restitution.
In a Ponzi-like mortgage fraud scheme, Garbinski stole money entrusted to him during mortgage closings and covered earlier thefts by making payments to lenders and sellers using money stolen from more recent mortgage deals, prosecutors say.
Garbinski apologized to his family and his former clients, but he also tried to shift blame to Sabrina Spetz, 36, of Wilkinsburg, the attorney who worked for his company, Closing Company of Pennsylvania.
Spetz pleaded guilty in March 2012 to the conspiracy. Bissoon sentenced her on Aug. 13 to one year of probation including six months of home confinement.
Martin Dietz, Garbinski's lawyer, argued that his client should receive a sentence comparable to Spetz's sentence because, as a lawyer, she should have been held to a higher standard in helping perpetrate the fraud.
“They did this together,” he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway said a key difference is that Spetz admitted her guilt early and has shown true remorse for the damage she inflicted on the victims. Garbinski has shown no remorse for his crimes — not even for persuading his parents to loan him money so he could cover his tracks, he said.
“In order to pay off his liability, he scammed his parents out of what is now $350,000,” Conway said.
Garbinski insisted that he didn't pocket any of the money and that he's lived his life trying to help people in his businesses and through volunteer work.
“Why I did this was not based on greed,” he said.
Donna McMahon of Marianna said she's spent nearly $46,000 in legal fees to keep her Washington County farm after paying Garbinski $375,000 in cash for the property. Instead of forwarding the money to the seller, he pocketed most of it, she testified.
She still lives with the possibility of the seller reversing the deed, and she had to borrow $40,000 from her sister to make improvements because no bank will lend money on the property because of its clouded title, McMahon said.
“I just feel that I have lived a nightmare for three years and three months,” she said.
In a separate case, Garbinski was sentenced in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court to 18 months of house arrest and two years of probation for stealing money from Highland Country Club in Ross when he was one of its owners.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Peduto takes down Pittsburgh’s Redd Up crew
- At next turn, pothole repair
- Washington County judge: Evidence against him illegally obtained
- Upper St. Clair woman’s death at Drexel probed as possible meningitis
- Newsmaker: Christine Jordanoff
- Redistricting spurs faceoff for Democratic state Reps. Molchany, Readshaw
- Job cuts at AGH part of ‘strategic’ process
- Casey says C-130s to remain into ’15 at Moon base, but squadron will lose jobs
- FBI data dragnet intercepting cellphone, computer info