Dormont man gets extended jail time in fraud case
A federal prosecutor cautioned a judge Friday about freeing a Dormont businessman accused of masterminding two schemes totaling nearly $8 million.
"He will defraud widows if he's let out again," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Stallings.
Later in the day, U.S. Magistrate Judge Amy Reynolds Hay ordered Christopher Fekos to spend another weekend at Allegheny County Jail, but she also gave him a glimmer of hope.
Fekos, 48, will be granted home detention with electronic monitoring if he can post $250,000 bond, but that would not take effect until prosecutors have an opportunity to appeal Hay's decision.
"Should you come back again ... circumstances will certainly be different, I can tell you that," Hay told Fekos yesterday. "This is a second chance, Mr. Fekos. So I encourage you to take it and not to abuse it."
Fekos was arrested March 7 and charged with his second federal crime in less than a year.
This time, prosecutors claim, Fekos bilked a widow and her son out of about $500,000 in a scheme to acquire a South Side tavern. He is charged with bank, mail and wire fraud and with bribing a bank employee.
Fekos previously was charged with 13 counts of fraud, bribery and money laundering as the alleged kingpin of a scam that defrauded lending agencies and banks out of some $7 million -- including $1.8 million siphoned from the accounts of elderly Citizens Bank customers.
Debra Rose, of Loretto, Cambria County, testified yesterday that Fekos approached her about helping him acquire Margaritaville, a Carson Street bar and restaurant. Rose and Fekos met the day that her husband died and developed a friendship.
"Mr. Fekos led me to believe if I arranged for financial backing -- as he called it, a silent partner -- he'd pay all the bills," Rose said.
No bills have been paid since January, she said.
Rose also testified that Fekos told her the price of the restaurant was $500,000. The contract, presented in court, showed the cost was $240,000 and was being paid in monthly installments.
The government also argued that Fekos might try to flee to Chios, Greece -- the home island of his late parents where he has land, bank accounts and family.
Defense attorney Stanton Levenson said his client had plenty of time to flee before the first charges -- which Fekos knew were coming -- and didn't. With the latest charges, Levenson said he doubts the government can prove its case.
"What we have here is a business arrangement that hasn't even gone bad yet," said Levenson. "There is no reason to believe this will not be a successful business. For whatever reason, business has been slow to this point."