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Fekos sentenced to 200 months in prison

Jason Cato
| Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007

JOHNSTOWN -- A Dormont businessman who masterminded a $7 million fraud scheme to open restaurants in Florida and the South Side, as well as bankroll his luxurious lifestyle, was sentenced today to nearly 17 years in federal prison.

Christopher Fekos, 48, also was ordered to pay $7.55 million in restitution to numerous lenders and individuals that he ripped off during a seven year scheme. He will served five years on supervised release after serving 200 months in prison, U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson ordered today. Fekos could have received up to 60 years in prison, had he been found guilty at trial. In May, he pleaded guilty to bank fraud, money laundering and mail fraud.

"For the majority of my life, I did a lot of good," Fekos told the judge. "I'd like you to take that into consideration with the bad."

Fekos swindled Debra Rose, a Cambria County widow, and her son, Christopher, out of more than $500,000 in a business partnership to buy Margaritaville, a bar and restaurant on East Carson Street, in the South Side.

"Mr. Fekos is an evil individual without a conscience. He is a disease that has been inflicted on society," Rose, of Loretto, said today.

Prosecutors also said Fekos ran a separate scheme that defrauded numerous banks and lending institutions out of about $7 million dollars, including $1.8 million taken from the accounts of elderly Citizens Bank customers, in order to buy a Florida restaurant.

Fekos, the only child of Greek immigrants, ran several businesses: Americana Painting; four restaurants and a coffee shop at Pittsburgh International Airport; and Arby's restaurants in the Westmoreland and South Hills Village malls.

He is the adoptive father of three Guatemalan children and has enjoyed an active role in the Greek Orthodox Church. In 2001, the church installed Fekos as an archon -- the highest honor bestowed on laypeople.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway said Fekos used his religion as part of his fraud, endearing people to him by telling them that he was a devout Christian.

"He used that as a tool, a crowbar to get into people's wallets," Conway said.

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