The New York Law Journal by Mark Fass - February 23, 2010
In July 2008, Brooklyn attorney Mark Schwartz and his wife Christina Petrowski-Schwartz, a divorce mediator, were found shot dead—"execution-style," according to the tabloids—in their bed in their Marine Park home. Yesterday, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office announced the indictment and arrests of four defendants who, along with the couple themselves, allegedly operated a million-dollar criminal conspiracy involving money laundering, identity theft, mortgage fraud and larceny. Read the indictment. The investigation into the murders remains ongoing, and the prosecution has not alleged a direct link between the conspiracy and the deaths. Rather, the district attorney's office said the murder probe led to the discovery of the crime ring. According to the indictment filed yesterday, four individual defendants — Robert Delvicario, Lennox Johnson, Shanda Bruce and Thermine Remy — joined the couple in a series of scams in order to steal and launder money from, among others, the couple's clients. The defendants allegedly recruited straw buyers to participate in fraudulent real estate transactions, then laundered the proceeds through forged documents and stolen identities. Prosecutors said that their crimes stretched from Brooklyn to Queens, Long Island, Westchester County, Connecticut and New Jersey.
One of the main victims of the alleged conspiracy was Tiffany Partners, the principal developer of a Carroll Gardens condominium and a client of Mr. Schwartz. According to the indictment, the defendants drained some $270,000 deposited by the corporation into an escrow account to bond mechanics liens filed by contractors against the property. The defendants—which also include three corporations, Adonis Abstract (which was owned by the Schwartzes), LBW Corp. and Robo Capital Securities—are charged with a wide range of crimes, including enterprise corruption, grand larceny and money laundering. "These defendants thought they could bankroll their extravagant lifestyles by stealing from clients who trusted them, but as is often the case, they eventually turned on each other, robbing their own partners in crime, as well," District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said yesterday at a news conference. "My office will continue to work with the NYPD to determine who killed Mark Schwartz and Christina Petrowski." According to the indictment, three of the defendants—Mr. Delvicario, Mr. Johnson and Ms. Bruce—ultimately "turned" on the Schwartzes and began stealing from Mr. Schwartz's firm. Mr. Delvicario, a former business partner of Mr. Schwartz, has long been considered a suspect in the murders of Mr. Schwartz, 60, and Ms. Petrowski-Schwartz, 48. Reached for comment yesterday, Mr. Delvicario's attorney, solo practioner Joseph Mure, said, "We'd love to see the discovery on how they connect [Mr. Delvicario] to all this." Mr. Mure added that his client "obviously denied and continues to deny" any responsibility for the murders. The individual defendants were arrested early yesterday morning and face prison sentences of up to 25 years. Assistant District Attorneys Laura Neubauer and Wojciech Jackowski of the Rackets Division are prosecuting the case, which investigators dubbed "Operation Bankroll."