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Vestavia Hills father, son prosecuted for bank fraud scheme

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Published: May. 26, 2022 at 2:30 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A father and son from Vestavia Hills appeared in court Tuesday on charges stemming from a bank fraud scheme, according to U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona and FBI Special Agent Johnnie Sharp, Jr.

39-year-old Christopher A. Montalbano was sentenced to 180 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $11,924,471.

Montalbano pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering back in November 2021.

For more details on the case, you can read the full press release from the United States Department of Justice below:

On Tuesday, a father and son appeared in court on charges stemming from a  bank fraud scheme in which they provided fraudulent information to financial institutions for the purpose of obtaining loans, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr.

U.S. District Judge Annemarie C. Axon sentenced Christopher A. Montalbano, 39, of Vestavia, to 180 months in prison and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $11,924,471.00.  Montalbano pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering in November 2021.

“Today’s sentence demonstrates that schemes to defraud federally-insured financial institutions are serious crimes that carry significant penalties,” U.S. Attorney Escalona said. “This defendant caused a multi-million-dollar loss to the victims. We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to hold perpetrators of these fraud schemes accountable and use all tools at our disposal to recover their ill-gotten gains.”

“Montalbano deserves every day of this sentence, as he went to great lengths to cover up his massive fraud scheme,” SAC Sharp said.   “Hopefully, Montalbano enjoyed the short time he had with the luxury items he purchased with money he swindled from  federally insured banks, as he will now pay for his crimes with years behind bars. American citizens can be assured that the FBI will continue to pursue predators who drag down our economy by deception for their own personal gain.”

According to the sentencing memo, between 2016 and 2020, Montalbano engaged in a bank fraud scheme targeting financial institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC) and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) in multiple states including Alabama.  Montalbano, through his shell companies, and/or known associates, fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in loans from at least twenty different financial institutions by submitting fraudulent information and supporting documentation on more than 140 loans. Montalbano obtained these loan proceeds in his personal name, through a shell company, or in the name of a co-conspirator. Montalbano specifically used the loan proceeds to pay for an extravagant lifestyle which included traveling on a private jet aircraft, employing private pilots, employing a personal assistant, purchasing multiple high-end vehicles including Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and purchasing multiple real properties, including a residential home in a gated community, a lake house, and farmland.

To further facilitate the bank fraud scheme, Montalbano created internet websites for some of his shell companies including Land Work Tractor & Equipment (LWT&E), previously located in Florida and then Vincent, Alabama. On the LWT&E website, Christopher Montalbano posted photographs of agricultural and construction equipment, UTVs and boats which were purportedly in LWT&E’s possession and for sale. However, the majority of these photographs were copied and taken from the internet websites of legitimate equipment dealers. As a further part of the scheme, Christopher Montalbano purchased adjoining properties totaling approximately 150 acres in Vincent, Alabama, where LWT&E was purportedly located. Christopher Montalbano then gated the private access road(s) which both prevented unscheduled access, and severely limited the lenders’ ability to verify LWT&E’s possession of the equipment being sold and/or the validity of the equipment pictures on LWT&E’s internet website.

Gus Montalbano, 77, of Vestavia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Annemarie C. Axon to conspiring with Chris Montalbano to commit bank fraud.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robin B. Mark and Kristen Osborne are prosecuting the cases.

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