Feds charge owner of home where Bridgeport bank president died as massive fraud case expandsTim Novakon February 26, 2021 at 1:06 am

John F. Gembara gave four customers of his fraud-ridden Washington Federal Bank for Savings unsecured “loan advances” totaling $14.5 million. The Sun-Times has identified the customers.

The indictment is the latest development in a case that traces its way back to Dec. 3, 2017, when John F. Gembara was found dead in Marek Matczuk’s home, according to police reports.

The man who owns the million-dollar Park Ridge home where a Bridgeport bank president’s dead body was discovered three years ago now faces criminal charges as the investigation into massive alleged fraud at Washington Federal Bank for Savings continues to expand.

Marek Matczuk is among four new defendants accused in a 67-page indictment filed Thursday that also names James R. Crotty, a former vice president at the bank, as a defendant. The indictment alleges that $1.8 million had been embezzled for the benefit of the late bank president, CEO and chairman of the board of directors, John F. Gembara.

It was used in part for the purchase of a Sea Ray 420 Sundancer boat named “Expelliarmus.”

Also charged are real estate developers Boguslaw Kasprowicz and Miroslaw Krejza.

The indictment is the latest development in the case that dates to Dec. 3, 2017, when Gembara’s dead body was found in Matczuk’s home, according to police reports. Gembara was found in a seated position, fully clothed, with his glasses on and a green rope wrapped around his neck and tied to the bannister of a spiral staircase, according to the reports.

Kevin Tanaka / Sun-Times
The Park Ridge home of a Washington Federal Bank for Savings customer Marek Matczuk.

The death was ruled to be a suicide. Federal regulators abruptly shut the bank down days later.

Records have previously shown that Matczuk got more than $2.8 million in unsecured loan advances between January 2013 and Nov. 1, 2017, one month before Gembara was found dead in Matczuk’s home. Matczuk had five mortgages from Washington Federal totaling nearly $2 million at the time of Gembara’s death, covering his home and three other residential properties.

Crotty, who lives in Tinley Park, was fired from the bank in May 2017 shortly before regulators discovered the fraudulent scheme.

Kasprowicz also got 93 loan advances totaling $9.3 million between January 2013 and Nov. 13, 2017, according to a claim by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Washington Federal also issued six mortgages totaling $2.4 million to Kasprowicz, including one for $750,000 on his home in the 1800 block of North Honore.

Kasprowicz got his first loan from Gembara’s late father Emil, according to a 66-page history of the bank published in 2013 to mark the institution’s 100th anniversary.

“He was a hard working man who was always there for me,” Kasprowicz said. “From morning to night he worked and always took time to see me. I never needed an appointment. Then his son John took over the business. He takes time to listen to me and has helped me with my construction projects. I respect the family.”

The new indictment comes roughly two years after the first criminal charges related to the bank fraud were filed by prosecutors against sibling attorneys Robert and Jan Kowalski. Prosecutors accused them early in 2019 of concealing assets in Robert Kowalski’s bankruptcy case. Then, in 2020, the feds expanded the case with an indictment alleging that four employees of Gembara’s bank helped Robert Kowalski and others embezzle at least $29 million.

Provided Photo
Robert M. Kowalski

That indictment last August added two of the bank’s former top executives — Rosallie Corvite, of Chicago, and Jane Iriondo, of Boise, Idaho — to the list of defendants, along with Alicia Mandujano and Cathy Torres, both of Chicago.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall ordered Robert Kowalski behind bars in October because he allegedly reached out to Gembara’s widow over a lawsuit he filed — seeking to have the bank president’s body exhumed. Robert Kowalski has since been released but has again been threatened with jail for not following the rules.

Kowalski, an attorney and small residential developer, has told the Sun-Times that Matczuk did roofing jobs for his company.

Investigators have said they believe more than $80 million was siphoned from Washington Federal, with years of phony paperwork obscuring the missing cash from regulators. Prosecutors have said they expected “many” people would be charged.

Authorities have said Gembara used the bank’s money to pay property taxes for Robert Kowalski and that the dead bank president was part of an embezzlement scheme. They’ve said Gembara and an unnamed person transferred money from the bank to Robert Kowalski without any paperwork, then created phony documents to conceal it from federal regulators and that the bank gave loans to Robert Kowalski and others that weren’t expected to be repaid.

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) got an $80,000 loan from Washington Federal in October 2017 as regulators were uncovering financial irregularities at the bank. The loan was for repairs to the 11th Ward Regular Democratic Organization’s office at 3659 S. Halsted St. It wasn’t secured by collateral and was deposited in the ward’s campaign fund.

The Chicago Sun-Times also recently reported that Thompson bought a $340,000 summer home in Michigan with a secret loan from the bank. Thompson has not been charged with any crime.

Colin Boyle / Sun-Times file
Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson

Six months before federal auditors uncovered fraud at Washington Federal, the bank got a clean bill of health from internal auditors Bansley & Kiener, a firm that also does work for Daley-controlled political campaigns. Bansley & Kiener agreed to pay a $2.5 million settlement last year to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the government agency that took over the bank after regulators closed it on Dec. 15, 2017.

Washington Federal was founded in 1913 by Polish immigrants in Bridgeport. Gembara’s grandfather was among the earlier investors. Its main office was in Bridgeport at 2869 S. Archer Ave., with a branch at 1410 W. Taylor St. in Little Italy.

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