PITTSBURGH — The former president of an Ohio health care management company waived indictment and pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding S&T Bank of almost $60 million, federal court officials said.
Harold Sosna, 67, of Cincinnati, Ohio, pleaded guilty to one count before U.S. District Judge Marilyn J. Horan. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
“Sosna perpetrated a check kiting scheme that exploited banks throughout western Pennsylvania and Ohio,” said U.S. Attorney Scott Brady. “His greed and callousness caused significant financial harm to these community banks. Now he will be held accountable for these crimes. Together, with our law enforcement partners, we stand committed to protecting financial institutions from fraud.”
According to information provided to the court, Sosna engaged in what is commonly known as a “check kiting” scheme. The term “check kiting” refers to a form of check fraud that involves taking advantage of the float — the time between presentment of a check and the actual receipt of funds — to make use of non-existent funds in a checking or other bank account. The purpose of check kiting is to falsely inflate the balance of a checking account in order to allow written checks that would otherwise bounce to clear.
“There is no question about it, this was a game for Mr. Sosna,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “He tried to game the system by floating money around to make it look like his accounts had millions of dollars in them. Instead, he committed large-scale fraud. One of the goals of the FBI is to safeguard the financial industry, which in turn protects the broader economy. We will investigate those who seek to defraud this system.”
During the time of the check kite, Sosna was president of Premier Healthcare Management, in Blue Ash, Ohio. It owned and operated nine nursing care facilities in southern and central Ohio. Premier provided in-facility, post-acute and long-term care for individuals recovering from medical procedures, as well as assisted living services through various corporate entities. Each entity had a subsidiary relationship with Premier and operated individual bank accounts at various banks, including S&T Bank and First Financial Bank, headquartered in Cincinnati.
Federal investigators reported that Sosna wrote checks between various S&T Bank and First Financial Bank accounts under his control and associated with Premier, in increasing dollar amounts. This was done to manipulate the numerical balance in the accounts and thereby create the false appearance that the defendant had sufficient legitimate available funds in various accounts, and to trick the banks into honoring checks drawn against accounts with insufficient funds.
Between May 15 and 18, by writing and negotiating checks, Sosna sent more than $118 million through S&T Bank and First Financial Bank, which were unfunded amounts and were the equivalent of obtaining money from the banks without actual properly secured loans. A total of 203 checks were negotiated in execution of his scheme.
S&T Bank incurred a loss of $59.24 million.
Horan scheduled sentencing for Feb. 18. The law provides for a total sentence of 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million or both. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert S. Cessar and Jeffrey R. Bengel are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Sosna.