Businessman Pleads Guilty To Bilking Clients

Posted: February 08, 1989

A Philadelphia businessman pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges that he defrauded 34 clients of more than $1 million by accepting money and then failing to provide the financial services he promised.

Jesse C. Levine, 49, of Hampton Road in Chestnut Hill, was indicted by a federal grand jury in August. He pleaded guilty to 19 counts of mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud and 12 counts of interstate transportation of securities obtained by fraud.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Dale Hoffa said that if the case had gone to trial, the government would have presented evidence that from 1983 to 1985 Levine told clients he could arrange loans from $1 million to $25 million for fees of $10,000 to $100,000. Levine was president of Jesse C. Levine & Co., 1900 Market St.

In 1986, Hoffa said, Levine started Physicians Finance Group in Bala Cynwyd and promised clients that for an upfront fee he could help them get multimillion-dollar loans and above-market rates on investments.

"He got clients by advertising in the Wall Street Journal, through word of mouth and a network of brokers throughout the country," Hoffa said.

Two of the clients are from Philadelphia; others came from throughout the country and from Canada.

The Philadelphia investment banking firm of Bailey, Martin & Appel paid Levine $33,000 for a 10-year "standby letter of credit" worth $3.3 million for a client of the investment firm, according to court papers.

A Philadelphian identified as Jack T. McGurk paid Levine $10,000 for a one- year "standby letter of credit" worth $1 million.

"Do you want to plead guilty?" U.S. District Judge Norma L. Shapiro asked Levine.

"My assumption of responsibility begins with pleading guilty," Levine told the judge. "It's become clear to me that I am guilty."

Clients paid Levine more than $650,000 from May 1983 to August 1988 to arrange loans totaling $130 million, the government said. He told clients the fees were refundable if the transactions were not completed, according to the government.

"Not one transaction was completed and not one advance fee was returned," Hoffa said.

Levine's attorney, David E. Shapiro, said his client would name additional clients who were defrauded.

Levine also was charged with fraud for loans that investors made to him. In 1983 and 1984, clients lent Levine more than $800,000, the government said.

"Levine did not invest the money as promised, but instead spent it on

himself, his family and his business," the government said in court papers.

The prosecution said that several of Levine's former employees were prepared to testify that when the first loans did not come through, they began to question Levine's ability to provide the financing.

An office manager who worked for Levine in 1984 and 1985 said in court papers that she occasionally fielded telephone calls from irate clients and that Levine had instructed her to tell the clients that he was not available. If a client showed up, he left the office and returned after the client left.

Shapiro set sentencing for May 3. Levine could be sentenced to a maximum 235 years in prison, fined up to $3 million, ordered to make restitution and pay a special court assessment of $1,750.

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