After looting trucking companies, Thomas Giacomaro kept himself out of jail by peddling mob stories to the FBI in Newark. His work as an informant never resulted in a conviction, but he talked a good game. Then, under the noses of his FBI handlers, he went to work for himself, creating sham companies that swindled investors, including mystery author Mary Higgins Clark, out of $80 million.
I first wrote about Giacomaro a year before this story ran. It exposed Giacomaro’s work for the FBI even as investors raised questions about him. After it ran, I was given documents that laid the foundation for this story, which details the scam and and shows how Giacomaro showered himself and his wife with riches.
Based largely on the reporting, Giacomaro was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. Three others associated with the plot also went to jail. And the wife, after trying to hide some of the couple’s assets, was later convicted of bankruptcy fraud.
On Feb. 15, 1998, a Bergen County company wired $4 million in cash to a Saddle River housewife who, officials with the firm have said, performed nothing more than part-time administrative work. A $1 million wire transfer followed 10 months later.
There were checks, too, dozens of checks, some for $7,500, others for as much as $2 million. And the cash kept flowing.
Over two years, Wellesley Services LLC and an affiliated company, Windham Associates, paid Dorian M. Hayes more than $7.8 million, the firms’ records show. An additional $17 million went to companies Hayes controls.
Yet Hayes, 32, said she knows nothing about the payments. She said she didn’t know she was on Wellesley’s payroll. And she said she had no idea she headed firms that took in Wellesley’s millions.
“I don’t know about any of this,” she said. “My husband handled everything.”
Her husband is Thomas J. Giacomaro, 49, a mob-connected swindler accused of soaking investors for millions of dollars while he served as an FBI informant.
Since 1999, several Wellesley investors have filed suit against Giacomaro, accusing him of siphoning cash from the Montvale mergers and acquisitions firm, all the while obscuring his true role in the company to avoid disclosing his criminal past.
Giacomaro and Wellesley executives have denied the claims, insisting in court papers and to The Star-Ledger last year that the convicted con man was a mere consultant nowhere near the till.
But internal company documents recently obtained by The Star-Ledger tell a different story. The records — along with dozens of interviews with former employees and investors — show Giacomaro secretly controlled Wellesley and Windham, using their accounts as a personal slush fund to finance a lifestyle of rare extravagance.
Under the noses of his FBI handlers, Giacomaro diverted more than $27 million from the companies in 1998 and 1999, masking the payments by routing them through his wife, the records show.
Beyond checks and wire transfers, Wellesley and Windham paid more than $400,000 in credit card bills on the couple’s behalf, spent $250,000 on jewelry for them and provided them with Louis Vuitton luggage, personal attendants and fine furniture for their Saddle River estate.
Today, Wellesley and Windham are near collapse, their headquarters in foreclosure and their work force, once topping 150, down to fewer than five. Debts to investors exceed $200 million.
Some of those investors demand an FBI investigation, saying the bureau should have known what its informant was doing since Giacomaro formed Wellesley in 1996.
It was only on Feb. 28, a decade after he first fed information to the FBI, that Giacomaro began serving an 18-month sentence for bankrupting a Newark shipping company, Imperial Air Freight, in 1990.
The case marked one in a string of transportation company rip-offs, totaling nearly $100 million in losses, that Giacomaro is alleged to have carried out with reputed mob associates in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“This should be investigated by the federal government,” said James Ippolito, 50, an Old Tappan resident who contends Wellesley owes him $3.2 million. “Tom just stole the assets from this company for his personal gain. That’s exactly what he did in the trucking industry. Someone in the government should be held responsible for what went on here over the last five years.”
Ippolito is among a dozen investors who met earlier this year to discuss a strategy to get their money back. One of Wellesley’s biggest investors, best-selling mystery author Mary Higgins Clark, was represented at the meeting by her son, David Clark. The Clarks contend Wellesley owes them more than $20 million.
THE INVESTMENT LOOKED GOOD
To scores of investors, Wellesley looked like a smart place to park a few hundred thousands dollars — or a few million — for a year or two. Consolidation was sweeping corporate America, and Wellesley planned to engineer “roll-ups” in the waste and transportation industries, packaging groups of small companies for purchase by larger companies.
In return for their cash, investors were given promissory notes guaranteeing repayment, 15 percent interest and bonus checks amounting to 50 percent of the original investment. Windham served as Wellesley’s employment arm, paying all salaries and health benefits. Both companies are, in essence, one enterprise under the Wellesley nameplate.
Windham employees, for instance, carried Wellesley business cards. And while investors made their checks out to Wellesley, money regularly flowed from Wellesley accounts to Windham accounts and back, according to records and former employees.
Cash-disbursement records obtained by The Star-Ledger cover three accounts for 1998 and 1999, providing an incomplete portrait of Giacomaro’s total take from Wellesley and Windham since 1996.
How that money was spent — and Giacomaro’s role with Wellesley — is now under review by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities, according to investors who have been questioned by agents. The bureau is investigating complaints that Wellesley officials lied to investors, withholding information about Giacomaro’s criminal history and presenting him as a consultant when he was, in fact, much more.
Such a finding could constitute securities fraud, clearing the way for civil or criminal charges and fines.
Former employees call Giacomaro by turns Wellesley’s owner, a shadow president or the company’s guiding force.
Giacomaro, the employees said, presided over board meetings, issued directives and occupied an expansive corner office in the firm’s Montvale headquarters.
“There was never any question that it was his company,” said Stephanie Good, a lawyer who worked for Wellesley in 1999. “That’s what I was told when I was hired. That’s the way people treated him. It was common knowledge through the building.”
Former Bergen County Prosecutor Larry McClure said he was approached about a job at Wellesley in 1996, shortly after he had completed a stint as director of the Bergen County Utilities Authority. The man who interviewed him: Thomas Giacomaro.
McClure, now in private practice, said he came away with the clear impression that Giacomaro was Wellesley’s top man. The former prosecutor didn’t pursue the job, saying Giacomaro’s demeanor set off “alarm bells.”
“Mr. Giacomaro talked so fast it was difficult for me to follow,” McClure said. “I didn’t like the lay of the land.”
Interoffice memos obtained by The Star-Ledger bolster the portrait of Giacomaro as chief executive. In one memo, dated Feb. 3, 1999, he ordered employees not to use company credit cards for personal purchases “without prior approval by me.”
In another, dated March 4, 1999, he chastised workers for overusing Wellesley-issued cell phones.
“This excessive abuse must be stopped immediately,” he wrote.
In the month between those two memos, Windham wrote nearly $7 million in checks to Giacomaro´s wife or to companies she controls, the Windham records show.
Despite Giacomaro´s prominent role, Wellesley officials worked to conceal it.
In October 1997, a Wellesley lawyer complained to his superiors that they were violating securities laws by failing to tell investors about Giacomaro’s past or about the hundreds of thousands of dollars the company was paying him. The lawyer, Richard Moskowitz, was promptly fired.
In March 1998, Moskowitz filed suit under the state´s whistle-blower act. He later reached a settlement with the company.
Efforts to cloak Giacomaro´s involvement continued.
In a Nov. 11, 1999, interoffice memo, one of Wellesley´s lawyers, Nat Yohalem, wrote to the company´s legal department: “Tom Giacomaro´s name should not appear on any memos or letters. If you want him to see a copy of a document, just make a copy and hand address it to him.”
Company officials again sought to downplay Giacomaro´s involvement last August, when a Star-Ledger report detailed the allegations against him and his relationship with the FBI.
Keith Moody, Wellesley’s former president and more recently its managing member, said repeatedly during an interview at the time that Giacomaro was no more than a consultant. Asked about Hayes, Moody said she worked part time in an administrative role.
Moody, a former neighbor of Giacomaro in Wyckoff, has declined repeated requests for an interview in recent months. Anthony Bianco, another top Wellesley executive and Giacomaro´s childhood friend, also refused comment.
Investors contacted by the Bureau of Securities say both men are under scrutiny by investigators, not only because of their association with Giacomaro, but because they allegedly failed to disclose their own pay. Documents given to investors by company officials list salaries of $80,000 for each man.
But the cash-disbursement records obtained by The Star-Ledger show Moody and Bianco billed Windham for hundreds of thousands of dollars through consulting companies.
Moody took in at least $890,000 from Windham in 1998 and 1999 through SRM Associates Inc., a company that records in the state Division of Revenue confirm is his.
Bianco, Windham records show, took in at least $523,000 during the same period through his own consulting outfit, AKB Associates Inc.
Giacomaro, on the advice of his lawyer, Cathy Waldor, declined to comment in the weeks before he reported to the federal prison at Fort Dix.
AN ´UNWITTING FRONT´
Hayes, who married Giacomaro in 1994, was interviewed in the wood-paneled library of her home, a gabled mansion that she and Giacomaro bought for $2.4 million in 1999.
A Michigan native who competed in beauty pageants, modeled in car shows and served as an extra in the movie “Hoffa,” Hayes characterized herself as an unwitting front for her husband.
She acknowledged working part time for Wellesley several years ago, arranging parties and helping to decorate the company’s headquarters. But she said she never learned what she was paid. She said she also didn’t know that she drew a weekly salary, which grew from $7,500 to $12,500 over the course of 1999, the Windham records show.
Moreover, she said, she didn’t know she was the founder and president of a transportation consulting company, Marcus Industries Inc., that was paid nearly $14 million by Wellesley and Windham in 1998 and 1999.
“I’m a full-time mother,” Hayes said. “How could I possibly have time to do business deals?”
In addition to her role in Marcus Industries, Hayes is listed with the state as the registered agent for five real estate companies, which share a common address with Marcus at a Mailboxes Etc. outlet in Wyckoff.
Wellesley and Windham paid two of those companies, European Properties LLC and Estate Properties LLC, a combined $3 million in 1998 and 1999, the internal records show. Estate Properties, in turn, paid $195,000 for a Hawthorne home where Lauren Giacomaro, Giacomaro´s daughter from his first marriage, now lives, according to land records.
A third real estate company, Townhouse Properties LLC, owns a Mahwah condominium that is home to Thomas C. Giacomaro, Giacomaro´s son from his first marriage. Windham paid $243,000 toward the condo in 1999, the Windham documents show.
Hayes said she has heard her husband mention the real estate companies, but she insisted she played no role with them.
“I can’t comment on them be cause I don’t know what they are or what they do,” she said. Hayes said she also was unaware that Wellesley and Windham paid many of her bills.
The companies, records show, provided the couple with more than $36,000 in fine rugs and more than $22,000 in furniture from Ethan Allen. A Windham-leased Cadillac went to Hayes’ mother in Michigan. A BMW went to Lauren Giacomaro.
Windham outfitted Giacomaro in custom-made shirts and $2,000 Brioni suits, spent more than $65,000 on maids for the couple and paid the salaries of at least three men who ran errands for Hayes and who worked around the house.
The companies also picked up Hayes´ prodigious credit card bills, which topped $413,000 over 1998 and 1999, according to the records. Most of those charges came from high-end retailers Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.
No bill, apparently, was too small. Windham paid a $9 Blockbuster Video tab for the couple and a $32 subscription to Food & Wine magazine.
More than $11,000 went to a Florida company, Genesis Automation, that installed the entertainment system in Giacomaro´s house. A Genesis official confirmed that Windham paid for his flights to New Jersey when Giacomaro wanted additions or alterations to the system.
And, in a clear sign Wellesley officials knew about Giacomaro´s criminal history, Windham paid the $1.2 million in restitution Giacomaro owed stemming from his conviction in the Imperial Air Freight case, the records show.
Hayes said she never asked her husband about the source of the income. She added that while she did sometimes sign papers at Giacomaro’s request, she didn’t knowingly sign documents relating to Marcus or the real estate firms.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “I’m a victim in this.”
THE INVESTORS’ SIDE
Investors say they are the victims.
Like Ippolito and Clark, investor Reuven Gershoni contends he has been cheated by Wellesley and its principals.
“This is crazy,” said Gershoni, 49, of Englewood Cliffs. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with today. It certainly can’t be left like this.”
Gershoni said he is perhaps most troubled by the government’s oversight of Giacomaro. Had the FBI and federal prosecutors kept a closer watch on their charge, he said, millions of dollars might have been spared.
“Someone was closing their eyes while this whole thing was going on,” Gershoni said. “They let him operate the same way he operated before. It´s very disturbing, to say the least.”
Giacomaro’s FBI handler, Harry Mount Jr., went to work for Wellesley as a vice president for security after retiring from the bureau in 1999. His office was a few doors down from that of his old informant.
Mount received two company-leased cars — a Porsche and a Lexus sport utility vehicle — as part of his compensation at Wellesley, according to two former employees familiar with the leases.
Mount, who left Wellesley last year, is now an adjunct professor at Montclair State University, where he teaches a sociology course on organized crime. He has not responded to numerous telephone messages seeking an interview.
The FBI, citing a policy against discussing informants, won’t talk about Giacomaro. But the bureau — along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark — has continually been supportive of him.
At Giacomaro’s Jan. 14 sentencing, federal prosecutors successfully argued for leniency, citing his cooperation in unspecified investigations. Two FBI agents sat in the courtroom, ready to testify on his behalf if necessary.
The move cut Giacomaro’s sentence from a maximum of four years in prison to the 18 months he began serving in February.
Ippolito doesn’t think that’s nearly enough. Angered by federal officials’ handling of Giacomaro, Ippolito said the government should be held accountable for what he termed the fleecing of Wellesley.
“They should have put him in jail when he was supposed to go to jail,” Ippolito said. “An awful lot of money disappears when he’s around.”
GRAPHIC: Records obtained by The Star-Ledger show two Bergen County companies helped provide an extravagant lifestyle for convicted swindler Thomas J. Giacomaro and his wife, Dorian M. Hayes, by paying them millions of dollars. The companies also paid hundreds of bills on the couple’s behalf in 1998 and 1999. Here’s a look at some of them:
Preschool tuition for kids $2,800
Fresh flowers $3,500
Duxiana bed $7,420
Savings bonds for relatives $1,500
Tennis lessons $518
Neiman Marcus $224,181
Saks Fifth Avenue $95,202
Bergdorf Goodman $43,000
Victoria’s Secret $1,463