Three New York banks are being sued in connection with an alleged fraud scheme involving a Brooklyn philanthropist.
Nine investors are suing Republic New York Corp., Sterling Bancorp, and Fleet Bank, the New York subsidiary of Boston-based Fleet Financial Group, for $10 million in damages under the federal racketeering law.
The nine invested money with David Schick, 36, who allegedly stole from their escrow accounts at the banks.
Mr. Schick, a lawyer whose family owns a well-known Brooklyn kosher bakery and catering company, is prominent in Orthodox Jewish affairs. He had been named honorary chairman of the annual meeting of the nation's largest Orthodox organization, and had helped arrange a March meeting between President Clinton and possible campaign contributors who had given money to a rabbinical college.
Mr. Schick also reportedly used letters from a rabbinical court to reassure religious investors in his real estate deals.
All three banks called the allegations against them groundless. Fleet has dismissed one employee, Leonard Patnoi, a former Long Island branch manager, on grounds of violating company policies and procedures in relation to the Schick accounts.
Mr. Schick, who was arrested on federal fraud charges in May, has been accused of using relationships with bank employees to gain access to his investors' money.
The banks insist they had nothing to do with the purported fraud scheme.
Investors with Mr. Schick were expecting "a 20% return, risk-free, on a short-term loan," said Fleet spokesman James Mahoney. The suit is "an outrageous effort to link Fleet to the apparent crimes of Mr. Schick in order to provide a deep pocket for investors who were promised a deal that was obviously too good to be true," Mr. Mahoney said.
He said Fleet is reviewing all of the accounts held by Mr. Schick and is cooperating with the investigation.
Phillip Burgess, a spokesman for Republic, said, "We believe the claims against Republic have no basis in fact."