DA Rollins’ Office Secures More Than $67k in Restitution for Fraud Victims
BOSTON, March 15, 2019 — Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins today announced that her office has secured restitution on behalf of a dozen victims who were defrauded of savings they invested in non-traditional accounts.
GUILLERMO ZAPATA, 47, formerly of Chelsea, on Monday pleaded guilty to a charge of larceny over $250 by scheme in East Boston Municipal Court. Judge John McDonald sentenced the defendant to five years of probation, during which time the defendant is barred from opening a community savings bank without proper licensure and permission from the court, must stay away from and have no contact with the victims named in the case, and write a letter of apology. At prosecutors’ request, Judge McDonald also ordered restitution be paid to the victims within 30 days.
“This defendant held himself up in his community as a man of integrity providing a service to help others save money and get ahead. Instead, he used his victims to enrich himself,” District Attorney Rollins said. “I hope our efforts on behalf of these individuals helps assure communities across Suffolk County that we will work diligently on their behalf – regardless of immigration status, language barriers, or national origin – to ensure that everyone who has been harmed receives the same access to justice that each of us is due.”
Had the case proceeded to trial, Assistant District Attorney Teniola Adeyemi of the DA’s Special Prosecutions Unit would have presented evidence and testimony to prove that the defendant operated a non-traditional banking service at an East Boston market between December 2013 and January 2015. Specifically, he collected and held savings for customers with the agreement that the funds would be returned upon the customer’s request. Suffolk prosecutors identified at least 12 individuals who used the defendant’s service to save a combined total of approximately $97,600.
In December 2014, several customers attempted to retrieve their money to pay for Christmas expenses. Rather than return the savings as agreed, however, the defendant fled. Through the efforts of Boston Police and others, he was located in New York and ultimately extradited to Boston in November 2018 to face charges.
As part of the defendant’s plea agreement, upwards of $67,000 that he would have received in an unrelated bankruptcy proceeding will be used to repay a portion of the money owed to the victims. Suffolk prosecutors identified that settlement in the course of their investigation and negotiated with his bankruptcy attorney and others to transfer the funds to the court for distribution.
Many of the victims delivered statements to the court describing how the defendant’s deceit had harmed them, with several describing the loss of money intended to pay for Christmas gifts, college tuition, and other expenses.
“Every week, I would drive from Brighton to East Boston and give $300 per week,” one victim who lost $15,300 told the court in a written impact statement. “In December 2014, I went to pick up my yearly savings and I was told that Guillermo and my money had disappeared and no one knew where he was. That money was going to be put into a down payment for a house that we were hoping to buy and also Christmas gifts for my children at that time.”
“I was planning on using that money toward my college, which I had to postpone because [he] had not just stolen my money but also he had stolen my dreams of attending college,” another victim wrote of the loss of $10,000 in savings.
“A loss of $10,000 might not be much to a big corporation, but it can represent everything to a working family struggling to make ends meet,” District Attorney Rollins said. “I am so proud of my team for working hard to find justice and accountability for these victims.”
Zapata was represented by attorney Tony Blaize.
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.