Blackie's Fraud a Black Eye for Giannoulias

Nearly $2 million withdrawn from accounts before deposits cleared, prosecutors say

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    Alexi Giannoulias' campaign said Thursday evening it will immediately donate "any and all" campaign contributions received from the family that owns the Boston Blackie's restaurant chain.

    Nick Giannis, 62; his son, Chris Giannis, 38; and Boston Blackie's manager Andy Bakapoulos, 38, were charged with bank fraud.  Prosecutors alleged they used business accounts at Broadway Bank, the troubled financial institution owned by Giannoulias' family, in a "check-kiting" scheme that defrauded Charter One and Washington Mutual banks out of nearly $2 million.

    Nick Giannis has been a significant donor to Giannoulias' current and former campaigns.

    "As my campaign said yesterday, I am shocked and appalled by the news reports of the Giannis family's alleged horrible scheme to defraud banks in Chicago including my family's bank. Upon learning all of this, I instructed my campaign immediately to donate all campaign contributions from these individuals to non-profit organizations," Giannoulias said in a statement.

    Prosecutors didn't accuse Broadway Bank of any wrongdoing, but did say the owners used checks with insufficient funds from accounts at Broadway to make deposits at other banks -- before quickly moving that money out of the other banks.

    In an attempt to use the arrests to his political advantage, Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk said the scheme "appears to be part of a disturbing pattern of reckless business relationships, questionable banking practices and potentially illegal activity."

    Other banks that were used in the scheme included Chase Bank, New Century Bank and Citizen’s Bank, prosecutors said.

    Between Jan. 5, 2009 and Feb. 2, 2009, 122 checks worth $3.6 million were deposited into Boston Blackie’s Charter One account, according to prosecutors.

    During the same period, Chris Giannis and Bakapoulos, a Boston Blackie’s manager, deposited 66 checks totaling $3.5 million drawn from their account at Charter One into other Charter One Boston Blackie’s accounts, prosecutors said.

    A short time after each deposit and after the withdrawal of funds, a stop payment was allegedly placed on the 66 deposited checks.

    The screen name "socratescontractor" was used to place the stop payments in the scheme, which were performed by Bakopoulos in his mother’s basement, Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Robert Podlasek said.

    Bakopoulos said he knew what he was doing was "wrong" but that he “needed the job and he had to do what Chris told him,” the prosecution court filing said.

    All three men were charged with two counts of felony theft.

    Chris Giannis also was charged with two counts of being an organizer of a continuing financial crimes enterprise.

    Cook County Circuit Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. ordered Chris Giannis held on $500,000 bond, while Bakopoulos was ordered held on $250,000.

    Prosecutors had asked the judge to hold the men in lieu of $2 million cash bonds, but Bourgeois noted that convicted New York Ponzi-scheme operator Bernie Madoff was placed on electronic home monitoring even though $65 million was involved in that scheme.

    Nick Giannis was caught at the Canadian border with his Greek passport Thursday morning, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting, and is currently in Detroit awaiting extradition. The younger Giannis and Bakopoulos were ordered to surrender their passports.

    Chris Giannis has been married for a year. The Loyola University graduate finished law school at Northwestern University but never took the bar exam, his attorney James Knibbs said, adding his client is a hard worker who puts in 100 hours a week. Bakopoulos, a Mather High graduate, has some junior college, Knibbs said.

    Boston Blackie’s, which has eight locations in the Chicago area, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November of last year.

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