Va. businessman pleads guilty to fraud in obtaining $53 million in loans

Osama M. El-Atari spent some of the money on fancy cars and a house.
Osama M. El-Atari spent some of the money on fancy cars and a house.
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By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 30, 2010

An Ashburn businessman who used nonexistent life insurance policies to get tens of millions of dollars in fraudulent bank loans pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court.

Osama M. El-Atari, 31, owned four Original Steakhouse and Sports Theatre locations in Maryland and Virginia before, authorities said, he used the life insurance policies to obtain more than $53 million in loans from banks in those states as well as in Ohio and Tennessee. He pleaded guilty to three counts of bank fraud and one count of money laundering in U.S. District courts in Alexandria and Ohio.

El-Atari's sentencing is July 30. He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years on each of the bank fraud counts and 10 years on the money laundering count.

Creditors said much of El-Atari's wealth was accumulated through the loans, some totaling $12 million. El-Atari used a number of fake domain names and e-mail accounts to convince bank managers that he had real collateral. El-Atari used some of the proceeds to buy exotic cars, including Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and a $3.8 million house in Loudoun County.

Atari disappeared in May and fled the United States, authorities said. He was arrested Jan. 30 in Austin.

A vice president at one of the swindled banks, United Bank, has also been charged in connection with the fraud. Sissaye Gezachew, 32, of Springfield was arrested Tuesday on a federal charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Authorities said he accepted about $150,000 in bribes from El-Atari for signing off on $17.6 million in loans and creating fake financial documents.

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