Saturday, August 27, 2011

George Roberts - Somers Point Mayor (1968-1972)

George Roberts and the Sale of the Old Anchorage

One day, as the story goes, a man no one had seen before walked in the front door of the Anchorage, looked around and announced that he had bought the place and would soon be the new owner.

When someone called Andrew on the phone and asked him, and he didn’t know anything about it, everybody laughed and treated the guy like a crank.

Bill Morris however, was very serious, as he had recently arrived from Florida where he had met with George Roberts and gave him a serious deposit on the property.

George Roberts former Mayor of Somers Point (1968-1972) was a local real estate agent whose office was on the north east corner of Shore Road just across the street from City Hall and Charlie’s bar. Roberts had known Andrew’s father Henry Corneglia so when Andrew considered selling the Anchorage he gave the listing to Roberts along with a sale price that he didn’t think would be seriously considered.

Roberts apparently took the money and never reported it to Andrew, and Andrew tried to oppose the deal and took it to court. Even with three lawyers working for him, Morris won the case because Andrew had given the listing to Roberts and Roberts was acting as an agent for Andrew, even if Andrew didn’t get any of the deposit or agreed to sell.

The sale of the Anchorage however, was just the tip of the iceberg, as it quickly become known and other people realized that George Roberts didn’t just suddenly lose his scruples but had been “robbing Peter to pay Paul” for sometime, and had been involved in dozens of real estate schemes that led to many people losing their money and homes.

Roberts was eventually convicted on a number of counts, and served some time, but was released from prison early and within a short time was a free man, despite all the harm and distress he had caused.

The Anchorage was sold, and Morris was the new owner, so as the days and nights went by, there was a sense of doom that settled over the place, as everyone awaited the inevitable end to arrive.

One day a young man in a suit and tie and briefcase came in and he was there to handle some of the sales and tax matters, to make sure everything was on the up and up, and often sat down at the back bar with Andrew. The guy was Irish, a Notre Dame grad, clean cut and straight arrow, at least when he first came in, but after awhile, he was drinking, smoking and gambling with all of us and we became friends.

When the final day was announced, a party was scheduled and word went out that the last day of the Anchorage would be the best.


INQUIRER ARTICLE:

Former N.j. Mayor Guilty In $3 Million Fraud The Somers Point Retiree Admitted Bilking 35 People - Many Of Them Elderly - In Two Schemes

February 11, 1993|By Pam Belluck, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

At an age when most people are living in quiet retirement, former Somers Point Mayor George Roberts - known as "Gentleman George" to some - was a busy man. He was running a scheme that defrauded 35 people, many of them elderly, out of more than $3 million.

Yesterday, Roberts, 75, a real estate agent who was mayor from 1968 to 1972, pleaded guilty to selling fraudulent mortgages and taking money for bogus investments from April 1987 to April 1992, in what prosecutors called Atlantic County's single largest fraud case in memory.

Prosecutors said it was a classic Ponzi scheme, in which new investors' money is used to pay off earlier investors.

In his plea in Atlantic County Superior Court to charges of theft by deception, Roberts agreed to accept a sentence of seven years in prison and to pay $3,612,694 in restitution.

However, Roberts' attorney, Bud Bennington, said his client doesn't have any money to make restitution.

The plea prohibits Roberts from appealing his sentence, which is scheduled to be imposed on March 12.

Roberts' victims included an 83-year-old woman who lost $400,000, and a Catholic church that lost $60,000. The church, the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Corbin City, was told in late 1991 that the loan would help one elderly woman pay for treatment at a cancer research center and another woman pay off bills that had piled up, said the Rev. Henry Lovett. The women never got the money and the church never got its money back, he said.

"He was introduced to us as a real gentleman, a nice old man with white hair," said Father Lovett. "I feel so stupid. I mean, charity is supposed to be personal, and we never contacted the old ladies personally to see if they were getting it. And this was a loan with interest, something the church shouldn't really do."

Most of Roberts' victims were from the Jersey Shore area, but some were from Virginia, Alabama and Florida, said Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey S. Blitz. Individual losses ranged from $6,600 to $647,000. Several victims have filed civil suits that are pending.

Roberts defrauded his investors in two ways, Blitz said. One scheme involved selling fraudulent mortgages on properties that were not actually being mortgaged. Roberts would usually provide a fictitious title insurance policy, a forged mortgage and a fake settlement sheet.

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