October 23, 2020
Fraud Friday — Key Player In Fraud Investigation Taken into Custody After Seeking to Exhume Bank President’s Body
Former Washington Federal Bank President and fraud suspect, John F. Gembara, was found dead on December 3, 2017, in the home of a customer who owed the bank $2.8 million. Gembara’s death was ruled a suicide. However, Robert Kowalski, a key player in the fraud investigation, was recently taken into police custody after filing a lawsuit to investigate the former bank President’s death as a murder.
At a hearing on Wednesday, Kowalski told the judge that he “knew this man for 30 years,” adding that Gembara’s suicide “didn’t make a whole lot of sense.” Investigation into Kowalski’s claims would involve exhuming Gembara’s body. Out of respect for the family, Kowalksi wrote to the bank President’s widow to let her know that he was “moving forward” with the lawsuit. However, prosecutors successfully argued that Kowalski’s contact with the widow interfered with the case because she is a potential witness.
This is only the latest in a series of twists and turns surrounding an overarching fraud investigation into Gembara and Washington Federal Bank. Authorities claim that Gembara instructed his employees to offer customers “loan advances” with little or no paperwork, no collateral, and no expectation that the loans would ever be repaid. The loans allegedly totaled $14.5 million, including 189 advances.
Two weeks after Gembara was found dead, federal regulators discovered the fraud scheme and moved to shut down the 104-year-old bank for “unsafe or unsound practices.” Although the parent company of Royal Savings Bank has acquired Washington Federal Bank’s insured deposits, the FDIC is still seeking to recover the remaining $11.6 million in bank losses from Gembara’s estate.
As a result of the fraudulent activity and suspicious death of John Gembara, a total of six people have been indicted and are awaiting trial.
Fraud Friday – FDIC Seeking 14.5M From Dead Bridgeport Banker’s Estate