Chicago Blackhawks stars among reported victims in $77M fraud scheme

Chicago News

An Illinois accountant who pleaded guilty to embezzling millions to finance a luxurious lifestyle that included purchases of yachts, homes and private jets was sentenced Monday to 16 and a half years in federal prison, according to federal prosecutors.

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois said that Sultan Issa, 47, of Hinsdale, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood to pay more than $72 million in restitution to his victims.

In a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Issa admitted in January that he embezzled millions from Roger L. Weston, a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as $500,000 from a widow who trusted him to invest funds from her late husband’s estate.

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“I just basically lied to a lot of people,” Issa said back in January when he was asked by Wood on what he did wrong.

From 2010 to 2017, federal prosecutors said Issa embezzled at least $45 million of the family’s assets and millions from individual investors, including money the 47-year-old stole from a trust account that was set up to pay medical expenses for a family member suffering from an incapacitating illness.

Weston identified Issa in court documents filed in separate civil cases as a former personal accountant for Weston family interests and accused Issa of embezzling millions from them.

According to federal prosecutors, Issa also obtained some $5.1 million from other victims, claiming their money in legitimate opportunities, including a luxury auto dealership Issa owned in Burr Ridge, Ill.

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Most of the individual investors who lost money in Issa’s scams were not identified in court records, but the Chicago Tribune reported those victims included former Chicago Blackhawks players Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell and Tomas Kopecky.

Three former Chicago Blackhawks players were among the victims of the scheme. (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images))

In handing down the sentence, Wood said Issa’s misconduct was “startling” in its breadth and that he would not have been able to carry out the schemes without first gaining the “trust and affection” of his victims.

In his plea agreement, Issa admitted to embezzling from Weston’s family funds by forging signatures to gain control of assets and fraudulent documents to secure millions of dollars in loans.

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“Issa also created false account statements and made Ponzi-type payments to individual investors,” according to federal prosecutors.

According to the plea agreement, Issa used the stolen money to purchase residential properties in several states, including Michigan and Montana, and property in Mexico. He also purchased two private jets, four yachts, about 60 firearms and watches and jewelry.

Issa said he was “overwhelmingly ashamed” of his actions during a statement to the court on Monday, the Tribune reported.

“I now recognize that I lost my soul,” he said. “I lost all sense of respect and human decency.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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