Abreu was a Cuban immigrant who became a self-made millionaire in his vast real estate holdings and mortgage lending businesses. He was a man who spent his free time hobnobbing with the politicos like West New York Mayor Albio Sires and U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez. For a while, Abreu even considered running for public office himself, considering his vast popularity with his fellow Latinos.
But now, all of those hopes and dreams of glory and grandeur are gone. Abreu is a convicted felon who is headed for an extended stay at a federal prison.
Abreu received a stiff sentence from U.S. District Judge Joseph Greenaway Tuesday morning when Greenaway sentenced the 44-year-old businessman to 7.25 years in prison for real estate schemes involving his companies and bank fraud.
Abreu received nearly the maximum sentence allowed by federal sentencing guidelines, because prosecutors believed he was the mastermind of the real estate and mortgage schemes.
Abreu, a Fort Lee resident whose businesses such as Abreu Real Estate, the Mortgage Pros, Inc. and RLA Homes are located on Bergenline Avenue in Guttenberg, was ordered to serve 87 months in a federal prison, as well as paying $200,000 in fines and $499,000 in restitution.
The sentence put an end to a lengthy investigation.
Abreu was convicted on Aug. 4, 2004, on 21 counts of a 28-count indictment naming him, three employees and a senior vice president of Hudson United Bank. The counts of conviction against Abreu included conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud Hudson United Bank by engaging in a fraudulent check-kiting scheme, conspiracy to structure currency transactions and specific counts of mail fraud, bank fraud, and cash structuring.
Abreu's charges also included illegal payoffs to the West New York officials, including former West New York Police Chief Alexander Oriente, who himself was convicted five years ago.
But the federal jury was unable to reach a verdict on whether Abreu plotted to extort money, reported to be $2,000, a week, as part of a gambling racket in the form of video poker machines. There wasn't sufficient evidence to convict Abreu on the extortion charges.
Besides Chief Oriente, the indictment also said that Abreu had funneled money to "a high ranking West New York official." That official was at one time rumored to be long-time friend Sires, the town's mayor and State Assembly Speaker, but those claims never were stated publicly or introduced in court.
Sires believes he was, indeed, the official that was referred to in the original indictment, but he was never named and he maintains that he did nothing wrong.
Abreu got the most severe sentence. Co-defendants Ana Martell received a 30-month sentence, while Kathy Giunta was sentenced to two years. Both women received the same restitution charge that Abreu was slapped with - namely $499,000.
Luis Nieves, a former Hudson United Bank loan officer, and Fernando Jimenez, a former employee of Abreu, were slated to receive their sentencing from Greenaway after press time Thursday afternoon.
Greenaway said he wanted to give Abreu an even longer sentence with more monetary penalties, but was restricted by federal law.
"You went from being an admirable member of the community to, really, just a plain old crook," Greenaway said.
Abreu failed to answer several calls made to his cellular phone after the sentencing. His attorney, Gerald Krovatin of Newark, did not return phone calls made to his office.
Free until August
According to reliable sources, there has already been talk of a federal appeal, both on the conviction and the sentencing.
Greenaway ordered Abreu to surrender himself to the court on Aug. 1, so he still remains free on bail. Krovatin suggested to Greenaway that Abreu should remain free while the appeal process is being handled. Greenaway said he will decide that on Aug. 1
"He is going to fight this," Krovatin told the Associated Press.
U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, who has used his term as a crusade against corruption, especially involving Hudson County political figures, thought the sentencing brought Abreu's tenure to an end.
"This is a long prison sentence that appropriately matches the depth, duration and complexity of Abreu's fraud," Christie said. "Abreu represented himself as a legitimate businessman and local power broker who, in reality, used his business as a front for fraud."
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deborah Goldklang, Thomas Eicher and Matthew Boxer.
Christie credited Special Agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Leslie Wiser, Jr.; and Special Agents of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Patricia J. Haynes, with the successful investigation of the defendants.