Man who used fraud scheme to buy private jet, luxury cars gets 15 years in prison

A general view of the Lamborghini Lounge on August 02, 2019 in Porto Cervo, Italy.
PORTO CERVO, ITALY - AUGUST 02: A general view of the Lamborghini Lounge on August 02, 2019 in Porto Cervo, Italy. Photo credit Chris Ricco/Getty Images for Lamborghini

An Alabama man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison and ordered to pay nearly $12 million in restitution after he plead guilty for using a bank fraud scheme to live a luxury lifestyle, including buying Lamborghinis and Ferraris, traveling on a private jet, and purchasing multiple homes.

39-year-old Christopher A. Montalbano of Vestavia Hills, Alabama was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Annemarie C. Axon, after he had plead guilty back in November 2021 for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering, the Northern District of Alabama announced.

Montalbano operated the bank fraud scheme from 2016 to 2020, before he was arrested alongside his father, Gus Montalbano, 77, in July of 2021.

He created fake, shell companies to obtain more than 140 loans worth millions of dollars from at least 20 different financial institutions. Montalbano then obtained the loan money in his own name, through a shell company, or in someone else's name.

"Montalbano specifically used the loan proceeds to pay for an extravagant lifestyle which included traveling on a private jet aircraft, employing private pilots, employing a personal assistant, purchasing multiple high-end vehicles including Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and purchasing multiple real properties, including a residential home in a gated community, a lake house, and farmland," the Northern District of Alabama said in the news release.

The 39-year-old then tried to cover up his scheme by creating a number of fake company websites for the shell companies, and posted photos of construction equipment, boats, and other items that appeared to be for sale.

"However, the majority of these photographs were copied and taken from the internet websites of legitimate equipment dealers," the news release said.

U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr. announced the sentencing on Thursday, and both issues statements regarding the bank fraud scheme.

"Today’s sentence demonstrates that schemes to defraud federally-insured financial institutions are serious crimes that carry significant penalties," U.S. Attorney Escalona said. "This defendant caused a multi-million-dollar loss to the victims. We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to hold perpetrators of these fraud schemes accountable and use all tools at our disposal to recover their ill-gotten gains."

"Montalbano deserves every day of this sentence, as he went to great lengths to cover up his massive fraud scheme," SAC Sharp said. "Hopefully, Montalbano enjoyed the short time he had with the luxury items he purchased with money he swindled from federally insured banks, as he will now pay for his crimes with years behind bars. American citizens can be assured that the FBI will continue to pursue predators who drag down our economy by deception for their own personal gain."

Gus Montalbano also plead guilty to conspiring with his son to commit bank fraud, and awaits sentencing. Tommy Spina, his lawyer, told AL.com that he participated in the scheme only because "he trusted his son."

"He trusted his son. In doing so, he participated to a lesser degree, in the conspiracy which violated the law," Spina said. "He deeply regrets his actions and is prepared to accept the consequences for his behavior."

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