CHICAGO (CBS) — Joseph Gurdak landed in the feds’ crosshairs because he helped scam the Chicago Cubs out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. But along the way, it was discovered he also embezzled $358,000 from a client who had been struggling with breast cancer.
He used some of her money to buy toy trains, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
Gurdak, 73, of Park Ridge, was sentenced to 6 months in jail Tuesday in federal court. U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin cited Gurdak’s advanced age for the relatively light sentence.
Gurdak pleaded guilty in July to one count of mail fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. He admitted he helped Marc Hamid, the former co-owner of Skybox on Sheffield, file false royalty statements with the Cubs that underreported Skybox’s attendance between 2007 and 2015.
The scam cost the Cubs about $245,000, and the feds hold Gurdak responsible for $127,552 of that.
Gurdak spent much of Tuesday’s sentencing hearing with his head against his hands, which were often balled into fists.
Hamid has already been sentenced to 18 months in prison after being found guilty by a jury of four counts of mail fraud and five counts of illegally structuring bank transactions.
The feds say Hamid “led the charge” in the scam against the Cubs. But Gurdak embezzled $358,000 on his own from Christine Shaw, a longtime client. Prosecutors said he took advantage of their close relationship and his position as her accountant.
“(Gurdak’s) embezzlement from Ms. Shaw was reprehensible,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas wrote.
Jonas wrote that Gurdak used Shaw’s money to pay his own credit card bills and “to issue checks to a hobby store where (Gurdak) purchased toy trains for his collection.”
Before the judge handed down the sentence, Gurdak apologized to Shaw and told the judge, “I will always be ashamed.”
“There’s nothing to justify what I did,” Gurdak said.
“I don’t know why you did it,” the judge told Gurdak.
Shaw also appeared in court Tuesday, telling the judge she “completely trusted (Gurdak) with my financial affairs.” She said she considered him a part of her family, and the embezzlement left her feeling “betrayed,” “shocked” and “hurt.”
“I counted on him,” Shaw said.
When she finished speaking, Shaw took her seat in the courtroom but began to cry and briefly stepped into the hallway.
Gurdak persuaded Shaw to make a $300,000 loan to Hamid, prosecutors say. Hamid told her the money would be used to renovate the rooftop. It wasn’t. And when she later asked Gurdak about the loan, he told her he and Hamid might go to prison for fraud. When Hamid was indicted days later, Shaw ordered a forensic audit and discovered the theft.
Shaw told the judge that Gurdak also stole from her aunt, but Jonas later called it an overbilling issue.
Steven Fritzshall, Gurdak’s lawyer, disputed that Gurdak overbilled Shaw’s aunt. He has said Gurdak repaid Shaw the money he embezzled, and he told the judge another $200,000 would be paid to cover attorney fees.
“Great weight must also be given to (Gurdak’s) efforts in aiding the prosecution,” Fritzshall wrote in a memo filed last week. “(Gurdak) cooperated significantly with the government in its pursuit of a conviction in the trial of Marc Hamid. (Gurdak) met with or spoke to the government on at least 13 occasions.”
The investigation into the Cubs fraud also nabbed Richard Zasiebida, a former suburban cop who admitted he dodged about $140,000 in federal taxes in connection with Hamid’s fraud scheme. His sentencing is set for March 15, and the feds have said they would ask a judge to send him to prison for about a year.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2017. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)