Who’s in Control Here?

Anatomy of a Bank Infrastructure’s Failure

By By Edward A. Suarez, CFE, CPA

A prominent Woodbridge, N.J., attorney, who served as the town’s municipal counselor, had been missing for more than 24 hours. Stephen J. Domenichetti had vanished on July 7, 1994, just hours before he was scheduled to surrender to police on charges of defrauding a local savings bank of $8.4 million in a mortgage loan scheme. When he failed to turn himself in that afternoon as promised, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

The next day, traffic was streaming by the Cheesequake Rest Area on the Garden State Parkway. It seemed like everyone was trying to get an early start to the Jersey shore for the weekend. At about 3:45 p.m., a motorist called police after spotting a middle-aged man slumped over inside a late model Mercedes parked in the rest area’s commuter lot. The man turned out to be Domenichetti, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. With this act he put an end to an incredible four-year scheme, which apparently provided a very comfortable lifestyle and fed his gambling addiction. (He was known to be a frequent visitor and high roller at the casinos in nearby Atlantic City.)

He left two suicide notes in his car, one addressed to his wife and the other to the prosecutor. The note to the prosecutor indicated that he’d find a tape and other letters in Domenichetti’s office. On the tape, Domenichetti said he was sorry, and that he had tremendous regret for what he’d done. He blamed both external forces and himself, but clarified that he’d acted alone. The investigation that commenced “after the fact” confirmed that statement, for no evidence of a co-conspirator was ever uncovered.

The Lawyer and his Target 

Domenichetti was a partner in a small, local law firm, Domenichetti & Hook. The firm specialized in all phases of real estate, banking, commercial, and government law. He was remembered as a hard worker who was active in community and professional organizations. He was on the board of directors of the Perth Amboy and Old Bridge regional hospitals from 1983 to 1990, a member of the Perth Amboy Kiwanis for 12 years, president of the board of a camp for underprivileged children, and chairman of the board of trustees for the Elks Lodge in East Brunswick.

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