OCEAN CITY — One half of an Ocean City couple arrested in February on a nine-count federal indictment after an eight-year pattern of utilizing credit accounts of deceased relatives to purchase vacations, luxury goods and services and furnishings for their two resort homes totaling thousands of dollars pleaded guilty this week to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and now faces as much as 30 years in jail and a $1 million fine.
U.S. District Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein yesterday announced Joel Swartz pleaded guilty late Wednesday to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with an eight-year scheme using credit accounts of deceased relatives. Swartz, and his wife Esther, now deceased, were arrested in February for the fraud scheme that dates back to July 2000.
According to the terms of the plea agreement, from July 2000 to December 2008, Swartz and his wife used credit accounts of his deceased parents to obtain unauthorized extensions of credit from banks and other financial institutions. Swartz failed to inform the financial institutions victimized by the scheme that his parents had died and accessed their credit accounts by cashing convenience checks and using credit cards to purchase goods and services for their own use including luxury items, vacations and expensive furnishings for the resort homes.
Eventually, Joel Swartz defaulted on all of the accounts with losses assessed at over $75,000. In one example listed in the indictment, in February 2004, the couple used a Fleet Bank credit card issued to a deceased relative to pay over $2,600 for accommodations in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. In another example, they used a Bank of America credit card to pay roughly $3,600 for services at a day spa in Ocean City for over a year from March 2004 to June 2005.
The fraudulent activities weren’t limited to luxury services or vacations. In another example, from May to August 2006, the couple allegedly used a fraudulent Bank of America credit card to pay $13,273 for flooring and installation at their two Ocean City residences. In another example, in May 2007, Joel Swartz deposited a convenience check from Bank of America made out to cash in the amount of $4,000 after forging the signature of a deceased parent.
Joel Swartz had been a licensed pharmacist in Maryland since 1968 and, for years, was the pharmacist at the Rite Aid in the Gold Coast Mall, although it is uncertain where he was practicing at the time of his arrest in February. His sentencing hearing has been set for Oct. 16.