A 57-year-old Tarzana man who admitted using a defunct company to acquire millions of dollars in credit with no intention of ever repaying the debts has been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison.
Valery Vasserman was sentenced Monday afternoon by United States District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper. In addition to the prison term, Judge Cooper ordered Vasserman to pay just over $4.9 million in restitution.
Vasserman pleaded guilty in October 2003 to 10 felony counts, including conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud.
In January 1998, Vasserman acquired a Chatsworth company called Casta, Inc. from his daughter-in-law. After the acquisition, Vasserman became president of Casta, but the company did not operate for about one and a half years.
In 1999, Vasserman and co-conspirators began operating Casta and immediately sought credit from credit card companies, banks and retail stores such as Tiffany’s and Neiman-Marcus. On some credit applications, Vasserman overstated his annual income by nearly four times. On other credit applications Vasserman and his co-conspirators stated that Casta had been operational since 1995. Once they obtained credit, Vasserman and others accumulated large balances that they had no intention of paying.
In total, the “bust-out” scheme led to losses of approximately $11 million. Vasserman was directly responsible for approximately $4.9 million of the losses. Once the “bust-out” was complete, Vasserman filed bankruptcy for himself and for Casta in order to avoid paying all of the outstanding debts.
Previously in this case, Vasserman’s wife and two others pleaded guilty to related federal charges.
Klara Vasserman, 56, also of Tarzana, pleaded guilty in July 2003 to participating in the scheme, admitting specifically that she and her husband spent more than $350,000 of the fraud proceeds at retail outlets such as Tiffany’s, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman-Marcus, Ben Bridge Jewelers and DeJaun Jewelers. The Vassermans purchased luxury items such as watches, diamonds and designer clothing. Klara Vasserman, who is scheduled to be sentenced on April 26, 2004, faces a maximum possible sentence of 45 years in federal prison.
Vic Khodarkovsky, 37, of Sherman Oaks, and Joanna Cassidy, 39 of Santa Clarita, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for participating in the Casta bust-out, as well as three other bust-out scheme. In addition to Casta, Khodarkovsky and Cassidy participated in the takeover of Interocean in Sun Valley, Western Distributors in Santa Fe Springs, and A to Z Trading in Commerce. Each of these “bust-out” businesses declared bankruptcy once the defendants had successfully used the companies’ lines of credit to obtain millions of dollars in merchandise. These two defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in March 2004.
The victims of the “bust-out” scheme range from small businesses to large department stores to national banks. The more than 650 individual and business victims are located throughout the United States and Canada.
The investigation into these businesses was handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which received assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.