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Court testimony alleges ex-loan officer defrauded Fifth Third Bank

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Paulette Roberts, 56, of Sylvania is accused of falsifying bank documents to secure $12 million in com-mercial loans.

THE BLADE
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A former Monroe real estate developer testified Monday in U.S. District Court that when he and his business partners made a $3.6 million profit on a land deal in Dundee, Mich., he gave his loan officer at Fifth Third Bank a $100,000 “gift.”

Giuseppe Cangialosi spent much of the day on the witness stand in the trial of Paulette Roberts, 56, of Sylvania, who is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, bank bribery, and 41 counts of money laundering. Federal prosecutors allege she falsified bank documents to get about $12 million in commercial loans approved for the Monroe County developers — loans they later defaulted on.

Cangialosi acknowledged that he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in 2012 as part of a plea agreement that required him to testify in Ms. Roberts’ case. He said he was not promised a particular sentence, although federal prosecutors said they would ask that Judge Jeffrey Helmick take into consideration his cooperation and acceptance of responsibility when the judge sentences him.

Though once a builder, developer, and restaurant owner with a net worth in excess of $1 million, Cangialosi said for the last seven months, he has been working at Cantoro Italian Market in suburban Detroit, making pastries.

He said he met Ms. Roberts “around 2004” when he and his business partners were seeking financing for real estate ventures near the Cabela’s Store in Dundee. Ms. Roberts helped them secure loans and at one point, he said, told him she would like to become a partner in his business.

“I said I had a bad experience with partnerships, so I said no,” Cangialosi said, adding that he told Ms. Roberts what he could do was give her $300,000 when the Dundee properties sold.

In February, 2007, his firm closed on a deal to sell to Meijer Inc. for more than $7 million a 52-acre parcel the developers had bought for $3.5 million. Cangialosi said he paid Ms. Roberts $100,000 in four checks made out to Higher Ground Enterprises, a limited liability company she had formed.

Shown invoices from Higher Ground for a “consulting retainer” for “commercial real estate analysis,” Cangialosi testified that Ms. Roberts had never done consulting work for him, but was given the money as a gift.

Cangialosi said after one of his partners failed to pay her $100,000 more as promised, Ms. Roberts called to complain. “She was very upset. ... She said she was going to sue me,” he said.

Asked by defense attorney Catherine Killam whether he believed Ms. Roberts was “somehow manipulating the bank” in his favor, Cangialosi said no.

Ms. Roberts left the bank late in 2006 to take a job as director of credit with Monroe-based La-Z-Boy. She resigned after her indictment in 2012.

Her trial, which is in its second week, is expected to be completed this week.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-213-2134.

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