Five Charged With Conspiring to Defraud Investors and Mortgage Lenders of More Than $500,000 Through Fraudulent Real Estate Investments

For Immediate Release: February 5, 2021

Office of The Attorney General
– Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
– Veronica Allende, Director

For Further Information:

Media Inquiries-
Peter Aseltine
Citizen Inquiries-

TRENTON –Attorney Gurbir S. Grewal announced that five people have been charged with first-degree conspiracy for allegedly conspiring to defraud two investors and two mortgage lenders of more than $500,000 through fraudulent real estate investments and then launder the proceeds through bank accounts controlled by three of the defendants.

The Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau charged the following five defendants by complaint-summons with the listed offenses:

 George Bussanich Sr., 62, of Park Ridge, N.J.

  • 1st Degree Conspiracy
  • 1st Degree Money Laundering
  • 2nd Degree Theft by Deception

 Melanie Whitney, 42, of Mahwah, N.J. (Bussanich’s daughter)

  • 1st Degree Conspiracy
  • 1st Degree Money Laundering
  • 2nd Degree Theft by Deception (2 counts)
  • 4th Degree Falsifying or Tampering with Records

 George Bussanich Jr., 41, of Saddle River, N.J. (Bussanich’s son)

  • 1st Degree Conspiracy
  • 1st Degree Money Laundering

 Joseph Whitney, 42, of Mahwah, N.J. (Melanie Whitney’s husband)

  • 1st Degree Conspiracy

Bruce Evanter, 73, of Mahwah, N.J.

  • 1st Degree Conspiracy
  • 1st Degree Money Laundering

Melanie Whitney, Joseph Whitney, and Evanter were charged on Friday, Jan. 29, and George Bussanich Sr. and George Bussanich Jr. were charged this week.

It is alleged that by overstating her professional real estate experience, Melanie Whitney convinced two men to enter into business partnerships with her, deceiving each into investing more than $75,000 in fraudulent real estate deals. Instead of investing the funds supplied by the two men, she allegedly stole the funds, directing them into bank accounts controlled by George Bussanich Sr., George Bussanich Jr., and Evanter, who withdrew the funds for personal expenses. Melanie Whitney also allegedly falsified mortgage applications to defraud two mortgage lenders, SNCO Capital Group and Planet Home Lending, out of funds they loaned her for real estate investments. Those funds allegedly were also diverted and laundered through accounts controlled by her father, brother and Evanter. Each of the other four defendants allegedly conspired with Melanie Whitney in the fraudulent schemes and money laundering, which involved over half a million dollars in funds.

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Amy Sieminski is prosecuting the defendants under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Cynthia Vazquez, Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis, and DCJ Deputy Director Annmarie Taggart. The lead detective on the case for the DCJ Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau is Detective John Cicchino, under the supervision of Lt. Patrick Sole, Deputy Chief of Detectives Brian Bruton, and Chief of Detectives Weldon Powell.

In a parallel action, on Jan. 30, 2021, the New Jersey Bureau of Securities denied Joseph Whitney’s applications for registration with the Bureau as an agent and investment adviser representative of a broker dealer, citing conduct related to the criminal charges. The denial prevents him from working in the securities industry in New Jersey.

First-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000.  The money laundering charge carries a mandatory minimum term of parole ineligibility of one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed. It also carries a fine of up to $500,000, and an additional anti-money laundering profiteering penalty of up to $500,000 or three times the value of any property involved. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Defense Attorneys

For Evanter: Howard Brownstein, Esq., of Union City, N.J.

For other defendants: Undetermined.



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