Business & Tech

Where is the man with money to fix up the Beachcomber?

A page from USA Today from 2001, showing an article about the man who has called himself Eugene Grathwohl.

USA Today

A page from USA Today from 2001, showing an article about the man who has called himself Eugene Grathwohl.

A Quincy real estate broker who raised at least $1.3 million from investors failed to show up at a property deal closing last week, raising concern that he’s taken off with their money.

Eugene Grathwohl worked out of a Century 21 office in Quincy, the manager told the Globe on Tuesday. Grathwohl failed to appear last week to wrap up an agreement to buy the former Beachcomber bar across from Wollaston Beach, a group of his clients said, sparking a frenzied online effort to find him.

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In a search of Internet records and news stories, and by piecing together tidbits the real estate broker had told them of his family and past, the group believes Grathwohl is the same man who allegedly defrauded people for millions of dollars in Orlando and in New York City as far back as the 1990s.

Quincy police are looking for Grathwohl, according to people contacted by law enforcement officers, and the state securities regulator issued a subpoena seeking to talk to him.

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A gregarious man who grew close to his clients, Grathwohl would join them for holiday dinners and drinking outings, according to three people who did business with him. He ultimately persuaded them to invest large sums with him, developing waterfront properties in Quincy and putting together bids for the Beachcomber and an adjacent property. It’s the money for those two deals that investors are worried is missing.

“He’s absolutely brilliant,’’ said Benjamin Porter, an engineer who said he gave Grathwohl $50,000 for a real estate investment. “Smart and charismatic.”

Now Porter and others are stunned that they may have been taken in by the man. “I have a normal job, I have kids. That’s a huge chunk of money for me,’’ Porter said.

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The investors believe Grathwohl, 67, has also gone by the name Allen L. Hengst, as a stockbroker in Florida who allegedly defrauded clients of more than $6 million, according to regulatory records.

Before that, Hengst used the name Scott J. M. Wolas, as a lawyer in New York, according to regulatory filings and news reports. Wolas was investigated in 1996 by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Manhattan district attorney’s office for his alleged involvement in a $20 million fraud. He disappeared before authorities could find him and has been a fugitive since being indicted for fraud and larceny.

The law firm where Wolas had worked at the time, Hunton & Williams, reportedly settled a lawsuit with 20 investors for $6 million in the matter, in 1998. Scott J. Wolas was disbarred in New York in 1999, after his firm received client complaints about allegedly fraudulent investments he had lured them into.

As part of their research, investors in the Quincy project said they contacted a family member in Florida and a former law colleague, and compared recent photos of Grathwohl to one of Wolas in a 2001 USA Today story.

There are no listed phone numbers for Grathwohl in the Boston area. His girlfriend, Lorraine Croft, said she was cooperating with police. She said he had two other aliases in the decade-and-a-half they were together, but that she, too, was fooled by him.

“I knew this man for 15 years,’’ Croft said. “He treated me like a queen because I was a cover story, and I took it hook, line, and sinker.”

She also confirmed he is the same person as the one pictured in the USA Today story.

In the Quincy area, Grathwohl allegedly has raised money from lawyers, a doctor, and other investors who found him fascinating and came to trust him.

Arthur Foley, manager of the Century 21 office in Quincy, said Grathwohl earned his real estate license in 2009 and quickly became a top broker. Over time, he developed a couple condominiums, Foley said, and wooed investors to his projects.

“He was supposed to come back last Wednesday’’ from a purported trip out of town, Foley said.

“The next day, Thursday last week, I went to the Quincy police,” he said.

A spokesman for the department did not return a call seeking comment. Secretary of State William F. Galvin said the Securities Division issued a subpoena for Grathwohl on Tuesday and was working with the Norfolk district attorney’s office to investigate the case.

Grathwohl is listed as a director of Beachcomber Sands Inc., a company he formed with Croft in April 2015, according to public records filed with the secretary of state’s office.

The Globe reported in August 2015 on the sale of the Beachcomber, a once-popular bar and music establishment. Grathwohl had been slated to buy the property from the McGettrick family.

His investors said he had delayed the purchase for months, and that their funds could be lost because he effectively broke the contract with the sellers.

Sean McGettrick, a member of the selling family, did not respond to a phone message.

Beth Healy can be reached at beth.healy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @HealyBeth.
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