Scott Wolas, a former real estate broker who allegedly used a false identity to defraud friends and business partners in the Quincy area of $1.7 million, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to multiple theft-related charges.
Wolas was known in Massachusetts as Eugene J. Grathwolh, and prosecutors said he fleeced some 20 people of money that he claimed would be used to buy the Beachcomber bar on Quincy Shore Drive and a neighboring residential property.
From 2014 to 2016, he allegedly promised investors 125 percent of the profits from the Quincy Shore home, but instead used their money on personal expenses and penalty fees on the sale of Beachcomber bar.
Investors became worried as Wolas kept delaying the deal, and then he disappeared altogether in September 2016, claiming he was heading on a business trip to raise more funds. He was arrested six months later in Delray Beach, Fla., and has been in federal custody since.
Wolas, 69, could face a lengthy prison sentence, but in court documents prosecutors said they would recommend he receive a term at the “low end” of federal sentencing guidelines. Sentencing has been set for Oct. 2, and Wolas also faces hefty fines.
Even before the Quincy deal, prosecutors said Wolas had a long history of using aliases to steal money and evade capture. In court Friday prosecutors said Wolas stole documents of a friend of his former wife, Eugene J. Grathwolh, including his birth certificate, military papers, and Social Security number, to create a new identity in Massachusetts.
In federal court in Boston Friday, Wolas said little as he pleaded guilty to seven counts of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, misuse of Social Security number, and tax evasion.
Under the plea deal, he is also required to pay back $69,768 for taking out Social Security benefits in Grathwolh’s name, and another $318,266 in taxes. He must also pay back his investors more than $1.7 million.
His former boss at Century 21, Arthur Foley, said the guilty plea will “hopefully bring things to an end.”
“It’s in everyone’s best interest,” Foley said.
Benjamin Porter, one of Wolas’s former friends in Quincy who lost money in the scheme, said he and others plan to either testify at Wolas’s sentencing, or write letters urging the judge to mete out a “harsh” punishment.
“It’s hard to make heads or tails of his plea bargain,” Porter said. “Many of us are concerned he is going to get a slap on the wrist because it’s a money crime. We want to tell the judge how much he has negatively impacted the people he’s touched.”
Alex Gailey can be reached at email@example.com.