Swiss national scammed by Boca cousin unhappy with American justice

12:27 p.m Friday, March 2, 2018 Local
Albert Rosen, 79, stands with his attorney after his sentencing in Palm Beach County Circuit Court for swindling nearly $1 million from his Swiss cousin for phony real estate deals, Tuesday, February 20, 2018. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

On Valentine’s Day seven years ago, affection brimmed the words of an email that Boca Raton real estate broker Albert Rosen sent to a new-found cousin, a Swiss psychiatrist who’d just spent a week with Rosen in Florida and happily accepted Rosen’s help in investing an inheritance from his Holocaust-survivor father.

“Amongst other things, you rekindled the importance of family that I at times seem to set aside,” Rosen wrote to Dr. Roy Gil. “I regret not having allotted more time to show you the Florida lifestyle, this will be done when you bring your family to visit your (our) new home.”

This memory, plus two subsequent heartfelt family gatherings in Florida and Switzerland, throbbed like a dull pain in Gil’s head on Feb. 20 as he stood just a few feet away from Rosen in a Palm Beach County courtroom as Rosen awaited sentencing. As Rosen, 78, sat between his two attorneys — men whose retainers Gil presumes were paid with his money — Gil asked a judge to send Rosen to prison for three years for systematically stealing Gil’s family fortune through a series of sketchy real estate transactions.

By Gil’s count, Rosen swindled him out of nearly half a million dollars, plus nearly the same amount in lost profits from properties Rosen said he purchased on Gil’s behalf but never did.

Despite Gil’s pleas to Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley, he left the courthouse convinced that Rosen will never spend a day in jail. Rosen’s sentence —a year in jail, which he may be allowed to serve on house arrest, plus an additional two years of probation — became for Gil the final insult in his confusing, often frustrating journey navigating the American justice system, which in the end he says offered no justice at all.

“This was disgusting,” Gil said last week. “I remember, before this happened, I would look at the American justice system and say ‘wow, when people commit crimes over here they put them in jail for a time.’ But that’s not what happened here. What happened here is a joke.”

The joke, Gil said, came not just in prosecutors’ initial refusal to pursue charges in the case, but the fact that investigators only tied Rosen to the theft of about $175,000. Gil says transactions between the two clearly show his cousin stole more than $432,000.

And after paying American civil and criminal attorneys alike a total of nearly $20,000 to help him navigate the U.S. legal system, there is little chance that he will ever recover his father’s inheritance from the man he said took advantage of their family ties to perpetrate a deep betrayal that even today continues to be a source of tension among their relatives. At the heart of it all, Gil says, he feels foolish and ashamed to have entrusted to Rosen the money that his father had intended to secure his grandchildren’s college educations.

Gil’s father, Zvi Gil, left Poland at age 19 as Nazi troops invaded the country. He fled to Russia and returned about 1941 to try to find his family members, whom he later learned had been killed. When he tried to return to Russia, Gil said, Mongolian soldiers suspected he was a spy and took him into custody.

He spent time in a Soviet forced-labor camp in Siberia before he was freed in 1942. He eventually settled in Israel and made a fortune in real estate.

After his father’s death, a chance meeting with Rosen’s father at a bar mitzvah in Israel laid the groundwork for his eventual connection with Rosen. At some point afterward, he told an aunt that he was looking to invest his inheritance in property in Miami.

“My aunt, she told me, ‘Why are you going to hire someone you don’t know when you have someone who is family to help you?’” Gil said.

That started an email exchange with Rosen, who told Gil he was the owner of Realty 3000, a Boca Raton real estate agency with 120 employees.

The deal was cemented with Gil’s early 2011 trip to Florida, where he decided to buy a $515,000 furnished home in Boynton Beach for him and his family. After that transaction proved successful, Gil decided he would work with Rosen on plans to buy 10 to 15 condos as investment properties. Emails showed Rosen scouted a number of properties, urging Gil to quickly wire money to an escrow account established in the name of a corporation Rosen created on Gil’s behalf, called Gilsprings LLC.

In total, Gil said, he wired Rosen enough money for the purchase of 10 properties. Gil said Rosen never purchased six of those properties, and bought, sold and pocketed the money from a seventh. Rosen, Gil later determined, also drained an account that held rent payments from tenants. And when Rosen eventually sold Gil’s Boynton Beach home, he also kept the extra $50,000 the new buyer gave him for the furniture.

In February 2014, Rosen admitted he drained the escrow account.

“Funds were in account and was not used appropriately. Roy, you will be repaid every dollar. I’m asking you to give me a chance,” Rosen said in one of several emails he sent to Gil on Feb. 20, 2014. “I spent money digging out of debt. Five years of real estate that did not exist. For the past several months, I have been searching for ways to get funds back to you.”

Gil said Rosen repaid him $43,500, money Rosen said he loaned from his son. Rosen’s attorneys, Jason Weiss and Jack Goldberger, called the payment restitution. Gil disagrees.

“This was not a restitution. This was a manipulation,” Gil said. “He gave it to me to say, ‘Shh. Don’t call the police.’”

Gil said he didn’t want to pursue criminal charges against Rosen initially. He hired a civil attorney, who sent a letter to Rosen. The attorney said Rosen responded by threatening to file for bankruptcy.

Gil said that’s when he decided to file a police report.

Gil said that his initial efforts to get police to file charges were rebuffed, even though he had binders of paperwork with transactions showing Rosen’s theft, along with his emailed admissions. Finally in 2016, Patrick McKamey, by then the third attorney Gil had hired, presented his case to Boca Raton police, who arrested Rosen and charged him with grand theft.

Gil said he finally had a glimmer of hope for justice. But delays in the case came as Rosen had a series of health issues, most recently a colon and rectal cancer diagnosis that forced him to New York for surgery, where doctors removed his colon and part of his small intestine.

Rosen’s wife, Shelly, detailed her husband’s health problems in his sentencing hearing, and chided Gil for continuing his crusade against him.

“It seems that Mr. Gil at this point is only interested in punishment,” Shelly Rosen said. “Have you any compassion? I think not.”

Although Kelley sentenced Rosen on Feb. 20, Rosen will not have to turn himself in until March 20. The time to turn himself will give his attorneys time to see if he qualifies for house arrest, which given his health conditions is likely.

Of concern to Rosen is that Kelley did not make a restitution order a part of Rosen’s probation. The judge said he couldn’t do that, but listed as a requirement of Rosen’s probation that he had to give quarterly financial statements and disclose any source of income that Gil could reclaim.

Assistant State Attorney Mike Rachel said Kelley issued a civil restitution order for the $175,000, according to State Attorney’s office spokesman Mike Edmondson. Had the case gone to trial, Edmondson said, there was a chance that jurors could have acquitted Rosen, so under the circumstances Rachel felt the guilty plea to the three charges was the best possible outcome.

Kelley theoretically could have sentenced Rosen to up to 45 years in prison. The prosecutor asked for 33 months in prison, the minimum recommended under sentencing guidelines. And Rosen was sentenced to a year’s incarceration, either in jail or at home, and two years’ probation.