Rockwell “Rockie” Gajwani, a real estate investor with a reputation for growing his company, pled guilty May 23, to embezzling $1.6 million from Trevi Retail, the Manhattan-based real estate investment company for which he had served as CEO and president.
Gajwani, 53, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and three counts of tax evasion. As part of his plea, he agreed to pay $1,975,068.04 in restitution and $1,612,841 in forfeiture.
Each of the three counts of tax evasion carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Gajwani is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Loretta A. Preska on September 12.
According to the Complaint, the Indictment, and other statements made in open court, from October 2011 through March 2013, when Gajwani was the chief executive officer and president of Trevi, he siphoned off more than $1.6 million from company funds through wire transfers to his personal bank account, writing company checks to himself, and making cash withdrawals from the company’s bank account, according to a press release from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Beginning in late 2012, the director of accounting for Trevi, repeatedly asked Gajwani for details regarding his compensation, which Gajwani did not provide despite saying he would. At one point, he asked the director not to provide financial information to the parent company. Also, to further hide the funds he had taken Gajwani directed employees to lump the compensation of all employees together in accounting materials provided to the Parent Company, so that his compensation would not be listed separately from the aggregate figure.
Gajwani also did not file tax returns or pay taxes for his legitimate salary or what he made from the fraud. After the investigation began, Gajwani submitted tax returns for the three years that contained falsehoods, investigators said.
A resident of Darien, Connecticut, Gajwani came to this country when he was 9 years old, with his parents from India. He was written up in Crains New York in a Sept. 9, 2012 article in glowing terms as a go-getter who grew Trevi Retail in leaps and bounds.
“In less than a year, Trevi Retail has quietly spent nearly $200 million snapping up properties at the rate of two deals a month—19 in all—along prime Manhattan retail corridors,” Crain’s noted.
“Since founding Trevi in October 2011, the former executive with giant Vornado Realty Trust has amassed a tidy collection of properties, all with promising ground-floor retail space,” Crain’s said, indicating that Gajwani’s plans were “assembling a machine that he hopes might someday compete locally with the likes of Vornado—and Barclay’s Center developer Forest City Ratner Cos., where he began his real estate career 15 years ago. Now, as he aims to build a $1 billion empire within two years, he is beginning to eye targets with price tags north of $40 million.”
“I want to do deals,” Gajwani told Crains.