Integrator head Navarrete charged with federal bank fraud

Thursday, December 13, 2007

CHICAGO--As an extension of a civil lawsuit filed in the fall of 2006, George Konjuch, the former security director at LaSalle Bank, and the owner of his security integrator, Armando Navarrete, were charged Dec. 5 with federal bank fraud and conspiracy. Federal prosecutors allege Navarrete bribed Konjuch with as much as $400,000 in cash and benefits in exchange for $45 million in contracted security work, the price for which federal officials say was inflated.
If convicted, the two men face up to 30 years in prison.
Ronald Smith, one of Navarrete's lawyers, said his client, who heads Navarrete Industries, parent company to INS Integrated Security Solutions, was rather a victim of extortion, however. "This is not a conspiracy case," Smith argued. "You can't be a conspirator with someone that's extorting you." Smith said Navarrete was doing security work for which he was contracted, something his firm has been doing for more than 35 years, with a UL-listed monitoring center in Wood Dale, Ill., and then Konjuch started asking for small gifts--$200 here, help with paying for a wedding there--with the implication that the continuing contract depended on it. "When do you say 'no' to somebody who says what business you get and what business you don't get?" wondered Smith. "When it got to $40,000 a month, Navarrete wondered, 'How do I get out of this?' at which point all hell breaks loose."
Smith said the crux of the case going forward would be whether the prosecutors could convince a jury that Konjuch and Navarrete conspired ahead of time to defraud the bank. However, the jury will be made to understand that the conspiracy needn't have been an express agreement. "It could be a meeting of the minds," Smith said. "A conspiracy agreement can even be a denial, where they both understand it's an agreement and they both go and do it."
Jury selection had not yet occurred as Security Systems News went to press. Smith could not speculate about how long the case would last, but said Navarrete was not interested in a plea bargain in which he would admit to the conspiracy: "He won't agree to something he didn't do."