Boston Blackies owners accused in fraud scheme

March 12, 2010 5:20:38 AM PST
Three men who own and operate a popular chain of restaurants in Chicago have been charged in what prosecutors call a check-kiting scheme.

The Cook County state's attorney says the owners of Boston Blackies and an employee of the restaurant defrauded at least two banks out of almost $2 million.

Prosecutors say the men would write checks from banks where they have insufficient funds in the account, then depots those checks with another bank, and withdraw the funds before the checks clear.

Chris Giannis, 38, owner of Boston Blackies restaurant, and Andy Bakopoulos, 38, an employee at the restaurant, appeared in court Thursday. Chris' father, Nick Giannis, was not in court but his mother, Sophie, and his new wife were.

"These three individuals were taking checks, depositing checks from bank accounts that had no money in them in to other bank accounts and banks would pay out on those particular checks and then the defendants would put stop payment orders. And the schemes continued with several different banks...Charter One Bank and Washington Mutual are the two banks that are out the most money, a total of approximately $1.8 million," said Anita Alvarez, state's attorney.

According to investigators, the defendants used different methods to carry out the scheme. Both men maintain their innocence.

"What I would like to tell you is they have both denied the charges," said James Knebbs, attorney for Giannis and Bakapoulos. "Chris Giannis is a home grown, 36-year-old guy, just got married last summer, has been working his tail off to keep Boston Blackies open. We're as surprised as anyone by the charges. We deny them and look forward to the day in court."

The judge set bond for Chris Giannis at $500,000 and $250,000 for Bakopoulos and asked that they turn in their passports.

Chris' father, Nick, was arrested attempting to flee the country through Canada and is in custody in Michigan.

"He was apprehended today at the Candadian border," said Alvarez.

Other areas banks that were involved include J.P. Morgan Chase, New Century Bank, Citizens Bank and Trust and Broadway Bank,which is owned by U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias' family. The Giannis family contributed to the Giannoulias campaign.