He was not quite James “Whitey” Bulger, but federal prosecutors in Boston announced Friday the arrest in Florida of Scott Wolas, a disbarred lawyer accused of perpetrating a $1.5 million real estate investment fraud in Massachusetts.
Wolas, booted from Hunton & Williams’ partnership in 1995, had reportedly used numerous aliases to remain on the run for nearly two decades. His most recent legal troubles stem from the proposed sale and demolition last year of the Beachcomber, a bar in Quincy, Massachusetts, to make way for a new high-end restaurant and development in the Boston suburb’s Wollaston Beach neighborhood.
Prosecutors claim that Wolas, using the alias Eugene Grathwohl, duped at least 19 friends and co-workers into giving him $1.5 million to buy the Beachcomber and an adjacent lot. The Boston Globe, which has a detailed account of the charges against Wolas and his tortured legal history, notes that he hid his true identity while working as a broker in Quincy for Century 21 Real Estate LLC. The Beachcomber deal was set to close on Sept. 15, 2016, but Grathwohl—one of the aliases used by Wolas in Quincy—had already skipped town a week earlier.
The busted Beachcomber sale was not the first time that Wolas, 67, ran out on his alleged victims. The New York Times reported in January 1996 on a $100 million fraudulent liquor-exporting scheme allegedly spawned by Wolas, who at the time had recently left his role as a litigation partner at Hunton & Williams. Wolas, who had family ties to the liquor business, fled New York ahead of criminal charges being filed against him by the New York County District Attorney’s Office in 1997.
Records on file with the New York State court system show that Wolas was disbarred in 1999. That same year, Hunton & Williams settled a claim brought by a former associate accusing the firm of firing him for pressing an inquiry into Wolas’ allegedly fraudulent billing practices. Hunton & Williams also paid at least $6 million to settle investor suits stemming from Wolas’ role in the Ponzi-type liquor fraud.
A spokeswoman for Hunton & Williams did not immediately return a request for comment about Wolas, who federal prosecutors arrested Friday in Delray Beach, Florida. Wolas had an initial appearance that same day in a federal court in nearby West Palm Beach. He is expected to be transferred in the near future to law enforcement custody in Massachusetts, where Wolas will face wire fraud and identity theft charges.
Wolas is no stranger to the Sunshine State. He is thought to have also used the alias Allen Hengst, the name of a former Florida stockbroker who disappeared in 2001 from Orlando after peddling a phantom investment scheme. Securities brokerage records show that a man using Hengst’s name was registered in 1997 before being permanently barred from the industry in 2002 after an investment dispute. The district attorney’s office in New York unsealed another indictment of Wolas, but by that time he had already likely relocated to Massachusetts, according to a report last year by The Globe.
Other aliases used by Wolas over the years include Frank Amolsch, Endicott Asquith, Drew Prescott and Cameron Sturge, according to federal prosecutors. If convicted, Wolas faces up to 20 years in prison and more than $500,000 in fines.