Kwesi Bovell, 36, of Valley Stream pleaded guilty in federal court on Sept. 10 to one count of wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison. Bovell was the former CFO of the Mulholland Group, a Manhasset-based real estate management company that arranged the financing and operating of affordable housing throughout the country. He embezzled $3.5 million from the company and was arrested on Sept. 6, 2018.
“They found out because they started to notice irregularities on the American Express card when he was making what appeared to be personal charges and they went back and looked,” John Martin, an attorney representing the Mulholland Group, said. “They hadn’t been monitoring his use of the card that closely and noticed that over the past year he had made thousands of dollars of personal charges on the American Express card. They said this is outrageous, unacceptable. They were preparing to fire him. Before they fired him, they wanted to go into the bank accounts and take his name off of all the bank accounts. And then, they noticed a lot of activity on the account, where for that project, had been closed. When they looked further and noticed that’s where the money was going out, he was wiring money from a bunch of their other accounts into that project’s account and then wiring it out to his account.”
Bovell was taking money from an Austin, TX-based affordable housing project’s account owned by the Mulholland Group, named “NAHC”, and wiring to an account he operated called Southgate Holding, LLC. Bovell began his scheme to defraud in January 2016, less than one year after being hired in January 2016 according to an affidavit by Lauretta Kennedy, the wife of former owner Royce Mulholland, who passed away suddenly on March 3, 2017.
In April 2018, the Mulholland Group auditors requested a copy of a bank statement for one of the group’s bank accounts from Bovell. Bovell sent an email to the auditors containing a fraudulently-altered bank statement, showing $170,091, when the actual amount was negative $59.90.
In August 2018, the auditors made another request of a different account to Bovell. He sent an email that showed $510,000 in the account when the actual amount was just $51,000.
“Before they even discovered this, they couldn’t figure out why they were losing money,” Martin said. “They just knew they were losing money on some of these properties and they couldn’t afford to keep losing money. It turns out the reason they were losing money was because he was stealing it.”
The Mulholland Group has downsized since the embezzlement put them in a financial crisis, decreasing their business more than 50 percent. They were once headquartered at 535 Plandome Rd., but have since moved operations to Douglaston, Queens.
Bovell was being paid $130,000 per year by the Mulholland Group and Martin said that Bovell lied on his resume something that they came in lieu of in court proceedings. Martin recalls the judge asking Bovell if he has any higher education degree. Bovell stated at one point he was getting his associates degree, but never completed it.
Bovell’s resume says he went to undergraduate school at Brooklyn College and got a degree in business administration. It also says he got his MBA from Pace University.
Tishman Speyer Properties, a company listed on Bovell’s resume said he did in fact work there as a controller from Aug. 8, 2005 to Sept. 29, 2006. However, Bovell says on his resume that he worked there from August 2003 to October 2006. The company also says they do not have a reason on file as to why he departed, which they say is rare.
According to court documents, FBI says that Bovell never attended Pace University and that most of his prior employment on his resume is false. Bovell’s attorney, Joseph Kilada, could not be reached for comment.
“They had a lot of trust in him, misplaced obviously, but it never occurred to them that he was stealing,” Martin said.
The Mulholland Group also brought a suit against Bovell in the Nassau County Supreme Court, trying to recoup the money that was stolen. Bovell opened two laundromats in the Bronx and Rockville Centre called Big Apple Wash and a fitness center in Happauge called Evolution Fitness. Evolution Fitness closed in December 2018.
“Bovell abused his authority as a CFO, using the company like an ATM machine to fund a lavish lifestyle,” United States attorney Richard P. Donoghue said.
“We’re very appreciative of the efforts of the government,” Martin said. “We think they’ve worked really hard. They’ve pursued the right outcome in this case. They haven’t dragged their feet. They’ve taken it very seriously. We’re very pleased with that.”