Former broker Koger sentenced to 11 years

Robert Koger, the former owner of real estate brokerage firm Molinaro-Koger, Tysons Corner, Virginia, was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Virginia court for a series of multi-million dollar fraud schemes.

According to court records, the charges arose from three separate schemes executed by Koger, which resulted in losses exceeding US$55 million. The first scheme involved Koger’s illegal flipping of hotels and promissory notes securing hotels in which Host Hotels and Resorts, Bethesda, Maryland, and others were victims. In the second fraud, Koger executed a Ponzi scheme to steal and launder funds received from prospective buyers of hotels that were to be held in escrow while Koger negotiated with the hotel’s owners regarding the terms of the sale. In the third scheme, Koger defrauded a Tampa, Florida-based physician and businessman in connection with the latter’s ownership of a hotel in Pittsburgh.

In the first scheme, after Koger was hired by Host as a broker to sell two of its hotels, Koger located legitimate buyers for the properties at a fair market price. Rather than selling the hotels directly to the legitimate buyers, however, Koger recruited straw buyers controlled by him to whom he arranged the sale of the hotels by Host for considerably less than the legitimate buyers had agreed. The straw buyers then immediately turned around and sold the hotels to the legitimate buyers at the higher price previously arranged by Koger. Koger pocketed the difference between the legitimate purchase price and the straw buyer’s price, plus the commissions that Host paid Koger for arranging the “front end” sales with the straw buyers. In a similar manner, Koger defrauded Host by having a straw buyer purchase promissory notes securing European hotel properties in which Host was interested. The straw buyer then resold the notes to Host for considerably more than it paid for them. In total, Koger defrauded Host of over US$22 million.

In the second fraud scheme, Koger received deposits from prospective buyers of hotels that were to be held in escrow while Koger negotiated with the hotel’s owners regarding the terms of the sale. Contrary to his representations to the prospective buyers, Koger was not actually holding their funds in escrow. Instead, he used their funds to pay for personal and business expenses, including to repay prospective buyers whose funds previously were purportedly held in escrow by Koger.

Finally, Koger defrauded “K.P.,” a Tampa-based investor who owned the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Pittsburgh. A management firm that held a promissory note secured by the hotel decided to sell the note, and K.P. submitted an offer to buy the note for less than its face value. In what is described in court records as a “walk-away fraud,” Koger used an alias (“Rick Thompson”) to contact K.P. about his bid for the hotel’s promissory note. As part of this process, Koger (acting as “Rick Thompson”) falsely claimed to K.P. that “Thompson” had submitted a higher bid for the note than K.P.’s bid, but “Thompson” then offered to withdraw his bid if K.P. paid “Thompson” US$2.5 million to walk away from his purportedly higher bid. After K.P. paid off “Thompson,” Koger used a different alias, “John Stern,” to contact K.P. again about the property. In what is described in court records as a “break-up fraud,” “Stern” falsely offered to buy the hotel from K.P., but then threatened to sue K.P. over an alleged breach of contract related to the sale, unless K.P. agreed to pay “Stern” US$15 million.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael E. Rich and Chad I. Golder prosecuted the case.

Host is also involved in a related and ongoing civil case against the law firm Fox Rothschild in the Circuit Court of Maryland for Montgomery County. Host’s lawsuit alleges that two Fox partners worked in concert with Koger and Molinaro-Koger to perpetrate a scheme against Host that involved three sham transactions – the same three transactions for which Koger admitted guilt in his plea deal with the U.S. government. On May 20 the Circuit Court denied in full a motion to dismiss filed by Fox, allowing Host’s lawsuit to proceed to the discovery phase.