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Banking Department Joins Manhattan D.A. in Announcing Convictions against C.L.B. Check Cashing, Inc.

April 26 , 2007

Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, joined by New York State Banking Department Superintendent Richard H. Neiman, announced today the conviction by guilty pleas of three individuals and five companies for their roles in corruption-related charges involving former New York State Banking Department officials and C.L.B. Check Cashing, Inc., one of the largest check cashing companies in New York State.

The defendants, C.L.B. CHECK CASHING, INC. executives LOUIS RENZO and WILLIAM DeRESPINO (a former NYSBD bank examiner), and related corporations owned by Renzo, pleaded guilty this afternoon to one count of Rewarding Official Misconduct in the Second Degree, a Class E felony. Former New York State Banking Department bank examiner JAMES GASS pleaded guilty to one count of Receiving Reward for Official Misconduct in the Second Degree, also a Class E felony. As a result of the pleas, C.L.B. CHECK CASHING, INC. and owner and president LOUIS RENZO will surrender to the New York State Banking Department thirty branch licenses and eight limited station licenses to be a casher of checks in New York State. Louis Renzo, WILLIAM DeRESPINO, and JAMES GASS will be subject to a lifetime ban from involvement, either direct or indirect, in the financial services industry. Together, the defendants will pay a total monetary penalty of $4.3 million. Specifically, at the time of the pleas, Louis Renzo, WILLIAM DeRESPINO, and JAMES GASS paid a sum of over $1.9 million dollars in connection with a Stipulation of Settlement of the related asset forfeiture proceedings and C.L.B. Check Cashing, Inc. and LOUIS RENZO will pay a civil fine of over $2.3 million dollars to the New York State Banking Department prior to their sentencing, the largest fine ever levied against a check casher. If RENZO, DeRESPINO and GASS all fully comply with the aforementioned conditions of their pleas, they will each be sentenced to a term of five years probation.

As a bank examiner in the Licensed Financial Services Division, JAMES GASS was responsible for overseeing and monitoring the compliance of many check cashers, including C.L.B. Check Cashing, Inc. The investigation leading to the pleas revealed that the defendants engaged in a corrupt relationship pursuant to which JAMES GASS received benefits including cash and employment from LOUIS RENZO and WILLIAM DeRESPINO in exchange for providing confidential NYSBD information to the check cashers in violation of his duties as a bank examiner. The defendants concealed this corrupt relationship from the NYSBD thereby creating a serious conflict of interest between the check cashers and a NYSBD bank examiner who was responsible for regulating them. For his corrupt assistance, JAMES GASS received more than $30,000, at least $15,000 of which was cashed at the C.L.B. Check Cashing, Inc. headquarters. Upon his retirement at the end of March 2003, GASS went to work for C.L.B. CHECK CASHING, INC. as the “compliance officer” at a salary of $85,000 per year.

The independence of bank examiners is critical to the integrity of the New York State Banking Department and its regulatory mandate to ensure the safety and soundness of its licensees for the good of the public. In the context of the check cashing industry, this mandate is even more vital because of the ever present potential for check cashing services to be used for criminal purposes, such as money laundering and the funding of criminal enterprises. As such, New York State Banking Department regulations as well as the New York Public Officers Law specifically prohibit even the appearance of conflicts of interest between bank examiners and the entities they regulate. The defendants’ corrupt arrangement violated the core of these ethics codes and compromised the public’s trust in government.

This prosecution arose out of an ongoing investigation into the check cashing industry and underscores the District Attorney’s commitment to rooting out corruption in the financial services industries, and upholding the integrity of the government agencies that serve to regulate those industries.

Defendant Information

LOUIS RENZO
DOB: 5/7/1957
Address: 828 Channel Road
Woodmere, NY 11598

JAMES GASS
DOB: 11/14/1941
Address: 7 Arthur Avenue
Chester, NY 10918

WILLIAM DeRESPINO
DOB: 8/21/1962
Address: 427 Rose Lane
Rockville Centre, NY 11570

C.L.B. Check Cashing, Inc.
Address: 222-06 South Conduit Avenue
Springfield Gardens, NY 11413

C.L.B. Management Corporation
Address: 222-06 South Conduit Avenue
Springfield Gardens, NY 11413

C.L.B. #3 Corporation
Address: 222-06 South Conduit Avenue
Springfield Gardens, NY 11413

CLB #6, Inc.
Address: 1865 Bruckner Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10472

Gas Check Corporation II
Address: 75-83 Classon Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Order Against C.L.B. Check Cashing, Inc.