This article was last modified on April 13, 2017.

The Milwaukee Mafia’s Mortgage Forgery Scam (1961-1976)

Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders sold $2700 worth of siding to a farmer in Hamburg (northwest of Wausau) on August 25, 1961. They told him the work would be used as a model for future jobs. Kenneth Weiss also had the farmer sign a blank mortgage.

Milwaukee police raided Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders (1440 West Vliet Street) and Union Improvements (3074 North Teutonia Avenue) on December 5, 1961 after the state alleged the businesses had been selling hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of fake mortgages. The company would forge the signatures of their customers on to mortgage papers and then sell the papers to banks at a discount. The banks believed they were getting a good deal, while the business made a profit off of their unsuspecting customers. Eight men were arrested, though no formal charges had yet been made. The fraud was first discovered by Lowell H. Kracht of Redgranite, who discovered he had a mortgage he did not ask for after purchasing $2650 in repair work. Kracht alerted his attorney (Russell H. Younglove of Berlin) and an investigation began.

The raid uncovered records showing the mortgages were sold to several banks in Milwaukee, as well as in Green Bay, Marinette and Sheboygan.

(Previous notes, work in: Milwaukee police, on December 5, 1961, arrested several employees of Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders (1440 West Vliet) and seized their records after it was discovered several of their home improvement contracts were supported by forged mortgage notes. The forged mortgages totaled at least $250,000. Vice president August Maniaci, with the help of Vincent Mercurio, bribed District Attorney William J. McCauley $5500 to have the case thrown out. Also found in Maniaci’s company records were the address and phone number of a Milwaukee police captain who had received thousands of dollars in siding work done for free. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Also arrested were Joseph Angeli, salesman; Raymond Hayes, salesman; Alex Sussman, salesman; John Aiello, salesman; Kenneth J. Weiss, salesman. Arrested from Union Improvements Inc were Henry Nechy, vice president, and Robert Riedinger, president.)

An FBI agent spoke with a representative of a Milwaukee bank (names redacted) on January 11, 1962. He said that his bank had been doing business with Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders for 18 months and had purchased 25 loans from then. After the signatures were checked by the Milwaukee Police Department, 12 were deemed to be legitimate, 13 suspicious and 9 of those 13 most likely forged. Since the raid in December, the bank took the extra step of calling the homeowners, and each assured the bank that the work on their homes was satisfactory and they would be paying the loans as indicated in their contracts. The representative said that one of the loans went through the FHA for $3500, and this was largely the bank’s decision. He said that in order to maintain a good rating with the FHA, the bank had to submit a certain number of loans to them each year. As far as the bank was concerned, the FHA paperwork was handled correctly.

On January 25, notaries public Bernard Klein, 40, and Marvin Klein, 47, who happened to be brothers, were fined $500 each and put on two years’ probation for notarizing forged mortgages without the homeowners present. A $2700 mortgage fro John Tesser of Wisconsin Rapids and John J. McDermott of Milwaukee were involved, but neither man was aware that any mortgage had been applied for. Judge Christ Seraphim said the brothers used “very bad judgment”. Attorney Samuel Weitzen said his clients had no prior record, had turned in their notary license, and pointed out it was not uncommon to notarize papers without all signers present. “I admit some do this with minor papers,” said Seraphim, “but I have never heard of a lawyer or notary notarizing papers in a real estate transaction without the signers present.”

A hearing was held on May 1, 1962 before Judge Duffy. The alleged forgers had their cases set for June 25, with even the defense attorneys conceding that 14 state witnesses would testify that signatures of their names were not their handwriting. Charges against one defendant, Alex Sussman, were dropped because his signature appeared on only one document.

A homeowner in Franklin, Wisconsin was interviewed on May 17, 1962. He said he spoke with John Aiello in February 1961 about having a bedroom added to his home and was given an estimate of $3625. Aiello was chosen because a friend at Ladish and Company recommended him. Aiello dictated a contract while another man wrote it out, and it was signed by the man and his wife. When work began in March, he signed three more papers, which he believed were credit background forms, but he did not actually read them. In May he began receiving notices of non-payment from the Marine National Exchange Bank, despite the work not yet being completed. He told Aiello, who said it was a mistake and he would contact the bank. The work was not completed until December because the workers made a series of mistakes, including an uneven floor, curved wall and a split in a flooring support. The owner said he spoke to Kenneth Weiss a few times by phone, but never met him in person. Agents spoke to the owner’s wife and she gave a similar story, though she did point out that one paper with her signature was dated April 4, which would be impossible because she was out of town for Easter.

Aiello and Weiss were in court on July 9, 1962. Probable cause was found and they were bound over for trial in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

On August 2, the US Attorney informed the FBI that federal charges would not be forthcoming, as they only found evidence of one FHA loan and that case had already been taken up by Milwaukee Circuit Court.

Union Improvements went into involuntary receivership in August 1962. They left behind assets of $96,000 and debts of $158,000. But this was not the end for Henry Nechy.

On June 28, 1963, attorneys for the nine defendants moved for dismissal, citing lack of evidence in the preliminary hearing. Judge Herbert J. Steffes denied the motion.

On August 19, prosecutor Hugh R. O’Connell asked Judge Steffes to dismiss charges of passing forged mortgages for nine defendants. Steffes agreed and the case against Maniaci, Weiss, Hayes, Angeli and Aiello was dropped. The judge said, “One of the chief difficulties is that there is no identity of the forger possible scientifically… these are tracings.”

On August 20, the banks involved declared that homeowners would still be held responsible for the mortgages in their names unless the documents were declared forgeries by the courts. Roughly 60 home owners were in such a predicament. Ray G. Tiegs, president of Wisconsin Marine Bank, said his bank had 25 or 30 of the loans. “All are being paid except one, and that is in the process of foreclosure,” he said. Three or four had already been paid in full. Norman C. Hansen, assistant cashier for Marine National Exchange Bank, said his bank only had one loan and it was already paid.

Attorney Max Goldsmith declared publicly on August 21 that he would demand the police return any seized records and would also demand the IRS and Attorney General return any documents the police had given them.

Assistant Attorney General LeRoy L. Dalton was upset and blasted O’Connell in a letter on August 30. “It is my personal feeling that these cases should be prosecuted and that you have evidence which is sufficient for a jury to find guilt,” he wrote. “But even if I was not absolutely convinced the the jury would find the defendants guilty on the evidence available, I think that the evidence is so adequate as to present the district attorney with a duty to prosecute even though there is some chance that the jury might not convict.”

FBI agents visited a man formerly associated with Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders at the United States Penitentiary, Marion on September 6, 1963. He recalled that on one occasion, after returning to Milwaukee from Wisconsin Dells, he signed some papers as a witness because he was asked to, despite the signers not being present. He did not recall who asked him, but believed it was a woman. His memory was vague, but he recalled Kenneth Weiss running the show and having one man on staff simply because his credit was good and knew the tellers at the Bank of Commerce well. That man would cash checks written to WSaB at the Bank of Commerce and then deposit the cash in the company’s savings account at the West Side Bank. The checks would not get deposited directly, because WSaB had a poor reputation and the checks would not clear right away.

On December 16, FBI agents spoke with John Joseph Aiello. They showed him a variety of sales contracts, most of which he had no clear recollection of. One he recalled because the home owner “squawked” about the quality of the home’s foundation, windows and plastering, so more work was done out of pocket to keep that customer happy. Although he had no memory of specific contracts, he assured the agents that he never forged anyone’s name or assisted anyone else in forging any name.

Agents tried to contact Raymond Chester Hayes on December 23, 1963 and January 10, 1964 at his apartment building at 1024 East Ogden Avenue. The landlord informed the agents that Hayes and his mother (Edna) were gone to Las Vegas and California but would be back in mid-January.

A detective from the Milwaukee Police Department spoke with the FBI on January 14, and said during the department’s investigation, they uncovered as many as 60 or 70 different situations where mortgages were obtained by fraud or forgery. He said it was primarily a local and not federal matter, though, as he only recalled one of them involving an FHA loan. The detective said those involved seem to have scattered, with Kenneth Weiss going to Texas and Raymond Hayes heading out west.

FBI agents spoke with Raymond Hayes on January 22, 1964. Hayes said he had worked for Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders loading and unloading trucks, as well as miscellaneous duties. His employment was roughly from January through December 1961, when the business was forcibly closed by a police raid. He had been hired by Kenneth Weiss, and said that John Aiello was a salesman but also worked as a general manager. On occasion, he would get papers from Weiss and drive Weiss’ car to get the papers notarized. He claimed to know absolutely nothing about forging or tracing any names.

The next day, agents spoke with Kenneth Weiss. He said he had recently been in Houston from May through December, working as a salesman for Community Builders and Suppliers. Although his birth name was Wasniewski, he changed it about fifteen years ago for business reasons. He said he started Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders around September 1960, but went under in December 1961 following a police raid on December 7. He was shown a contract for $3625 that had been changed to $3500, and Weiss explained this was probably because $3500 was the cap for FHA improvement loans. He said as secretary-treasurer he signed the vast majority of the paperwork and did not recall each one in detail. He flatly denied any tracing or forging of names occurred.

On January 29, the FBI was advised that Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders had attempted to run a “fake contest” to promote their siding business. Brochures were sent to people through the mail, but none of the prizes mentioned were ever going to be given out. The source believed several of these brochures were still on site at 1440 West Vliet Street.

The FBI met with the current owners of 1440 West Vliet on February 18, and after searching the storeroom basement and other areas, were unable to find the brochures in question.

On March 20, the FBI was advised that warrants had been prepared for the principal officers of Wisconsin Suppliers and Builders, with violations occurring in as many as 40 counties in the state.

On March 24, the warrants were handed down on 15 men with mortgage fraud totaling $300,000. August Maniaci and Joseph Angeli had seven counts against them totaling $20,573. Richard J. Haas had one count stemming from a mortgage for $5962 from July 30, 1961. John Aiello had four counts against him totaling $14,679. Raymond Hayes had two counts at $9208. All of these cases stemmed from Monroe County. Isadore Bogrob (cousin of the murdered Isadore Pogrob) was charged with false representation during a sale in Wyocena (Columbia County) on September 19, 1961. Still being sought by police were: Kenneth Weiss, John Lane, Ted Stone, John Forman, Pat Mills, Julius Novitske and Leonard Saltzberg.

The next day, a source told the FBI that the warrants issued so far covered about four or five counties, and there could be as many as fifteen other counties with warrants. This was an intentional strategy to “bleed” the defendants, making it hard for them to keep posting bond while at the same time ruining their credit to keep them from further business ventures.

On April 6, preliminary hearings for Weiss, Maniaci, Aiello, Hayes, Lane, Angeli and Haas were set in Monroe County for July 1.

On August 13, 1964, John Lane, 41, was fined $100 and Richard J. Haas, 44, was fined $200 for their involvement in what newspapers called a “mortgage fraud ring”. Five other Milwaukee men were bound over for trial in Monroe County by Judge James W. Rice: August J. Maniaci, Joseph A. Angeli, Raymond Hayes, John Joseph Aiello and Kenneth Joseph Weiss. The men were accused of copying the signatures from six farmers from siding contracts to unauthorized mortgages. During the preliminary hearing, handwriting expert Orville Livingston identified the signatures as forgeries.

On December 30, 1964, Weiss paid $200, Maniaci and Aiello $100 each and Angeli $25 after pleading guilty in Marathon County to charges of using unfair methods of competition and business practices. District Attorney Patrick L. Crooks presented the Hamburg “model home” situation as evidence. Similar charges had Weiss paying $100 in Sauk County later the same day.

In March 1965, Henry Nechy opened another home improvement business, Nationwide Development. He was co-owner along with Stuart B. Goldman of Wauwatosa.

John Aiello and Kenneth Weiss were arrested June 21, 1965 on federal tax charges. Aiello was found at home and Weiss was in Toledo. Both were released on recognizance bonds. Weiss allegedly failed to pay taxes on $48,000 and Aiello allegedly owed $10,000.

John Aiello and Weiss pleaded not guilty on August 9, 1965 to the tax evasion charges against them. Aiello’s trial was set for mid-October by Judge Kenneth Grubb. Weiss’ trial date was not set.

Weiss was sentenced to 60 days in jail and two years probation by Judge John Reynolds for his tax evasion on July 20, 1966. He was only convicted of one charge, with the remaining being dropped on the condition he would file his old returns and pay his back taxes.

Deja Vu: The Further Cases of Henry Nechy

Henry Nechy started American Building Supply in October 1969, and named himself manager. He was 49% owner, with Harry J. Nassan of Franklin Park as 51% owner. Nassan also owned US Aluminum and Chemicals, the primary supplier to Nechy’s home improvement businesses. Nassan, in turn, had been involved in home improvement for decades and had tried to bribe an official with $1000 in 1954. He also was arrested for mail fraud four times in the 1930s and 40s, serving time in federal prison. Kenneth Weiss went to work for American Building Supply, but left the business in September 1971, around the same time the firm was shut down by a Sheboygan County judge.

Nechy’s Nationwide Development was sued by a creditor in December 1969, trying to force the business into receivership. The firm was found to have only $2,891 in assets and $157,000 in debts. The receiver was attorney Paul L. Moskowitz, who had to sue Mortgage Associates in order to try and get some of the money. Mortgage Associates had bought $60,000 worth of questionable mortgages from Nationwide, and Moskowitz was able to get a mere $3000 from Mortgage Associates.

Nechy started a new firm, Universal Builders, in August 1971. He also opened Countrywide Builders in 1972. Universal Builders, Inc incorporated on August 25, 1971 in Milwaukee County. Their address was given as 3242 West Anton Avenue, Milwaukee. (I will have to consult WDFI to see who the company agents were. Also, there is no Anton Avenue in Milwaukee.)

The FBI went to Universal Builders (4385 North Green Bay Avenue) on January 21, 1972 in search of Kenneth “Weiss” Wasniewski, who they believed was operating an illegal gambling business. The agents were informed that Wasniewski had recently quit and was now selling siding from his home.

Kenneth “Weiss” Wasniewski appeared at the Milwaukee office of the FBI on January 27, 1972. Wasniewski flatly denied being involved in gambling, claiming he had not gambled in the past ten years. He further claimed any gamblers he knew had either stopped gambling or had passed away. Even when he had gambled, it was only on a friendly basis over some baseball games. On a personal note, Wasniewski acknowledged he had formerly worked for Henry Necchi (or Nechy) of American Building Supply and Universal Builders, but left that business in September 1971. He now lived at 6081 South 116th Street, Hales Corners.

Universal Builders became Incorporated in Louisiana on March 13, 1972 in Jefferson Parish. Steve DiSalvo was included on the board of directors, was secretary-treasurer and was a stockholder. He gave his address as 3700 Causeway Boulevard, Metairie, Louisiana.

On September 13, 1972, FBI agents found three boxes outside of 4385 North Green Bay Avenue, Milwaukee, the new home of Universal Builders. The agents confiscated the boxes, which contained a variety of financial information, including canceled checks from July through December 1968 totaling $439,390, for the Nationwide Development Corporation, 2411 West Capitol Drive.

Nick Gentile was arrested on November 3, 1972 for being drunk. He identified himself as a salesman for Universal Industries.

Steve DiSalvo traveled from New Orleans to Miami to meet up with Frank Balistrieri on January 18, 1973. Balistrieri and another man (Henry Nechy?) had flown in on Eastern Flight 207 that departed Mitchell Field at 11:20am. They flew coach. While in Florida, they associated with hoodlums known to the Miami FBI office, including Santo Trafficante. They stayed at the Americana Hotel in rooms registered under the name of Henry Nechy, Revere Aluminum Company, Franklin Park, Illinois. Coincidentally, the Executive Board of Teamsters were meeting in Hollywood, Florida at the same time.

Frank Balistrieri and right-hand man Steve DiSalvo were subpoenaed to testify at a grand jury hearing in Miami, Florida in January 1973. Testifying with them was Henry Nechy, president of Universal Builders. DiSalvo was also employed by Nechy at this time. Their testimony remains unknown, so what they said and what topics were covered is unclear.

In late February and early March 1973, Richard J. Milcarek was in Louisiana and gave the rental car company his contact information as Universal Builders in Metairie.

Steve DiSalvo flew to Louisiana on March 5, 1973 and informed the people there that Universal Builders was shutting down. On March 9, DiSalvo and another man departed Louisiana in a green Cadillac with a trailer hauling personal possessions and the company’s financial records. The office of Universal Builders was left “filthy” and the man left $329 unpaid at the Imperial House Motor Hotel in Metairie. DiSalvo told his associates in Milwaukee that the siding business in Louisiana did not work out due to bad weather.

Special Agents stopped by Universal Builders in Milwaukee to talk with Steve DiSalvo on November 5, 1973. DiSalvo asked them if they had a warrant or subpoena and they said no. DiSalvo told the men he did not wish to discuss anything and told them not to contact him again without a warrant or subpoena.

On June 18, 1974, a special agent called Universal Builders and asked for Steve DiSalvo. The secretary said he was no longer employed there.

The State Justice Department on September 23, 1974 asked Dane County Circuit Court to dissolve Henry Nechy’s Universal Builders (4235 West Fond du Lac Avenue) and Countrywide Builders (4380 North Green Bay Avenue) because they failed to file annual reports with the secretary of state.

On October 7, three salesmen for Universal Builders were arrested and charged with illegally obtaining mortgages: Albert Marz, Sherman Marcus and Joseph Solochek. Judge Frederick P. Kessler released the men on their own recognizance. Violations were alleged in Oneida, Langlade, Marathon, Clark and Lincoln counties. The Milwaukee Journal spoke with Gerald Bissonette, a farmer near Antigo. “It was a hurry-up deal,” he said. “They insisted on financing. I wanted to do it with the credit union. They didn’t say there would be a mortgage. I found out when I renewed my farm loan. I wouldn’t have bought the siding if I had known about the mortgage.” Most of the fraudulent mortgages Universal Builders obtained were sold to Mortgage Associates in Milwaukee.

Henry Nechy, 44, surrendered to the Washington County Sheriff’s Department on May 5, 1975 and was released on $2000 bond. He was charged with two felony counts of obtaining fraudulent mortgages dating back to his days as president of Universal Builders. He also had nine consumer credit violations against him. Nechy, who now operated a siding business in Chattanooga, told the media he was innocent. “I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said. “I flew up here to prove my innocence.” When asked about his connections to mob boss Frank Balistrieri, Nechy said, “There is no connection. There never has been and there never will be. I know Balistrieri only from seeing him in Milwaukee taverns and buying hi ma few drinks occasionally.”

On November 4, Nechy was ordered to pay $5000 to the state following a civil suit in Manitowoc County for violating trade practices. He was also ordered to never again be involved with a home improvement firm, either as an officer or as an employee.

On November 27, Nechy’s criminal case was set for February 23, 1976. He was accused of stealing a $3700 check in reference to work done on a home in Mineral Point. (A check for the case in February newspapers has so far turned up negative.)

And the Further Tales…

On September 9, 1977, the state issued a $8,500 fine against Homestyle Builders and Supply, along with its officers, following a judgment in Manitowoc County. Specifically named were president Joseph Solochek and vice president Morton Reuben. Homestyle had been in business since June 1974.

On June 5, 1978, Morton Reuben was fined $2000 for unfair business practices. Salesmen Donald Roland and Max Fishman were fined $1750 each. Interestingly, this time the charges were for helping home owners. The business targeted Hispanic customers and offered them high estimates for improvements so they could get larger loans than were necessary. Court cases were still pending against Joseph Solochek, Harry Gorbitz and Harry W. Wohlfeil.

Isadore Bogrob, at 83 years old, was arrested as recently as 2011 in Chattanooga for soliciting a prostitute. Although little is known about him, his living in Chattanooga suggests he followed Nechy’s business in the 1970s.

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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