Club fire fraud brings prison term

Akiva Daniel Abraham has been sentenced to serve up to a dozen years in prison for defrauding his in

Akiva Daniel Abraham has been sentenced to serve up to a dozen years in prison for defrauding his insurance company after an intentionally set fire consumed a dilapidated Colonie night club he owned.

Abraham, who was found guilty of a felony count of fraud but acquitted on the charges of arson and reckless endangerment, was handed a prison term of 4 to 12 years at his sentencing on Friday in Albany County Court. His sentence is stayed, however, until the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court can rule on his appeal.

Defense attorney Bryan Rounds immediately appealed the conviction, and the appellate court ruled Friday that Abraham could remain free on bail until his appeal is decided.

Abraham, 45, had been in jail since his conviction but was released on $50,000 bail following his sentencing.

Attempts to contact Rounds were unsuccessful Friday.

Prosecutor Chris Baynes was pleased with the sentence, considering the maximum amount of jail time Abraham faced was 15 years. He said the sentence adequately reflects the serious nature of the conviction.

“The court took his actions and the consequences very seriously,” he said.

Baynes also wasn’t troubled by Abraham’s release pending appeal. He said he feels confident the conviction will be upheld by the higher court.

“We’re very confident in our appellate arguments,” he said. “I think we’ll be fine.”

In August, a jury determined Abraham had tried to defraud his insurance company by having Saratoga Winners torched. Evidence in the case included video footage of Abraham purchasing four gallons of tiki torch fuel and several boxes of fire logs from the Home Depot in Clifton Park three days before flames consumed the popular Colonie nightclub in April 2009.

Investigators also found wrappers from the fire logs and empty containers of the fuel in the shed at Abraham’s Rexford home. But prosecutors weren’t able to prove unequivocally that Abraham had set the fire, which ripped through the century-old building off Route 9.

Abraham quickly filed a property loss notice with his insurance company after the fire, even though he hadn’t paid anything for the empty nightclub. He had acquired the property from property speculators Stephen and Nickole Sutliff after the couple sank deep into debt while rehabilitating the building.

According to the allegations, Abraham created a bogus mortgage through a company that he owned and then took out a $475,000 insurance policy based on the alleged loan for the property. Roughly two weeks after securing the policy, the night club went up in flames.

Jurors were deadlocked on the case during Abraham’s first trial in December 2009, despite deliberating for more than 30 hours. The jury during the second trial took about nine hours to reach a conviction on the fraud charge.

Abraham was a practicing gynecologist and obstetrician in Clifton Park until he permanently lost his license to practice medicine in 2005. The state Board of Professional Conduct found him guilty of 37 charges of negligence, gross negligence and fraud in the practice of medicine.

During the board’s review, they determined he had sex with a patient several times, including in his office, at her apartment and at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany. The board also reported that Abraham once induced labor in one of his patients to accommodate his vacation plans.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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