The dead CEO of Bridgeport’s failed Washington Federal Bank for Savings, John Gembara, was concerned about his safety, Sister Janice Gembara Weston told the FBI


After the collapse of the centuries-old Washington Federal Bank for Savings in Bridgeport and the death of its President and CEO John F. Gembara, his sister told federal agencies investigating the failure of their family-owned bank that he was concerned about its safety, court records Chicago Sun Times Show.

According to Gembara’s sister Janice Gembara Weston, who also served on the bank’s board of directors, his concern stemmed from the dismissal of a director and shareholder named Joseph Mazurkiewicz.

She said in a now-sealed statement that her brother had begun bringing Marek Matczuk, a hulking contractor nicknamed Shrek, to the bank’s annual board of directors meeting, which Mazurkiewicz continued to attend after his dismissal.

“I remember meeting with – Joseph Mazurkiewicz on the matter,” Weston, the bank’s senior vice president, said in a statement. “He was very disillusioned with being kicked off the board. But he would still come to the annual board meeting.

“And for a few years. . . John was always worried, ”she said in the affidavit,“ I don’t know what he thought he was going to do. But he brought Shrek upstairs like his bodyguard standing there. “

Matczuk is a contractor who did odd jobs at the bank and received millions of dollars in loans from Washington Federal that were never repaid according to records.

On December 3, 2017, days before federal authorities shut down the bank on a massive fraud scheme, Gembara was found dead in Matczuk’s multi-million dollar home in Park Ridge, sitting on a chair in the contractor’s bedroom with a rope tied around his neck and a railing Stairway.

The Cook County medical examiner and Park Ridge police declared his death a suicide.

But his widow and others involved in the case have questioned that finding. They said they suspect Gembara may have been killed when federal regulators agreed to close the bank on over $ 90 million in bad loans.

The Park Ridge home of Marek Matczuk, a Washington Federal Bank for Savings customer, where Bank President John F. Gembara was found dead on December 3, 2017.
Kevin Tanaka / Sun Times File

So far, eleven people have been charged as part of the ongoing investigation into the bank’s collapse, including Matczuk (58) and Ald. Patrick Daley, 11th, facing tax debt. Matczuk is charged with embezzling more than $ 6 million.

Matczuk told Park Ridge police he had known Gembara for about 25 years.

Matczuk’s attorney says the contractor was unaware that Gembara viewed him as a security guard.

“He was never hired as a bodyguard,” says Lawrence Hyman, Matczuk’s attorney. “He didn’t tell Marek that. He was always close to the bank and worked. “

According to court records, the bank chief’s sister notified federal regulators in April 2019 that at some point Gembara was named after Mazurkiewicz as one of the five board members who run the bank at 2869 S. Archer Ave.

Despite being ousted from the board of directors, Mazurkiewicz continued to attend shareholders’ meetings because he owned “maybe 500 or 1,000” shares in the bank, Weston testified.

Mazurkiewicz, 62, who lived in Bridgeport, died of congestive heart failure five days after Gembara’s death.

Mazurkiewicz – described in bank documents as an “independent subcontractor in housing construction” – was on the bank’s board of directors in the 1990s when Gembara’s father, Emil Gembara, was chairman. It is unclear how long he was on the board or when he was fired, but it took years for federal regulators to shut down the bank on December 15, 2017.

“We always had to do with the old man,” says Mazurkiewicz’s sister Lynda Marquardt, referring to the late Emil Gembara. “So my brother was invited to the board.

“We connected with Gembara when we took out a loan from the bank,” she says sometime in the early 1980s.

Weston and her attorney Thomas Breen did not respond to messages asking for comments on her testimony.

Weston and the three other surviving Washington federal executive officers – George Kozdemba, a retired employee of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago; William Mahon, an assistant commissioner for the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, and Lester Stepien, auditor for a meat packing factory – all were questioned under oath by federal regulators after the bank collapsed.

The statements they made have also been made available to federal attorneys involved in the criminal case for the bank’s failure, despite an order from U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall to keep them safe from the public.

But four pages of Weston’s testimony were attached to a motion filed on May 24th by Robert M. Kowalski, an attorney and developer charged with bankruptcy fraud and embezzlement of more than $ 8 million at the bank.

Robert M. Kowalski enters the Dirksen Federal Building on March 4th.

Robert M. Kowalski enters the Dirksen Federal Building on March 4th.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times

The motion from Kowalski, a longtime friend of the Gembara family, calls on a judge to order the exhumation of Gembara’s body and says, “The investigation is flawed.”

According to prosecutors, Kowalski violated the judge’s protection order by releasing part of Weston’s testimony along with other unpublished documents. The Sun-Times procured copies of these applications and documents, which have since been sealed, from the public.

Kendall sent Kowalski back to the Metropolitan Correctional Center and revoked his bail for violating the terms of his release.

The judge did not rule on Kowalski’s request to request another forensic examination of Gembara’s body.

When federal regulators flooded Washington Federal, a loan officer named Alicia Mandujano “told Weston on November 28, 2017 that she participated in a fraud program with former President Gembara to create fake credit reports, loan documents, loan payment histories and credit files.” “, It says in a report of the Federal Office of the Auditor, which Kowalski presented to the judge.

The bank’s board of directors suspended Gembara on the same day in 2017 and Mandujano the following day.

Five days after his suspension, Gembara was found dead in Matczuk’s house, which was foreclosed by the US bank to collect more than $ 1.2 million from the unpaid mortgage.

Washington Federal held a third mortgage on the house for $ 662,000.

The US bank’s foreclosure suit has since been dropped, and Matczuk and his family are still living in the house.

Washington Federal Bank for Savings, 2869 S. Archer Ave., before it was closed in December 2017 for

Washington Federal Bank for Savings, 2869 S. Archer Ave., before it was closed in December 2017 for “unsafe or unhealthy practices” days after its President John F. Gembara was found dead on a bank customer in what the authorities called a suicide.
Google Street View

Matczuk told police he received several calls from Gembara on December 1, 2017, saying he was “in ” problems ” with his bank and in need of accommodation” for the weekend.

Matczuk told police that he met Gembara that evening in Wicker Park at a house the contractor was building with a loan from the bank, that Gembara parked his car in the garage, and that Matczuk drove her to his home in Park Ridge Has.

Matczuk said he and his wife gave Gembara her bedroom while they slept in the living room. The next afternoon, Matczuk’s son told police that he drove Gembara to the Home Depot in Niles to buy a green rope that he would use to hang Christmas decorations in his Palos Hills home.

They returned to Matczuk’s house where the family said that Gembara spent the rest of the day in the couple’s bedroom and that they checked on him the next day and found him sitting on a chair with the green rope around his neck and the other End wrapped around the railing of a spiral staircase.

Matczuk “said he didn’t know where the rope came from and that he had never seen it before,” a Park Ridge police report read. “He denied having known of Mr. Gembara’s suicide or complicity in the suicide.”

Matczuk told police that he had an outstanding loan with Gembaras Bank, although the police blackened the amount owed on a copy of the report they published.

Two days after Gembara’s death, the auditor for the director of the Monetary Authority for Special Oversight published a 19-page report stating that Matczuk and his wife owed the bank $ 13.2 million on five loans dated September 15, 2000. The director concluded that $ 11.6 million of the money was a total loss and it was doubtful that the federal government could get the remaining $ 1.6 million back from Matczuk.

Although Gembara’s bank records showed that each of the loans was 27 days past due, regulators found that the Matczuks had not paid four of those loans in at least four years.


The first story in the Sun Times investigation into the failed Bridgeport Washington Federal Bank for Savings, published March 4, 2018.

The first story in the Sun Times investigation into the failed Bridgeport Washington Federal Bank for Savings, published March 4, 2018.

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