Martina Duran (a.k.a. Gladys Arroyo), 57, Briarwood, Queens, New York, Roger Arias, 36, Ridgewood, Queens, New York, Aldo Bussi, 41, Levittown, Long Island, New York, Ramon Gaston, 29, New York, and Percy Randall, 54, Westbury, Long Island, New York, have been charged in a 327-count indictment in connection with an approximately $2 million mortgage fraud scheme in which stolen identities were allegedly used to buy and sell three properties in Queens, New York. Club Kalua’s named owner, Roger Arias, and his mother and actual club owner, Martina Duran, allegedly orchestrated the three transactions and pocketed the majority of the fraudulent proceeds from the closings, which the other three defendants helped facilitate. Four of the defendants are in custody and the fifth is presently being sought.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said that the investigation began after one of the owners of a property located at 120-18 132nd Street in South Ozone Park, New York began receiving mail indicating that the mortgage had been paid off and the home was now in the name of another individual, who also had come to the District Attorney’s office complaining that he, too, had been the victim of identity theft.
An investigation revealed that the property was allegedly sold during a closing on July 13, 2006, that began in an attorney’s office in Westbury, New York but concluded that evening in a restaurant parking lot in Deer Park, Long Island. It is alleged that three unidentified individuals showed up at the closing with fake identification and pretended to be the two actual homeowners (one of whom had died three months earlier) and the buyer. The house was sold for $500,000, of which $340,948 was due the two homeowners, less their existing mortgage. However, it is alleged that $250,0000 of that amount went to Duran, who organized and was present at the closing, and her co-conspirators.
The investigation further revealed that a mother and daughter had been in contract with the defendant and real estate broker, Roger Arias, about purchasing a house. Although the women provided Arias with their personal identification information, they ultimately decided to return to the Dominican Republic without buying a house. However, at a closing held on December 15, 2006, the owner of a property located at 56-10 Waldron Street in Corona, New York allegedly sold his home for $701,000 to a woman who purported to be the older Dominican woman. It is alleged that Arias allegedly stole the woman’s identity and had an unidentified individual use it to purchase the Corona, New York property, of which Duran and her co conspirators allegedly received approximately $50,000 from the sale of the property.
Finally, according to the investigation, a third property located at 116-36 139th Street, Jamaica, New York was purchased, allegedly with the assistance of Duran, using an imposter buyer who had stolen the identity of an elderly woman living in Puerto Rico. A closing for the property was allegedly held on April 20, 2007, at which time the true owner of the home sold it for $550,000 ostensibly to the elderly woman. In fact, the woman was the victim of identity theft and has never traveled to the United States. Duran and her co-conspirators allegedly received approximately $50,000 from the sale of the property.
District Attorney Brown said, “Mortgage frauds such as those allegedly perpetrated by these defendants were among the root causes of the severe economic downturn of the last few years. In this particular case one of the frauds was so brazen that it allegedly involved the sale of a house by two people posing as sellers – one of whom was dead – to a third person posing as a buyer – with the defendants pocketing an astounding $250,000. These types of financial crimes have real-life consequences and will not be tolerated.“
The defendants are expected to be arraigned before Queens Supreme Court Justice James P. Griffin. They are variously charged with second-degree grand larceny, first-degree identity theft, second-degree forgery, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, first-degree falsifying business records and fourth-degree criminal facilitation. If convicted, the defendants face prison terms of up to 15 years.
The investigation was conducted by Detective Carolyn Shabunia, of the New York City Police Department’s Financial Crimes Task Force, under the supervision of Sergeant Kevin Farrell and the command of Deputy Inspector Gregory T. Antonsen, of the Financial Crimes Task Force, and the overall supervision of Deputy Chief Jeremiah Quinlan, Commander of the Special Investigations Division, and Chief Phil T. Pulaski, of the Detectives Bureau. Also assisting in the investigation was Assistant District Attorney Gregory C. Pavlides, Chief of the District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau, Assistant District Attorney Carey B. Alpert and Financial Analyst Larry Schwartz.
Assistant District Attorneys Pavlides and Alpert are prosecuting the case under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney Peter Crusco and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney Linda Cantoni of the Investigations Division.
It should be noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.