Joseph Atias, 52, Great Neck, New York, and Sofia Atias, 47, Great Neck, New York were convicted of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and Medicaid fraud by a jury in federal court in Central Islip., New York. The fraud was designed to, and did, defraud Bank of America of over half a million dollars. The defendants face penalties of up to 35 years’ imprisonment, the forfeiture of $560,000, and restitution of over $700,000. After the verdicts, Joseph Atias was remanded to custody pending sentencing by United States District Judge Denis R. Hurley.
The defendants were convicted of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with the sale of property adjacent to Sacred Heart Academy for $925,000, after the defendants had sold the property in a short sale for $480,000 to discharge their mortgage debt. In the short sale process, the defendants and a co-conspirator, an attorney who pleaded guilty and testified against the defendants at trial, concealed the offer from Sacred Heart Academy from Bank of America. In the short sale process, the defendants submitted a fraudulent contract of sale and other documents with false statements to Bank of America, and obtained approval of a short sale, wherein the proceeds from the sale of the property were less than the total amount of the mortgages on the property. The defendants submitted these documents to Bank of America, falsely representing that there were no funds to pay the mortgages when, in fact, the defendants knew that Sacred Heart Academy, a high school in Hempstead, New York, had offered to buy the property for an amount sufficient to cover the mortgages on the property. To accomplish the fraudulent short sale scheme, the defendants used a relative as a straw buyer of the property to create the appearance of an arms-length sale. Shortly after that sale, the defendant’s straw buyer sold the property to Sacred Heart Academy for approximately half a million dollars in profit.
Regarding the Medicaid fraud count conviction, the jury found the defendants guilty of theft of government funds in connection with their receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in Medicaid funds from 2009-2015. The defendants concealed their self-employment from Medicaid, as well as their available cash resources, including trust fund monies, an inheritance and the $465,000 in proceeds from the above bank fraud, in order to continue on Medicaid, which paid the defendants approximately $2,500 per month.
The convictions were announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.
“Through a web of lies and false documentation, these defendants stole more than half a million dollars from Bank of America and from Medicaid, which they used to line their own pockets,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “The fine work of the FBI to bring these defendants to account for these crimes sends a clear message to anyone who contemplates engaging in mortgage fraud or Medicaid fraud: Do not even attempt it, because you will be caught and held responsible.” Ms. Rohde extended her grateful appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agency responsible for leading the government’s investigation.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Charles P. Kelly and Burton T. Ryan, Jr. of the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division.