Lawrence Humphrey, 50, Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced today to five years in state prison for engaging in a fraudulent scheme in which he conspired with a woman to use bad checks to purchase three homes in New Jersey.
Humphrey was indicted in December 2016 along with his co-conspirator, Tara Stokes, 51, Flushing, New York, as the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Stokes pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception and was sentenced on May 18, 2018 to four years in prison by Judge Smith. Humphrey was wanted as a fugitive in this case for two years.
The investigation revealed that Stokes and Humphrey presented checks drawn on a closed bank account to buy three homes in New Jersey. In each case, Stokes used the name “Tara Humphrey.” Two of the properties are located in Gloucester County, Greenwich Township and Monroe Township, and one is located in Winslow Township, Camden County, New Jersey. The closed bank account was in the name of a fictitious law firm, Law Offices of Tara Humphrey. Tara Stokes is not a lawyer.
Stokes and Humphrey wrote multiple bad checks for two of the properties, writing new checks when the first checks bounced. Three bad checks for $240,000 were written for the Monroe property, all from the account of the fictitious law firm. Bad checks for $296,639 and $299,139 were issued for the Greenwich property, with the second check being drawn on a different bank account, which was open but did not have sufficient funds. A bad check for $305,684 drawn on the law firm account was written for the Winslow property. Bad checks for $2,500 and $10,000 were also written from that account to pay deposits on the Greenwich and Winslow homes.
While titles for the three properties changed hands at the closings, in each case the fraud was quickly uncovered, and two of the deeds were not recorded. The state’s investigation began with a referral from a law firm representing the title company that handled the closing for the Monroe Township property.
Humphrey pleaded guilty on April 29, 2019 to a charge of second-degree theft by deception.
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal made the announcement.
“Because of the large sums of money involved, real estate transactions and mortgage loans are a prime target for con artists, who impose major costs on the industry that are passed on to honest consumers,” said Attorney General Grewal. “By sending criminals like Humphrey and Stokes to prison, we deliver a strong deterrent message to others who might consider committing this type of fraud.”
“Financial fraud disrupts commerce and imposes major costs on individuals as well as businesses,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We are committed to fighting fraud by aggressively investigating and prosecuting white collar criminals like Humphrey and his co-conspirator, Stokes. I commend the attorneys, detectives, and staff in our Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau who ensured that both of these defendants received substantial prison sentences.”
Deputy Attorney General William N. Conlow was the lead prosecutor on the case, and Deputy Attorney General Derek Miller handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Detective Richard Loufik was the lead detective for the Division of Criminal Justice.