Archives For New York

Vision Property Management, LLC; the company’s CEO, Alex Szkaradek; and a number of other companies affiliated with Vision have been charged today for operating an illegal, deceptive, and unlicensed mortgage lending business in New York since at least 2011. By offering disguised, predatory subprime home loans and illegal finance-lease hybrid agreements, Vision and the other defendants took part in fraudulent activities that repeatedly targeted and took advantage of financially vulnerable New Yorkers.

The complaint alleges that Vision specializes in buying severely distressed properties and then markets those properties — at a substantial markup to consumers — without making any necessary repairs or renovations, and without fully disclosing to consumers the many conditions that exist and repairs that must be made for safe habitation. Vision targets low-income consumers eager to share in the “American dream” of homeownership, claiming that its “unique” business model provides this path to homeownership. But, in reality, Vision’s illegal business model has generated significant profits by skirting consumer protections and financial regulations and trapping vulnerable consumers with high cost mortgages for uninhabitable homes.

Vision’s deceptive tactics have left many of its consumers in dilapidated homes with unhealthy and hazardous conditions, while simultaneously requiring them to pay subprime, or high-cost, interest rates — in the range of 10% to 25% — on top of paying for extensive repairs and renovations just to make their homes habitable.

Vision has engaged in approximately 150 such transactions in New York since 2011 without possessing the legally required licenses to engage in mortgage lending. Furthermore, Vision entered into contracts with financially strained consumers that illegally required them to shoulder the burden of ensuring their properties were habitable. Often, consumers were deceived and trapped into paying for the treatment and repair of dangerous and unhealthy conditions in their new homes, including infestations, faulty electrical wiring, missing heaters and septic systems, mold, and asbestos, as well as severely damaged and rotted out, floors, walls, and roofs.

Vision has violated laws applicable to both mortgage lending and the leasing of residential properties, as well as numerous state and federal consumer protection laws.

Attorney General Letitia James and New York Superintendent of Financial Services Linda A. Lacewell made the announcement.

For nearly a decade, Vision put profits above people — fraudulently targeting, preying upon, and exploiting aspiring homeowners, including people with disabilities, the elderly, and those living on fixed income,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “These deceptive and abusive practices have trapped New Yorkers in mold-infested, dilapidated homes, and wrongfully placed the onus on consumers to pay the price. This behavior is unacceptable, which is why my office is aggressively prosecuting Vision and will do the same against any company or individual that tries to defraud New Yorkers.”

As alleged in the complaint, Vision swindled vulnerable New Yorkers who wanted nothing more than the American dream of homeownership but instead got distressed properties with unsafe, squalid conditions and high-interest, predatory loans,” said Superintendent Linda A. Lacewell. “We took this action to protect New York consumers by putting an end to these illegal, predatory and unconscionable business practices and holding Vision and its CEO accountable under New York State law and applicable federal laws. I am proud of the exemplary work of the DFS colleagues who investigated Vision’s activities for over two years, analyzed thousands of documents, and who worked to protect New Yorkers and bring this company to justice.”

In the suit — being filed in the Southern District of New York — Attorney General James and Superintendent Lacewell are seeking to end Vision’s ongoing illegal activity in New York, secure restitution and damages for all consumers injured by these practices, and obtain statutory penalties.

The matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Noah Popp of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Jane M. Azia, Chief of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, and Chief Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Meghan Faux. The Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo.

Additional attorneys at the Department of Financial Services involved with this litigation include Peter C. Dean of the Real Estate Finance Division and Cynthia M. Reed, Supervising Attorney in the Consumer Protection and Financial Enforcement Division.

An action has been taken against Ditech Holding Corporation (Ditech) in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, opposing the mortgage servicer’s attempted end-run around statutory protections for homeowners.

Ditech currently has more than 880 active foreclosure actions pending across New York State. Homeowners organized the Consumer Creditors Committee to ensure that the courts do not permit the company to sweep their rights under the rug. Homeowners are demanding that their claims and defenses, which include significant money damages, not be extinguished in Bankruptcy Court.

Attorney General Letitia James made the announcement.

In addition to filing this motion, the Office of the New York State Attorney General currently has an open investigation into Reverse Mortgage Solutions (RMS), a reverse mortgage servicer that is owned by Ditech.

Bankruptcy Court should never be used as a tool to unjustly oust New Yorkers from their homes,” said Attorney General Letitia James. Ditech’s action is an illegal attempt to strip hundreds of homeowners of their legitimate claims and eviscerate New York’s carefully-created foreclosure process. Housing is a right, and we will continue to use every legal tool at our disposal to stand up for homeowners and to protect their rights.”

In addition to filing this motion, the Office of the New York State Attorney General currently has an open investigation into Reverse Mortgage Solutions (RMS), a reverse mortgage servicer that is owned by Ditech.

This past March, Attorney General James took a similar action when a building owner in Manhattan attempted to flout rent regulation laws and displace tenants.

Attorney General James — in support of the Consumer Creditors’ Committee — is filing the objection to ensure that vulnerable homeowners, who were victims of predatory lending and mortgage servicing abuses, including seniors with reverse mortgages, can assert their rights under the protections of New York’s robust judicial foreclosure process.

The objection is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Elena González, Elizabeth M. Lynch, and Sarah Trombley of the Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia, as well as Enid Nagler Stuart, Special Bankruptcy Counsel for the Litigation Bureau. The Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo, and the Litigation Bureau is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney for State Counsel Orelia Merchant.

 

Mark Savransky, 59, Dix Hills, New York, was sentenced on Thursday to three to six years in prison for scamming 32 homeowners out of more than $600,000 in a mortgage modification scheme

According to documents, the defendant operated a mortgage modification business in Nassau County, New York, using the name Mark Savran. Between 2008 and 2014, he promised 32 homeowners in Nassau County and elsewhere that, after securing modifications, he would hold their mortgage payments in trust and forward them to the financial institutions servicing the homeowners’ mortgages.

Instead, the defendant converted the funds for personal use, stealing approximately $601,546.92 from these homeowners. Savransky used the funds for ATM cash withdrawals, credit card payments, child support, car payments, gasoline, travel expenses, restaurants, grocery stores, department stores and Netflix.

Savransky’s clients were typically residential homeowners who had purchased their homes using a subprime adjustable rate mortgage sometime between 2006 and 2009. When the payments became more than the homeowner could afford, homeowners hired the defendant to assist in obtaining a mortgage modification.

Savransky requested that all paperwork from the bank be given to him and if additional paperwork was sent by the bank to the victim, he demanded that it be given to him immediately, preferably unopened.

The defendant then counseled clients to give him the monthly mortgage payment that was due under the modified mortgage. Savransky informed his clients that he would make the payments on their behalf and, in doing so, create a record of payment that would prevent a lender from denying that payments were made or from reneging on any mortgage modification that was obtained. At the defendant’s request, these payments were mostly made in cash or by check that did not include the payee. Savransky later completed the payee portion of the check, thereby giving him the means to misappropriate the funds.

Because the mortgage payments weren’t made, lenders started to foreclose on the properties belonging to the defendant’s clients. When some of the homeowners complained to him, some of them received a limited amount of repayment.

Savransky pleaded guilty on October 9, 2018 before Supervising Judge Teresa Corrigan to two counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a C felony) and Scheme to Defraud in the Second Degree (an A misdemeanor).

The defendant must also pay $601,546.92 in restitution.

The defendant was arrested in August 2015 by NCDA detective investigators and arraigned on grand jury indictment charges in October 2017.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas made the announcement.

Today’s sentence sends a strong message to those who would prey on vulnerable homeowners during tough financial times in their lives,” DA Singas said. “Victims were close to losing their homes because of this defendant’s scheme and lies. I am grateful to our partners in Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the Suffolk County Police Department and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office for their assistance on this case.”

This case was initially referred to the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office by the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office. Additional cases were also referred by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in conjunction with the Suffolk County Police Department.

Savransky’s victims include residents from Amityville, Baldwin, Bayside, Brentwood, the Bronx, Brooklyn, East Northport, Farmingdale, Hempstead, Hicksville, Huntington, Levittown, Lynbrook, Malverne, Merrick, Mount Vernon, New Hyde Park, Queens Village, Richmond Hill, Riverhead, Uniondale and Westbury, New York.

Deputy Bureau Chief Peter Mancuso of DA Singas’ Financial Crimes Bureau is prosecuting this case. Joseph Conway, Esq. represents the defendant.

Daniel Badu, 56, New City, New York, was convicted today of conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud affecting a financial institution.

Between 2008 and 2009, the defendant conspired with others to defraud The Funding Source (“TFS”), a mortgage bank, and other financial institutions by submitting fraudulent applications for home loans.  After being originated by TFS, the loans were sold to other financial institutions, including M&T Bank and JPMorgan Chase. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Daniel+Badu

The co-conspirators in this case submitted fraudulent applications for loans on eight properties in Bronx, New York. They fraudulently obtained mortgages that were insured by FHA on behalf of unqualified borrowers, such as the defendant. Badu was the purchaser on two of the properties and he aided in the submission of false documentation as part of the loan application, including documents purporting to show income from a fake job. The defendant also backstopped false employment for another loan, pretending that the borrower worked for his ophthalmology company, Eagle Eyes, which in reality was a shell company that performed no business.
The total loan amount for these eight transactions was $4,800,007.

In total, six defendants have pleaded guilty for their roles in this fraud. Attorney Laurence Savedoff, Esq. pleaded guilty to a misprision of a felony and was sentenced to four months in prison. Realtor and appraiser Julio Rodriguez pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud affecting a financial institution, and a conspiracy to do the same, and was sentenced to six months in prison. Sentencing hearings are pending for mortgage broker Gregory Gibbons, and realtors Tina Brown and Alagi Samba.

Badu was sentenced to time served and 10 months home detention.

Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. made the announcement.

The sentencing is the culmination of an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service under the direction of Joseph W. Cronin, Inspector-in-Charge, Boston Division; the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Brad Geary; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert.  Additionally, the New York State Department of Financial Services assisted with the investigation.

Penny Bradley, 54, New York, New York, a real estate developer, was indicted today for residential mortgage fraud in which Bradley forged member signatures to illegally obtain millions of dollars. Bradley is charged with Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree, Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, and two counts of Forgery in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree.

According to the indictment and documents filed in court, from 2014 to 2016, Bradley violated her duties as the managing member of 46 East 82nd Street LLC and stole company funds for personal expenses and unrelated business ventures. Bradley also used company property as collateral to obtain a loan for unrelated real estate investments, and forged member signatures to refinance debt encumbering the townhouse.

In March 2014, 46 East 82nd Street LLC was formed to acquire, renovate, and sell a townhouse located at 46 East 82nd Street. Bradley was the sole member of Norfolk Street Management LLC, the managing member of 46 East 82nd Street LLC. In that capacity, Bradley was solely responsible for managing the renovation and potential sale of the townhouse and safeguarding company money and property, including funds invested by members of 46 East 82nd Street LLC and two loans from Alpine Capital Bank.

Between 2014 to 2016, Bradley stole over $500,000 from 46 East 82nd Street LLC to pay for personal expenses and unrelated business debts. Personal expenditures included rent payments, vacations, monthly payments on her auto loan for her Range Rover, and monthly parking garage fees.

In 2015, Bradley obtained a personal loan from Global Payment Services Limited (“GPS”) to invest in unrelated real estate projects. To procure the loan, Bradley agreed to allow GPS to record a lien against the 46 East 82nd Street townhouse if she failed to pay $2.6 million by its maturity date. Subsequently, Bradley defaulted on the loan and GPS recorded a mortgage against the townhouse.

In 2016, Bradley attempted to refinance the GPS mortgage by encumbering the townhouse with a junior mortgage from Atlas Union Corp (“Atlas”). Atlas and First American Title Insurance Company (“First American”), the title insurance company insuring the loan, required the defendant to obtain a new company operating agreement executed by all the members of the company. In August 2016, Bradley falsely claimed that all the members were contacted and requested to close on the Atlas loan without submitting the new operating agreement; Atlas denied the defendant’s request.

Thereafter, in late August 2016, Atlas agreed to refinance the existing loans from both Alpine and GPS with a loan for $11.5 million to 46 East 82nd Street LLC. However, to obtain this loan, Atlas required the defendant to get written consent of a majority in interest of members of 46 East 82nd Street LLC.

In September 7, 2016, the defendant emailed her attorney the “Consent of Majority in Interest of Members of 46 East 82nd Street LLC” and its six signatures pages for purposes of closing on the Atlas loan. The signature pages included forged signatures of two LLC members. Two days later, on September 9, 2016, the defendant signed the required documents on behalf of 46 East 82nd Street LLC and certified as to the validity of the signatures on the Consent of Majority in Interest of Members of 46 East 82nd Street LLC document to close on the Atlas loan of $11.5 million.

In December 2017, the Atlas loan matured and 46 East 82nd Street LLC defaulted on the loan.

Bradley has been charged with

  • Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree, a class B felony, 1 count
  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 1 count
  • Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts

Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts

The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court, including the indictments, and statements made on the record in court.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. made the announcement.

As alleged, Penny Bradley cashed in on her insider position and stole company funds to support her lavish lifestyle,” said Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance, Jr. “My Office is dedicated to protecting the integrity of our City’s residential mortgage market and holding those who attempt to undermine it criminally responsible.

Assistant D.A. Jaime Hickey-Mendoza is handling the prosecution of this case under the supervision of Assistant D.A.s Judy Salwen, Principal Deputy Chief of the Rackets Bureau; Michael Ohm, Deputy Bureau Chief and Jodie Kane, Chief of the Rackets Bureau, as well as Executive Assistant D.A. Michael Sachs, Chief of the Investigation Division. Supervising Financial Investigator Wei Man Tang assisted with the investigation, under the supervision of Irene Serrapica, Deputy Chief of FAFI, and Robert Demarest, Chief of FAFI. Supervising Rackets Investigator Donato Siciliano, Rackets Investigator Samuel Morales, and paralegals Madeleine Lippey and Maximilian Perkins also assisted with the case.

 

Jacqueline Graham, 53, formerly of Levittown, Pennsylvania was convicted at trial on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, of participating in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud in connection with a fraudulent debt-elimination scheme to defraud homeowners and banks.

According to the Indictment in the case and the evidence presented at trial:

From at least 2011 to at least 2012, Graham partnered with Bruce Lewis, 67, formerly of Alaska and Washington State and John Ruzza in operating the Valhalla, New York-based Terra Foundation (“Terra”) ,which was originally known as the Pillow Foundation, which held itself out as a business that would investigate and eliminate mortgage loans in exchange for fees, soliciting clients who were having difficulties making their mortgage payments.  In fact, however, Terra engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to defraud clients, county clerks’ offices, and banks.

The fraudulent scheme, which was created by Graham and Lewis, involved Terra performing “audits” of clients’ mortgages, sending pseudo-legal paperwork to the banks and/or lenders holding the mortgages, and ultimately filing purported mortgage discharges with the relevant county clerks’ offices, which discharges were signed by Lewis or other co-conspirators, claiming falsely to represent the banks and/or mortgage lenders.  As a result, anyone doing a title search for one of Terra’s clients would see that the client’s mortgage had been satisfied.  The mortgages had not, however, been discharged, and the mortgages were eventually reinstated, after the clients paid their fees.

In order to effectuate the scheme, Graham, Lewis, and Ruzza involved others, including Rocco Cermele, 56, Yonkers, New York , who was Terra’s director of operations and who recruited clients, among other duties; Paula Guadagno, who did real estate title work for, and filed discharges on behalf of, Terra; and Anthony Vigna, 61, Thornwood, New York,  a lawyer and CPA who worked in Terra’s offices.

To profit from their scheme, Graham and her co-conspirators charged various fees to Terra’s clients.

In total, Graham and her co-conspirators filed over 60 fraudulent discharges in Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York, and in Connecticut.  The fraudulent discharges claimed to discharge mortgages with a total loan principal of nearly $38 million.

Graham was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud.  The count carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Lewis pled guilty to one count of wire fraud relating to the Terra scheme, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Vigna pled guilty to one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud relating to the Terra scheme, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Cermele pled guilty to one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit mail, wire, and bank fraud, and one count of wire fraud, each relating to the Terra scheme, each of which carries a maximum potential sentence of 30 years in prison, and three additional counts of wire fraud relating to other crimes, each of which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.

Graham was found guilty of the one count she faced after a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Román.

The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants would be determined by the court.

All defendants are awaiting sentencing.

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, made the announcement.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Jacqueline Graham preyed on vulnerable homeowners who could not afford their mortgage payments during a time of crisis in the housing market.  Because of her greed, these homeowners ended up financially worse off than when they found her.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who victimize the vulnerable.”

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Mr. Berman also thanked the Office of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for their assistance in the case.

This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys David Felton, Michael Maimin, and James McMahon are in charge of the prosecutions.

John F. Iacono (also known under the alias Vito Yodice), 46, and Shpresa Gjekovic (also known under the aliases Hope Gjekovic, Hope Iacono, Hope Yodice, and Shpresa Hadzovic), 32 , were sentenced today for defrauding banks throughout New York State and laundering those criminal proceeds to further their scheme.

The co defendants were convicted for mortgage fraud, money laundering and scheme to defraud after a joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General and the New York State Police revealed that the couple utilized shell companies, forged cashier’s checks, and provided fake bank statements, W2s, paystubs, and tax returns in order to solicit over $1.3 million in loans from multiple upstate New York banks.

According to the indictment and statements made by the prosecutor in court, between April 2016 and March 2017, Iacono and Gjekovic applied for mortgages, a construction loan, personal lines of credit, personal loans, a commercial loan, a debt consolidation loan, and a Home Equity Line of Credit with fraudulent documentation that overstated their income, assets, and source of funds. The couple also created fake entities, including but not limited to JF Iacono, LLC and Iacono, LLC, and purported to have worked for them for years. In reality, these companies were created just days prior to their submissions of applications for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bank funds.

The investigation also revealed that Iacono and Gjekovic supplied over $125,000 in counterfeit cashier’s checks to financial institutions, law firms, title companies, and the sellers of a Schoharie County, New York property in order to secure financing and establish residency in the area. The couple allegedly intended to turn the Schoharie County property into a swingers club, but instead rented it out as a hunting cabin while pretending to raise money for children in need. Utilizing online postings, including on Facebook and Airbnb, they advertised the rental property.

The defendants also created a false personal financial statement showing net worth in excess of $1.1 million, with cash on hand of $400,000, while their actual account balances were in the negative. The balances on these statements were grossly inflated, as the couple never had more than a few thousand dollars in the accounts – the vast majority of which was from other loans. To support their claims, Iacono and Gjekovic also supplied fake bank statements showing counterfeit assets.

In addition, Iacono and Gjekovic concealed outstanding judgments against them totaling in excess of $1.4 million from the financial institutions from which they tried to secure loans. Moreover, the couple laundered the fraudulently-obtained loan proceeds to fund real estate transactions, utilizing at least five financial institutions during the course of the year-long scheme. In total, the couple stole over $460,000 from three financial institutions, and attempted to steal over $860,000 in additional proceeds from five financial institutions.

In December 2018, both defendants were arrested on a 19-count indictment charging Residential Mortgage Fraud in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Second and Third Degrees, Money Laundering in the Third Degree, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, among other charges.

On March 29, 2019, Iacono and Gjekovic pleaded guilty before Schoharie County Court Judge George R. Bartlett, III to Residential Mortgage Fraud in the Second Degree (a class C felony), Money Laundering in the Third Degree (a class D felony), and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class E felony). Iacono and Gjekovic’s pleas resolve additional alleged crimes of money laundering, grand larceny, forgery, and identity theft for which the defendants could have been charged in Albany, Delaware, Greene, Kings, Otsego, Queens, and Rensselaer Counties.

Attorney General Letitia James and State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett made the announcement.

Iacono and Gjekovic falsified document after document in order to pad their own pockets,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Let this serve as a warning to all of those who try to carry out such deliberate schemes: There is no place in this state for individuals who try to cash in at the expense of hardworking New Yorkers. I thank the State Police for their bringing accountability and justice to this elaborate and deceitful plot.”

This couple knowingly defrauded financial institutions and businesses, and preyed on the public’s philanthropy, all to fill their pockets and satisfy their greed,” said New York State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett. “This sentencing brings justice and should remind those thinking of carrying out these types of schemes, that you will be held accountable. Thank you to the Attorney General’s Office, our State Police Financial Crimes Unit and other law enforcement partners for their hard work in exposing this plot.”

The case is being prosecuted as part of Attorney General James’ Combatting Upstate Financial Frauds and Schemes (“CUFFS”) Initiative, led by Assistant Attorney General Philip V. Apruzzese of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The CUFFS Initiative was created to assist local law enforcement and District Attorney’s Offices in the investigation and prosecution of complex financial crimes and money laundering cases such as this one.

Attorney General James thanks the New York State Police Financial Crimes Unit and State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations, as well as Schoharie County District Attorney Susan J. Mallery for their valuable assistance on this investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Philip V. Apruzzese, with the assistance of Legal Support Analysts Kira M. Russom, Caitlin Carmody and Samantha Wintner and Supervising Analyst Paul Strocko. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Bureau Chief Joseph D’Arrigo. The Criminal Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado.

The OAG investigation was conducted by Investigator Mark J. Terra, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Mark Spencer and Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by First Deputy Chief Investigator John Reidy.

 

Robert Morgan, Frank Giacobbe, Todd Morgan, and Michael Tremiti, have been charged today in a 114-count superseding indictment charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud for their roles in a half billion dollar mortgage fraud scheme.

The defendants each face various additional charges such as wire and bank fraud, and money laundering. Todd Morgan and Robert Morgan are also charged with wire fraud conspiracy to defraud insurance companies. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine in the amount of double the loss caused by the crimes, which is currently estimated to exceed $25,000,000.

During the course of the conspiracy:

  • Robert Morgan was the managing member and chief executive officer of Morgan Management. In addition to his role with Morgan Management, he controlled and managed owned a substantial portfolio of real estate holdings;
    • Frank Giacobbe owned and operated Aurora Capital Advisors, identified himself as the Principal, and employed others to assist him in brokering, and attempting to broker real estate loans;
    • Todd Morgan was employed at Morgan Management, and worked as a Project Manager at the company; and
    • Michael Tremiti was employed at Morgan Management, and worked as Director of Finance for the company.

According to the superseding indictment, between 2007 and June 2017, the defendants conspired with Kevin Morgan, Patrick Ogiony, Scott Cresswell, and others to fraudulently obtain moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities, and other property from financial institutions such as Arbor Commercial Mortgage, LLC and Berkadia Commercial Mortgage, LLC, and government sponsored enterprises, including Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae).

The defendants provided false information to financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises overstating the incomes of properties owned by Morgan Management or certain principals of Morgan Management. The false information induced financial institutions to issue loans: (1) for greater values than the financial institutions would have authorized had they been provided with truthful information; and (2) that the financial institutions would not have issued at the time of issuance had they been provided with truthful information. These properties included:

  The Preserve at Autumn Ridge, Watertown, New York;
  The Eden Square Apartments, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania;
  The Rochester Village Apartments at Park Place, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania;
  The Reserve at Southpointe, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania;
  7100 South Shore Drive Apartments, Chicago, Illinois;
  The Avon Commons Apartments, Avon, New York;
  The Morgan Bay Apartments, Houston, Texas;
  Brookwood on the Green, Syracuse, New York;
  The Creek Hill Apartments, Rochester, New York;
  Hickory Hollow, Rochester, New York;
  The Knollwood Manor Apartments, Rochester, New York;
  The Links at Centerpointe, Canandaigua, New York;
  The Nineteen North Apartments, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;
  The Overlook at Golden Hills, Lexington, South Carolina;
  The Penbrooke Meadows Apartments, Rochester, New York;
  The Trails of North Hills Apartments, Raleigh, North Carolina;
  The Rivers Pointe Apartments, Syracuse, New York;
  The Union Square Apartments, Rochester, New York;
  The View at MacKenzi, York, Pennsylvania; and
  The Villas of Victor, Rochester, New York.

To facilitate the conspiracy:

  • Morgan Management provided property management, accounting, and financial reporting services for the properties owned by limited liability companies controlled by defendant Robert Morgan.
    • The defendants conspired to manipulate income and expenses for properties to meet debt service coverage ratios (“DSCRs”) required by lending institutions. The manipulation included, among other things, removing expenses from information reported to lenders and keeping two sets of books for at least 70 properties, with one set of books containing true and accurate figures and a second set of books containing manipulated figures to be provided to lenders in connection with servicing and re-financing loans.
    • The defendants conspired to present lending institutions with false and fraudulent inflated construction contracts and invoices that falsely reported to the lending institution that the contractor constructing a property was being paid more than the contractor was actually being paid.
    • The defendants provided false information to financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises that overstated net incomes of properties and thereby induced financial institutions to: (1) issue loans (a) for greater values than financial institutions would have authorized had they been provided with truthful information; and (b) that the financial institutions would not have issued at the time of issuance had they been provided with truthful information; and (2) forgo contractual rights that would have inured to the financial institutions had the defendants and Morgan Management presented accurate financial information to the financial institutions.
    • The defendants employed various mechanisms to mislead inspectors, appraisers, financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises with respect to the occupancy of properties.
    • The defendants falsely inflated the amounts owed on properties, by among other things, (1) providing false documentation of obligations purportedly associated with the properties, (2) misrepresenting the actual purchase prices of properties by providing false contracts and contract prices, and (3), as set forth above, presenting false construction contracts and invoices.

In the wire fraud conspiracy to defraud insurers, Todd Morgan and Robert Morgan are accused of conspiring with Kevin Morgan and Scott Cresswell to present false and inflated contracts and invoices for repairs to insurers after damages to properties in Robert Morgan’s real estate portfolio. These properties include the Summerwood Apartments, Merrillville, Indiana; the Eden Square Apartments, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania; and at thirty-four properties in the Rochester, New York area after a March 2017 windstorm in that area.

The defendants are also charged with money laundering conspiracy for engaging in monetary transactions in excess of $10,000 using the proceeds of wire fraud and bank fraud.

The total loss sustained by financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises throughout the mortgage fraud scheme is currently estimated to exceed $25,000,000. The loss resulting from the insurance fraud scheme is currently estimated at approximately $3,000,000.

The defendants made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer and were released on conditions.
U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. made the announcement.

The charges announced today reflect this Office’s commitment to ensuring that those who do business with the mortgage, banking, and insurance industries act with honesty and integrity,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “The scope of the dishonesty and deceit alleged here—both in a geographic sense as well as in terms of the dollar value of the mortgages and properties involved—was expansive. This type of fraud strikes at the very heart of those industries, and I commend the FBI and the FHFA-OIG for the significant resources they devoted to this investigation in order to reveal the full scope of the illegal conduct alleged in this superseding indictment.

Today’s charges allege Robert Morgan-and the men he surrounded himself with in business-worked hard with a desire to creatively subvert the integrity of the financial industry,” said FBI Buffalo Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert. “In response, we worked just as hard and creatively to put a stop to it. We hope the indictment returned in this case helps to educate and protect the tens of thousands of investors who own mortgage-backed securities.”

Richard Parker, Acting Deputy Inspector General for Investigations for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), said, “the financing of multifamily loans is a significant segment of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s portfolio.  As these charges demonstrate, FHFA-OIG will work with our partners in law enforcement to investigate and hold accountable those who seek to victimize the entities regulated by FHFA.”

Defendants Kevin Morgan and Patrick Ogiony were previously convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and defendant Scott Cresswell was previously convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in the multi-million dollar fraud scheme. All three defendants are awaiting sentencing.

The superseding indictment is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector

General, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Manchak, Northeast Region.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

 

Ramjit Jaikaran, a.k.a. A.J. Jaikaran, 55, South Ozone Park, Queens; Colin Hill, 41, Jamaica, Queens; Kaso Rampersad, 51,  Orlando, Florida, and Justin Codrington, 29,  New Rochelle, New York were arraigned today on an indictment in which they are variously charged with grand larceny, money laundering, identity theft, and other charges for allegedly conspiring to sell a vacant Canarsie, Brooklyn house to the victims, using forged documents to conceal the fact that the homeowner was deceased, and then stealing the $276,000 that the couple paid for the property.

According to the investigation, in July 2017, a married Guyanese couple who wanted to invest in Brooklyn real estate were allegedly fraudulently induced by the defendants to pay $276,000 to purchase a residential property located on East 94th Street, Canarsie, Brooklyn, which the couple believed the defendants were authorized to sell. The property was actually owned by Ruth Adelman, who died in 1993 without a will.

It is alleged that defendant Jaikaran showed the house to the couple and claimed that it was for sale. Defendant Rampersad allegedly pretended to represent Adelman’s heir – falsely claiming that she had a son who inherited the property and was willing to sell it. Ms. Adelman did not have any children, and the person identified by the defendants as her “son” was in fact the victim of identity theft.

It is alleged that defendant Hill agreed to act as the couple’s attorney at the closing for the property on July 31, 2017. Hill is not an attorney and is not admitted to practice law in New York State.

While at the closing, it is alleged, Hill falsely claimed that Adelman’s “son” had earlier signed the contract of sale, the deed and other documents, transferring ownership of the property to the couple’s family corporation. Hill even presented them with a fraudulent death certificate for Adelman which identified her supposed son, and a fraudulent birth certificate for the “son.”

To complete the sale, the couple paid the defendants $250,000, using two bank checks for $150,000 and $125,000, along with $1,000 in cash for Hill’s “legal” fee. According to the indictment, defendant Codrington cashed the check for $150,000 using an account controlled by his company; other funds were disbursed to a company controlled by Jaikaran’s wife.

In November 2017, the couple’s family corporation was sued by Valley Capital Partners LLC, which alleged that it purchased the property from Adelman’s true heirs. One of the victims confronted defendants Jaikaran and Rampersad, in separate conversations, stating that he believed that he may have been defrauded, and, it is alleged, both defendants urged him not to report it to law enforcement.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants allegedly engaged in an elaborate scam to steal the savings of an innocent couple. I am committed to protecting homeowners and home purchasers in Brooklyn and will now seek to hold the defendants accountable for this alleged scheme. As property values continue to rise in Brooklyn, protecting residents from fraudulent real estate schemes is a top priority.”

The District Attorney identified the defendants as Defendants Jaikaran and Hill were arraigned before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Joanne Quinones on April 16, 2019; defendants Rampersad and Codrington were arraigned before Justice Danny Chun on April 17, 2019 and yesterday, May 21, 2019, respectively. The defendants are variously charged, in the 20-count indictment with one count of conspiracy, one count of second-degree grand larceny, two counts of first-degree identity theft, seven counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, one count of fourth-degree conspiracy, and five counts of first-degree falsifying business records. Hill is charged with one count of practicing and appearing as an attorney at law without being admitted and registered, and Codrington is charged with one count of criminal possession of stolen property and two counts of second-degree money laundering. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count. Codrington is being held on $30,000 bail. The other defendants were released without bail. All of the defendants were ordered to return to court on June 26, 2019.

The District Attorney thanked the New York City Sheriff’s Office for its assistance in the investigation.

The case was investigated by Detective Investigators assigned to the District Attorney’s Investigations Bureau. Detective Sergeant Teresa Russo of the New York City Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, provided valuable assistance in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Kurtz, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the Real Estate Fraud Unit, Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief.

Craig Hecht, 51, Mount Sinai, New York, has been arraigned today on an indictment in which he is charged with grand larceny and money laundering for allegedly stealing a vacant brownstone worth over $1 million in a deed fraud scheme targeting an 80-year-old Bedford-Stuyvesant homeowner.

According to the indictment, Hecht and a codefendant (who remains unapprehended) allegedly stole the deed to 260 Clifton Place, a two-story Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York, brownstone owned by an 80-year-old woman. The victim and her family lived in the residence for over three decades. In 2010, the family vacated the property after a fire made the building uninhabitable.

Hecht allegedly formed an entity called Ernestina Thomas LLC that he filed with the New York State Department of State on April 20, 2015. Ten days later, the codefendant allegedly opened a bank account called Ernestina Thomas LLC (ET). The victim did not know about or consent to any of this.

On September 18, 2015, according to the investigation, Hecht set up a closing where 260 Clifton Place was transferred to an entity called TDA Development. A deed with the victim’s forged signature, which transferred the property from her to TDA, was filed and recorded with the City Register. The bulk of the proceeds of the sale went into an ET account which the codefendant controlled.

Shortly thereafter, Hecht offered 260 Clifton Place to a prospective buyer. It is alleged that on November 5, 2015, the codefendant opened a bank account for TDA and the following day the property was transferred from TDA to the buyer at a closing for $850,000, with most of the proceeds of that sale going into the codefendant’s TDA account. From the funds allegedly stolen out of the two closings, the codefendant wired $190,000 to an account he had in Athens, Greece, withdrew another $120,000 in a series of cash withdrawals and transferred over $250,000 to an account held by Hecht’s wife.

The victim was notified of the alleged theft when a neighbor called to tell her that someone was working on the house and introduced himself as the new property owner. She then notified the District Attorney’s Office.

The defendant was arraigned yesterday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which he is charged with two counts of second-degree grand larceny and two counts of second-degree money laundering. The defendant was ordered held on $150,000 bond or $75,000 cash bail and to return to court on August 14, 2019. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly thought he could take advantage of an elderly homeowner’s absence to steal her house and sell it before she or anyone else noticed. Brooklyn’s robust real estate market continues to be an attractive target for theft and fraud. I remain vigilant in my commitment to protecting homeowners and encourage them to protect themselves by registering with the Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS) so that they are automatically informed of changes made to documents associated with their property.”

The case was investigated by Detective Investigators assigned to the KCDA Investigations Bureau. Supervising Financial Investigator Vincent Jones assisted in the investigation, as did Investigative Analyst Megan Carroll, both of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Linda Hristova, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, with assistance from Senior Assistant District Attorney Patrick Cappock, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.