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Paul Mangione, a former Deutsche Bank executive, has reached agreement, with the United States to settle a civil action filed in September 2017 in which the United States sought civil penalties for Mangione’s conduct in connection with Deutsche Bank’s marketing and sale of two residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) in 2007.

The complaint in the action, United States v. Paul Mangione, alleged that Mangione, a former Managing Director and head of subprime trading at Deutsche Bank, engaged in a scheme to defraud investors in two Deutsche Bank RMBS, ACE 2007-HE4 and ACE 2007-HE5, by misrepresenting the characteristics of the loans backing the two securities and misleading potential investors about the loan origination practices of Deutsche Bank’s wholly-owned subsidiary, DB Home Lending LLC (f/k/a Chapel Funding, LLC), which originated a number of the loans backing the two RMBS.  The complaint stated claims for relief under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), based on mail fraud and wire fraud.

The agreement provides for payment of $500,000 in civil penalties in exchange for dismissal of the complaint.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the settlement.

This Office’s settlement with a bank executive in connection with RMBS fraud reflects our commitment to holding individuals accountable for their role in corporate fraud,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  Mr. Donoghue thanked the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of the Inspector General for its assistance in conducting the investigation in this matter.

The settlement agreement does not constitute an admission by Mangione of any of the facts or of liability or wrongdoing by Mangione, and there has been no trial or adjudication or judicial finding of any issue of fact or law.

The government’s case was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Edward Newman.

To report RMBS fraud, go to: http://www.stopfraud.gov/rmbs.html.

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 17-CV-5305 (NMG/RL)

Two comment letters urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) not to adopt two new rules, which would undermine the ability to enforce fair lending laws and prevent discrimination against communities of color in the mortgage lending market, were submitted by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Fair lending laws are essential to protecting consumers from discriminatory lending practices,” said Attorney General James. “Both of CFPB’s proposed rules would undermine our ability to hold bad-acting lenders responsible for their actions. My office is committed to keeping provisions in place to ensure that almost a century of racism in mortgage lending is eradicated and that all Americans have access to sustainable homeownership.”

The first letter, signed by 13 attorneys general, challenges a May 2019 CFPB proposal limiting the data financial institutions are required to report to the CFPB under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), a 1975 law that requires mortgage lenders to make certain mortgage data publicly available as a check to ensure compliance with fair lending laws. Some of this data includes information which lenders already collect to comply with other regulations as well as their own underwriting standards.

Now, the CFPB is soliciting comments on which data fields should be eliminated from reporting. By hiding important data points, the CFPB gives a windfall to financial institutions who will be able to resume predatory lending practices, and it will impede the government’s efforts to prevent another financial crisis brought about by predatory lending.

The second letter focuses on the state specific impact regarding another May 2019 CFPB proposal to the reporting threshold for mortgage lenders under HMDA. A preliminary review of the 2018 data shows that even with a slight increase to the threshold limit, New York loses essential data pertaining to local lending, or lenders that lend in one city or town.

By increasing the HMDA reporting threshold, the CFPB makes it difficult for the public and public officials to bring disparate impact discrimination claims, a decades-old theory of liability that has been instrumental in ending discrimination. If adopted, the changes in reporting thresholds would exempt large swaths of the mortgage lending industry from the obligation to report HMDA data.

With these two proposed rule changes, the CFPB fails to take into consideration the negative impact the relaxed reporting requirements will have on the ability to analyze local lending practices and hold lenders accountable for violations of fair lending laws.

New York Attorney General James argues that these changes undermine the core functions of the HMDA. The Attorney General also criticized the CFPB for reversing its prior position that such higher thresholds and the absence of certain data points would impede the public and public officials’ ability to ensure that mortgage lending was being conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in their communities. In addition to these substantive challenges to the CFPB’s proposed rule regarding the increased thresholds, the New York Attorney General James also maintains that it violates the Administrative Procedure Act since it fails to take into the consideration the cost of the proposed rule on the states.

Joining the New York Attorney General James in signing the first letter challenging the proposed rule to limit the data lenders are required to report to the CFPB are the attorneys generals of California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

 

Jordan Horsford, 29, East New York, Brooklyn was sentenced today to five months in jail and five years’ probation for stealing and attempting to sell the home of his 85-year-old neighbor, a diabetic man for whom the defendant was a part-time caretaker.

According to the investigation, in August 2016 the defendant, who was known to do odd jobs in the neighborhood, began helping the victim as needed, including carrying his wheelchair up steps and helping him get in and out of vehicles; he was paid for each task by the victim’s family.

In April 2017, the victim’s family began paying the defendant $400 a week to accept Meals on Wheels deliveries and set them out for the victim, to make sure he took his medicine and to check in on him at night.

Between June 19, 2017 and November 1, 2017, the defendant convinced the victim to sign away the deed to his home on Barbey Street, East New York, Brooklyn. The defendant told the victim he risked losing his home if he did not sign a document, and had the document notarized by a notary. The defendant then realized he needed another document notarized, but the notary refused so the defendant cut and pasted her original signature. He then recorded the deed, which had been signed over to him.

Finally, the defendant attempted to sell the house almost immediately after securing the deed, but a title company suspected foul play and refused to insure the home. The would-be purchaser then reached out to the 85-year-old victim’s family. At around the same time, the victim’s daughter, while going through her father’s mail, found a letter from the Department of Finance notifying them about documents filed relating to the property. The daughter pursued the matter with the DOF and the case was ultimately referred to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for further investigation and prosecution.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “With today’s sentencing this defendant is being held accountable for preying on his elderly neighbor and abusing his trust. I urge seniors and their family members to protect their homes, especially as property values continue to rise in Brooklyn, by taking care not to sign any documents pertaining to their properties without the advice of a reputable attorney. I remain committed to prosecuting deed thefts like this and assisting all homeowners whenever possible.”

The defendant pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny in June and consented to an order nullifying the fraudulent recorded deed. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Jordan+Horsford

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Karen Turner of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gavin Miles, Counsel to the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

 

Iskyo Aronov (also known as “Isaac Aronov”), 32, Miami, Florida, Michael Konstantinovskiy (also known as “Michael Kay”), 33, Rego Park, Queens, Tomer Dafna, 48, Great Neck, New York, Avraham Tarshish, 40, Queens Village, New York and Michael Herskowitz, 40, Brooklyn, New York have been indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and related wire fraud counts, in connection with a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders, including the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”), the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) and borrowers.

According to the indictment, between December 2012 and January 2019, the defendants conspired to defraud mortgage lenders, misleading them into approving short sale transactions at fraudulently depressed prices.  In a short sale, with the approval of the mortgage lender or servicer, a mortgage loan borrower sells his or her property for less than the outstanding balance of the mortgage loan.  The proceeds from the short sale, less approved closing costs, are applied to the outstanding mortgage loan balance owed to the lender, who typically agrees to forgive the borrower’s remaining mortgage loan balance.  Here, the defendants fraudulently manipulated the short sale process by transferring properties for prices well above the short sale prices, and failing to disclose this to the mortgage lenders and servicers.  The defendants also took steps to preclude other prospective purchasers from making higher offers for properties by failing to market properties as required by the lenders, and by filing fraudulent liens on properties.

As a further part of the scheme, the defendants provided the mortgage lenders and servicers with false and misleading information in transaction documents and failed to disclose either payments made to the borrower and others related to short sale or contemporaneous agreements to transfer the properties at inflated prices.  Many of the affected mortgage loans were insured by the Federal Housing Administration, or owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Robert Manchak, Special Agent-in-Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region (FHFA-OIG), and Christina Scaringi, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, Northeast Region (HUD-OIG), announced the charges.

As alleged, the defendants defrauded mortgage loan holders out of millions of dollars, with taxpayers saddled with much of the loss,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “This Office will continue working with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute those who commit mortgage fraud and enrich themselves at the expense of the financial institutions and government programs that insure or guarantee the loans.”  Mr. Donoghue thanked the United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, New York Field Office (HSI), the HSI El Dorado Financial Crimes Task Force and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, New York, for their assistance in the ongoing investigation.

Together with our partners in law enforcement, we have disrupted a scheme to defraud Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As demonstrated by this indictment, FHFA-OIG will investigate and hold accountable those who seek to victimize the government-sponsored entities supervised and regulated by FHFA,” stated FHFA-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Manchak.

These five individuals allegedly engaged in a scheme of wholesale deception when they provided false, misleading, and incomplete information to lending institutions, borrowers, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) causing millions of dollars in damages to the FHA, which typically results in higher premiums being charged to future first-time homeowners,” stated HUD-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Scaringi.  “What makes their alleged crimes even more egregious was their artificial devaluation of properties that, when resold or ‘flipped,’ resulted in large profits.  Many of these homes were located in economically challenged areas of New York where affordable housing is at a premium.”

Konstantinovskiy, Dafna, Tarshish and Herskowitz were arrested this morning in New York, and will be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom.  Aronov was arrested in Florida, and will appear this afternoon for a removal hearing at the federal courthouse in Miami.

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum of 30 years’ imprisonment and a $1 million fine.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section.  Assistant United States Attorney Shannon C. Jones is in charge of the prosecution.  Assistant United States Attorney Tanisha Payne of the Office’s Civil Division is handling forfeiture matters.

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.