Archives For New York

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.

Laurence Savedoff, Esq., 44, New City, New York, who was convicted of misprision of a felony, was sentenced today for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme.

Between 2008 and 2009, the defendant represented The Funding Source (“TFS”), a mortgage bank, as the settlement attorney. The defendant’s law office was used to execute the closings for the eight real estate transactions for properties located in Bronx, New York, which involved efforts by five other individuals fraudulently to obtain mortgages that were insured by FHA on behalf of unqualified borrowers. For all eight transactions, the defendant caused the signing of the HUD-1 settlement statement and FHA Addendum to the HUD-1 knowing that the information therein was false.

Although he did not know the full extent of the scheme, the defendant became aware that others were using him to help defraud financial institutions. The defendant failed to notify authorities, including federal authorities, of these other individuals’ use of fraud to obtain funds from TFS. Furthermore, the defendant took affirmative steps to conceal the fraud by signing the HUD-1 Settlement Statement and FHA Addendum, or by having his paralegal sign them. Those documents were later forwarded by TFS, which he knew would be sent to financial institutions, including M&T Bank located in the Western District of New York. One duty of the defendant in his role as settlement attorney was to certify that the disbursements written on the HUD-1 accurately reflected the disbursements in the transactions. The HUD-1 and other financial documents were sent to financial institutions to show that the borrowers met FHA’s requirement of providing a 3-3.5% down payment. The defendant was aware that the borrowers in all eight transactions did not provide that down payment. Nevertheless, the defendant, or his paralegal at this direction, certified on the HUD-1 and in the FHA Addendum that the disbursements listed therein were accurate.  As a result of the aforementioned facts, financial institutions, including M&T Bank, purchased the fraudulently originated loans from TFS. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdny/pr/attorney-sentenced-his-role-mortgage-fraud-scheme

The total amount of the mortgage loans for these eight transactions was $4,800,007.

U.S. 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.

Constantine Giannakos, 51, Hicksville, New York, a disbarred attorney, pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing $40,000 from a Hicksville couple selling their home.

In early 2017, a Hicksville homeowner and her ex-husband hired the defendant to represent them in the sale of their home. The complainants and their home purchasers entered a sales contract on February 4, 2017.

At the time of the contract signing, the buyers’ attorney provided a $40,000 down payment check made out to ‘Constantine Giannakos, as attorney’ that was deposited into Giannakos’ escrow account and held there until the closing.

Between February 4, 2017 and the scheduled closing date of September 27, 2017, the defendant and one of the complainants met at public locations including a Dunkin’ Donuts on Newbridge Road in Hicksville. The defendant claimed he had an office in Syosset, New York but in fact, did not.

Following the closing on September 27, 2017 the defendant was supposed to remit the $40,000 down payment to his clients but never did so. The complainants made several subsequent requests for the money via phone and text messages but never received the money.

The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office received the case on October 24, 2017, after receiving a complaint from the homeowners. A review of the escrow account showed Giannakos spent the $40,000 at Home Depot, on credit card payments, department stores, mortgage payments, and unrelated business expenses.

Giannakos pled guilty to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a D felony) before Judge Robert Bogle. If the defendant provides $40,000 restitution at the time of sentence on May 10, 2019 he is expected to be sentenced to five years’ probation; however, if the defendant does not pay restitution, he is expected to be sentenced to one to three years in prison.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas made the announcement.

Instead of faithfully representing his clients, this defendant stole $40,000 from them and spent it at the Home Depot and on personal credit card payments,” DA Singas said. “When an attorney abuses their client’s trust and steals from them, my office will hold them accountable for their crimes.”

Giannakos was disbarred for another matter on August 21, 2012.

Since 2012, the NCDA has prosecuted more than 20 attorneys for misconduct.

If you believe you may have been a victim of an unscrupulous attorney, please call the NCDA’s Tip Line at 516-571-7755. Anyone interested in hiring an attorney is encouraged to check that person’s standing and registration with the Office of Court Administration.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Contreras of DA Singas’ Financial Crimes Bureau is handling this case. Eric Franz, Esq. represents the defendant.

 

Patrick Ogiony, 35, Buffalo, New York, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Between March 2011 and June 2017, the defendant conspired with co-defendants Frank Giacobbe, Kevin Morgan, Todd Morgan, and others, to defraud financial institutions, including Evans Bank, N.A.; UBS Securities LLC; M&T Bank; Arbor Commercial Mortgage LLC; SteepRock Capital, LLC; and Berkadia Commercial Mortgage, LLC.

During the course of the conspiracy, Ogiony was employed by Aurora Capital Advisors, LLC, a mortgage brokerage company owned and operated by Frank Giacobbe. Through Aurora, the defendant brokered mortgage loans on behalf of Morgan Management, LLC, a real estate management company that managed over 100 multi-family properties. Kevin Morgan was employed as a Vice President at Morgan Management, and Todd Morgan was employed as a Project Manager.

Ogiony, his co-defendants, and others 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. Ogiony admitted that these properties included:

• The Preserve at Autumn Ridge, Watertown, NY;
• 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, NY;
• The Morgan Bay Apartments, Houston, Texas;
• Brookwood on the Green, Syracuse, NY;
• The Creek Hill Apartments, Rochester, NY;
• Hickory Hollow, Rochester, NY;
• The Knollwood Manor Apartments, Rochester, NY;
• The Links at Centerpointe, Canandaigua, NY;
• The Nineteen North Apartments, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;
• The Overlook at Golden Hills, Lexington, South Carolina;
• The Penbrooke Meadows Apartments, Rochester, NY;
• The Trails of North Hills Apartments, Raleigh, North Carolina;
• The Rivers Pointe Apartments, Syracuse, NY;
• The Union Square Apartments, Rochester, NY;
• The View at MacKenzi, York, Pennsylvania; and
• The Villas of Victor, Rochester, NY.

In addition, the defendant, his co-defendants, and others employed various mechanisms to mislead financial institutions regarding the properties’ occupancy. Ogiony specifically:

• provided false rent rolls to lenders and appraisers on a variety of dates, overstating either the number of renters in a property, the rent paid by occupants;
• provided or conspired to provide false and inflated income statements for the properties; and
• worked with others to deceive inspectors into believing that unoccupied apartments were, in fact, occupied.

In one such instance, Ogiony and his co-defendants provided false information to Berkadia Commercial Mortgage, LLC, in connection with The Rochester Village Apartments at Park Place, a multi-family residential apartment owned by Morgan Management principals. The information included falsely inflated income from storage unit rentals, false reports of rental income, and falsely reporting apartment units as occupied before certificates of occupancy were obtained for those units.

Also, Ogiony, his co-defendants, and others made misrepresentations and engaged in conduct designed to conceal from the lending financial institutions that they obtained cash from the loan proceeds, which was not used to purchase or maintain the premises. Ogiony, his co-defendants, and others did so by, at times, providing false documentation of obligations purportedly associated with the properties, and by misrepresenting the actual purchase prices of properties.

Defendant Kevin Morgan was previously convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and is awaiting sentencing. Charges remain pending against Frank Giacobbe and Todd Morgan. 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.

The 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.

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

Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.

Winston Gregory Hall, aka “Sage El,” 37, East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York, who absconded during his trial, was sentenced today to three to nine years in state prison. He was convicted by a jury of grand larceny and other charges for stealing a house owned by his 84-year-old next-door neighbor by forging a deed and other documents that transferred ownership of the property to a trust in his name.

According to the evidence, on April 16, 2015, the defendant created the Winston Gregory Hall Express Trust, of which he was the trustee. One week later, on April 23, 2015, a deed was executed by the victim, the owner of 390 East 49th Street, Brooklyn, New York, transferring ownership of the property to the defendant’s trust. Further, on May 8, 2015, the deed and related tax documents, also forged, were filed at the New York City Register’s Office. On May 18, 2015, the deed was recorded with the New York City Department of Finance, at which time the estimated market value of the property was $445,000.

The victim stated that she did not know the defendant and never intended to transfer ownership of her home to the defendant.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

The District Attorney said that, according to trial testimony, between April and May of 2015, the defendant perpetrated a fraud to steal the title to 390 East 49th Street in Brooklyn, a three-family home owned by his next-door neighbor, an 84-year-old woman who lived with a family member in New Jersey.

The defendant was sentenced to an indeterminate term of three to nine years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun. The defendant was convicted of second-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. The defendant absconded after the jury trial began and was convicted in absentia on October 23, 2018. He was picked up in Brooklyn by police two months after absconding.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant twice showed a disregard for the rule of law, first by stealing his neighbor’s house and then absconding during his trial. He’s now been held accountable. This case is part of my continuing commitment to ensuring justice for Brooklyn homeowners who are all too often the target of unscrupulous individuals.”

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Frank Dudis and Senior Assistant District Attorney Ellen Koenig, of the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Unit Chief, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.

Paul Manafort, 69, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, was indicted today for a yearlong residential mortgage fraud scheme.

Manafort and others falsified business records to illegally obtain millions of dollars. Manafort is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment filed on March 7, 2019, with Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree, Attempted Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree, Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.

A copy of the indictment is available here.

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

No one is beyond the law in New York,” said District Attorney Vance. “Following an investigation commenced by our Office in March 2017, a Manhattan grand jury has charged Mr. Manafort with state criminal violations which strike at the heart of New York’s sovereign interests, including the integrity of our residential mortgage market. I thank our prosecutors for their meticulous investigation, which has yielded serious criminal charges for which the defendant has not been held accountable.”

The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant D.A. and Senior Investigative Counsel Peirce Moser and Assistant D.A.s Sean Pippen, James Graham, Lisa White, and Kevin Wilson under the supervision of Assistant D.A. Christopher Conroy (Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau) and Executive Assistant D.A. Michael Sachs (Chief of the Investigation Division). Trial Preparation Assistants Caroline Adelson, Sophie Hoblit, and Alexander Petrillo, as well as Investigator Daniel Schoenfeld and Forensic Accountant Investigator Jeffrey Leap, assisted with the investigation.

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.

Edward E. Bohm, 41, Nissequogue, New York, President of Sales and an undisclosed owner of Long Island mortgage lender Vanguard Funding, LLC (Vanguard), pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit wire fraud and bank fraud in connection with the illegal diversion of more than $8.9 million of warehouse loans that Vanguard had obtained to fund mortgages.

According to court filings and the facts presented at the plea proceedings, between August 2015 and March 2017, Bohm engaged in a scheme in which he and others obtained warehouse, or short-term, loans for Vanguard by falsely representing that Vanguard would use the proceeds of those loans to fund mortgages or provide mortgage refinancing for Vanguard’s clients.  Once Vanguard received the loans, however, Bohm, along with others diverted the monies to pay personal expenses and compensation, and to pay off loans they had previously obtained with fraudulent loan submissions for improper purposes.  http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Edward+E.+Bohm

The guilty plea was entered before United States District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein.  When sentenced, Bohm faces up to 30 years in prison, as well as restitution, criminal forfeiture and a fine.

Earlier, in 2018, Vanguard’s Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer entered guilty pleas in connection with this fraud and were sentenced to terms of incarceration.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, and Linda A. Lacewell, Acting Superintendent, New York State Department of Financial Services, announced the guilty plea.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Whitman G.S. Knapp and Elizabeth Losey Macchiaverna are handling the prosecution with assistance from Assistant United States Attorney Laura Mantell of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture Section.

 

Jordan Horsford, 29, East New York, Brooklyn was indicted today for allegedly 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, it is alleged, 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 allegedly convinced the victim to sign away the deed to his home on Barbey Street, East New York, Brooklyn. The defendant allegedly 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 allegedly realized he needed another document notarized, but the notary refused so the defendant allegedly copied and cut and pasted her original signature. He then recorded the deed, which had been signed over to him.

Finally, it is alleged, 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.

Additionally, the defendant allegedly used the victim’s credit card to buy two gold bars online, one in September 2016 and another in August 2017.

Horsford was arraigned yesterday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 12-count indictment in which he is charged with second-degree grand larceny, third-degree grand larceny, first-degree identity theft, first-degree falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing, criminal possession of a forged instrument and fraudulently obtaining a signature. He was released without bail, ordered to surrender his passport and to return to court on March 6, 2019. The defendant 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 case should serve as another warning that rising property values in Brooklyn make homeowners, especially the elderly, the target of unscrupulous predators trying to steal their homes from under them. I urge all homeowners to be especially careful about signing documents relating to their property without trusted legal advice.”

The case was investigated by Detective Sheriff Kevin Acon, of the Criminal Investigations Bureau, New York City Department of Finance.

The case is being 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.

Danny Noble, 49, Baldwin, New York was sentenced today to 4.5 to nine years in prison in connection with illegally transferring the titles of seven houses in Brooklyn, New York and two in Queens, New York from their true owners to himself or a corporation, then renting out some of the properties and selling others.

According to the indictment, between June 29, 2010 and March 31, 2015, the defendants falsely transferred title to seven Brooklyn properties: 71 Carlton Avenue, 104 Vanderbilt Avenue, 45 North Oxford Street and 70 Clermont Avenue, Fort Greene,; 1391 East 95th Street in Canarsie, 357 Jefferson Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant; 729 Essex Street in East New York all in Brooklyn, New York and two properties in Queens, New York: 94-05 108th Street in Jamaica and 187-05 Liberty Avenue in Hollis.

Five of the properties were transferred from the actual homeowners to Noble, according to the indictment, three were transferred to 69 Adelphi Street, LLC, and one to a third party. The defendants allegedly targeted the properties because the owners did not live in the houses and rarely visited them.

Once the titles were transferred, according to the indictment, the defendants carried out various scams in order to cash in on them. For example, Noble maintained control of 45 North Oxford Street, a recently renovated brownstone in Fort Greene, whose owner lived outside of the United States. Noble rented out two apartments in the brownstone, collecting $1,500 a month in rent for each of them. He also maintained control of the two houses in Queens, renting them out for various amounts.

In another facet of the scheme, concerning 1247 Putnam Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, Noble filed a fraudulent satisfaction of mortgage.

Furthermore, for example, with respect to 71 Carlton Avenue, 104 Vanderbilt Avenue, 70 Clermont Avenue, and 1391 East 95th Street, the defendants transferred the properties’ titles into the names of other, third parties.

Noble pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal possession of stolen property and fourth-degree conspiracy before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on April 27, 2016 and was sentenced today to an indeterminate term of 4.5 to nine years in prison. His co-defendant, Romelo Grey, 41, Freeport, New York, pleaded guilty to falsifying business records on August 16, 2016, and was sentenced to 1.5 to 3 years in prison.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, the scheme was discovered after Grey and Noble transferred the title to the Canarsie house at 1391 East 95th Street to a third party. Grey visited the house with the buyer to inspect it, and told the tenants living there that they had to move out. The buyer then began renovating the house and those workers caught the eye of an employee of a business across the street, which was actually owned by the true owner of 1391 East 95th Street. That employee called the owner of the property, who called police. Further investigation led to the defendants’ connections to the other properties.

As part of the scheme, Noble, the leader, filed false documents with the New York City Department of Finance, Office of the City Register, which maintains land records and other real property filings in New York City, including records relating to ownership and encumbrances, such as liens and mortgages.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “In Brooklyn, we take real estate scams very seriously. The houses targeted in this fraud are worth millions of dollars. My prosecutors and investigators worked diligently to expose this fraudulent scheme and bring this defendant to justice.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, under the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division.

Marilyn Sanchez, 49, Brooklyn, New York was sentenced today for filing two fraudulent deeds and supporting documents with the New York City Register’s Office in order to fraudulently acquire ownership of two separate residential homes in Brooklyn, New York.

According to the indictment and statements made at Sanchez’s arraignment in Kings County Supreme Court, in January 2016 Marilyn Sanchez illegally transferred ownership of 477 Christopher Avenue, Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York from the lawful owners to herself by recording a deed and five supporting documents containing forged signatures with the New York City Register’s Office.

Additionally, in November 2016, Sanchez illegally transferred ownership of 271 East 32nd Street, East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York by recording a deed and five supporting documents containing the forged signatures of the lawful owners with the New York City Register’s Office.

In both instances, the owners never signed the deed nor the supporting documents and they never gave Sanchez, or anyone else, permission to sign on their behalf.

On October 5, 2018, Sanchez pleaded guilty to two counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, before the Honorable Judge Miller in Kings County Supreme Court.

Sanchez was sentenced to 60 days in jail, followed by five years of probation. Sanchez also agreed to transfer ownership of the two property deeds back to the lawful owners. Today’s sentencing marks the first deed theft ruling resulting from an OAG investigation.

Attorney General Letitia James made the announcement.

Too often scammers turn the American Dream of homeownership into a nightmare,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “I’m pleased our office’s investigation has resulted in the return of these stolen deeds to their rightful owners. No one should have to worry about their property being stolen by scammers, and I encourage New Yorkers to follow my office’s tips to help protect themselves from potential foreclosure scams. I remind anyone who tries to harm hardworking New Yorkers that we will hold you accountable.”

The DOF Office of the Sheriff remains committed to investigate and arrest those responsible for deed fraud,” said New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito. “The Attorney General’s prosecution of this case sends a strong message about the severity of the crime and the commitment to protect the homes of all New Yorkers. I want to commend Sheriff’s Detectives Francesca Rosa and Nene Kodjoe for their efforts in this investigation.

After years of working with New York homeowners, we’ve seen hundreds of scam and fraud cases, many of which result in major losses for families and their communities. But deed fraud cases are some of the most painful and complicated, because homeowners are often forced to fight for years to regain their properties,” said Christie Peale, CEO/Executive Director for the Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “We congratulate the Attorney General’s Office here in making sure that these homes were returned to their lawful owners. The OAG’s significant investments in fighting mortgage scams and deed theft through education and prosecution are particularly welcome, given how easy it is for bad actors to steal homes from hardworking families.”

Launched in December 2016 by the Attorney General’s office, the Foreclosure Rescue Scam Prevention Initiative is a grant program focused on enhancing outreach, education, and referral services for homeowners at risk of fraudulent foreclosure rescue schemes. The Foreclosure Rescue Scam Prevention Initiative is part of the office’s broader efforts to direct resources to at-risk homeowners, including investing $130 million in the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP). Since 2012, HOPP has provided free, high-quality assistance to over 90,000 families to help avoid foreclosure of their homes.

To protect yourself from becoming a victim of a foreclosure rescue scam, Attorney General James offered the following tips:

  • Be skeptical of online ads or telephone callers that promise they can get you a mortgage modification or save your home from foreclosure. Only your bank or loan servicer can approve a loan modification.
  • Visit homeownerhelpny.com for information on how to avoid or report scams.
  • Do not give your personal financial information, such as your bank account number, social security number, or the name of your loan servicer, to a caller offering to help save you from foreclosure. Your bank will already have this information.
  • Never pay an up-front fee for mortgage-related services. It is a violation of New York law to charge upfront fees for such services, and violations should be reported to the Attorney General’s hotline at 1-855-HOME-456.
  • If you believe you have been scammed by a foreclosure rescue operator or a debt relief organization, submit a complaint to the New York State Attorney General’s Office: ny.gov/consumer-frauds/Filing-a-Consumer-Complaint

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Don Nguyen and Herman Wun of the Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Real Estate Enforcement Unit Chief Travis Hill and Public Integrity Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. The Criminal Justice Division is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado.

The Attorney General’s investigation was conducted by Investigator Walter Lynch under the supervision of Deputy Chief John McManus. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief John Reidy.

The Attorney General thanks the New York City Sheriff’s Office for its assistance on this matter.