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Yorce Yotagri, 54, Freeport, New York, was sentenced today to 12 months and one day in prison for participating in a conspiracy to carry out a $9 million scheme to use bogus information and simultaneous loan applications at multiple banks to fraudulently obtain home equity lines of credit, a scheme known as “shotgunning”.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

Yotagri was a business partner of Jorge Flores of Oakdale, New York, and Jose Piedrahita of Freeport, New York two conspirators also charged in the indictment. From 2010 through February 2018, Yotagri, Flores, Piedrahita, and others conspired to fraudulently obtain multiple home equity lines of credit (HELOC) from banks on residential properties in New Jersey and New York.

In August 2016, Yotagri lived at a property in Freeport, New York. A quitclaim deed was prepared that facilitated the transfer of ownership of the property to Yotagri and Piedrahita even though Piedrahita did not own the property.

In September 2016, with the Freeport, New York property now in the names of Yotagri and Piedrahita, the conspirators applied for a $290,000 HELOC from a victim bank in Yotagri’s and Piedrahita’s names using the property as collateral. Piedrahita’s contact information appeared on the HELOC application on the Freeport property, which also contained inflated income and assets for Piedrahita. On Dec. 2, 2016, based on the false representations contained in the application, the victim bank issued a HELOC to Piedrahita for $290,000. Piedrahita then disbursed the $290,000 to himself, Yotagri, and Flores. The HELOC funds were never repaid.

In January 2017, Flores called another victim bank and applied for a second HELOC in Piedrahita’s name for $250,000 – again using the Freeport property as collateral. This time Flores’ email address and phone number appeared on the HELOC application on the Freeport property. To demonstrate to the second victim bank that the property was unencumbered by any senior mortgages, Flores and Piedrahita sent several fraudulent documents to the victim bank to conceal the existence of or amounts owed on senior mortgages. The false documents the defendants submitted included a series of false payoff letters and fake checks from other banks, all submitted to deceive the victim bank into believing that the remaining value of the senior mortgages on the Freeport property was far less than what was actually owed.

On March 22, 2017, the second victim bank issued a HELOC to Piedrahita for $250,000.  Piedrahita then disbursed nearly the entirety of the HELOC funds to himself and Yotagri. The funds obtained by Piedrahita and Yotagri from the HELOC were not repaid and were overdrawn, causing losses to the second victim bank totaling approximately $290,000.

At the time the applications for the two HELOCS were made, there was not sufficient equity in the Freeport property to support the $540,000 in HELOC applications made by Flores, Piedrahita, and Yotagri.

The overall scheme, which included HELOC loans for approximately 17 different properties, resulted in over $9 million in losses to the victim banks.

Yotagri, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez to an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Judge Vazquez imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Vazquez sentenced Yotagri to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $580,048.

Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig made the announcement.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Northeast Region, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert W. Manchak; and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory of the FHFA-OIG.

The charges and allegations against Yotagri’s co-defendants contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

Simon Curanaj, 67, Yonkers, New York, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for his role in a $3.5 million scheme to use false information and simultaneous loan applications at multiple banks to fraudulently obtain home equity lines of credit, a practice known as “shotgunning.”

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

From 2012 through January 2014, Curanaj, Michael Arroyo, and others conspired to fraudulently obtain multiple home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) from banks on residential properties in New Jersey and New York, including a residential property on Havermeyer Avenue, Bronx, New York. In 2013, Curanaj, Arroyo, and others transferred ownership of the property to an individual living at the property and his family friend.

Curanaj, Arroyo, and others then applied, in the family friend’s name, for two HELOCs from two banks using the Havermeyer Avenue property as collateral. They hid from the lenders the fact that the property was either already subject to senior liens that had not yet been recorded, or that the same property was offered as collateral for a line of credit from another lender. The applications also falsely inflated the family friend’s income without his knowledge. In addition, the equity in the property was far less than the amount of the HELOC loans Curanaj, Arroyo, and others applied for.

The victim banks eventually issued loans to the family friend in excess of $500,000. After the victim banks deposited money into the family friend’s bank accounts, portions of the funds were disbursed to Curanaj, Arroyo, and others. Eventually, the family friend defaulted on the two HELOC loans. The overall scheme resulted in $2.2 million in losses to the victim banks.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Vazquez sentenced Curanaj to five years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $2.1 million in restitution. Arroyo was sentenced in September 2018 to 21 months in prison for his role in the scheme.

Curanaj previously pleaded guilty to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Judge Vazquez imposed the sentence by videoconference today.

Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig made the announcement.

Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) – Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert Manchak in Newark, and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory of the FHFA, Office of the Inspector General.

 

Edmundo Roman-Perez, 71, Sunset Park, Brooklyn, an attorney has been sentenced today to 1 to 3 years in prison for stealing approximately $280,000 in down payments he received to hold in escrow from two clients he represented in the sale of their homes. The defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny in December 2020.

According to the investigation, in late 2018, a couple hired the defendant to represent them in the sale of their two-family, Sunset Park, Brooklyn home. The home sold for $1,350,000 and the defendant received a $135,000 down payment from the buyers that he should have held in his attorney escrow account until the date of closing, when the funds should have been released to his clients. Instead, the defendant used the money for his own benefit. After closing in March 2019, the defendant issued checks to his clients purporting to cover the $135,000 owed, which bounced upon deposit. The defendant failed to disburse the funds he owed to his clients.

Similarly, between November 2018 and April 2019, the defendant represented three brothers in the sale of their two-family home in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. The home sold for $1,500,000 and the defendant received a $150,000 down payment from the buyers that he should have held in his attorney escrow account until closing, when he should have released the money to his clients. Instead, the defendant again used the money for his own benefit, and issued the brothers checks purporting to cover the funds owed to each of them. The checks bounced and the defendant failed to distribute the funds he owed to the brothers.

Additionally, the defendant was under indictment in Richmond County related to allegations that he stole client funds. In November 2020, he pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree grand larceny and received a sentence of 1 to 3 years in prison. The Brooklyn and Staten Island sentences will run concurrently.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “Today’s sentence holds this defendant accountable for the serious breach of trust and financial hardship he caused his victims. Let this serve as a reminder that I am committed to protecting Brooklyn’s residents from attorneys and other unscrupulous fraudsters who abuse their positions of authority to take advantage of those they are entrusted to advise and represent.”

The case was investigated by Supervising Financial Investigator Deborah Wey of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Katherine Zdrojeski of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Laura Neubauer, Chief of the Public Integrity Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.

Antoni Moszczynski, 67, Madison, New Jersey, an attorney has been arraigned today on an indictment in which he is charged with grand larceny for allegedly stealing approximately $239,500 in funds he received, and was not entitled to, while representing a client in the sale of her deceased sister’s estate.

According to the investigation, in December 2019, the defendant, an attorney who is currently licensed to practice law in New York, represented the victim in the sale of her property at 584 Leonard Street, Brooklyn, New York. The victim, who was appointed executrix of her deceased sister’s estate, entered contract of sale for $2.395 million.

It is alleged that on December 2, 2019, the defendant received a wired down payment from the buyer into his escrow account in the amount of $239,500. Furthermore, it is alleged that, within a week, the defendant transferred $210,000 into his personal bank account with Wells Fargo, and within three months had withdrawn or spent the remainder of the down payment.

The victim retained a different attorney to represent the estate at the closing, which took place on June 30, 2020. The defendant was allegedly not present at the closing and has not answered calls from the victim or her attorney. To date, the defendant has not given the victim or the estate the down payment he allegedly stole.

Moszczynski was arraigned in front of Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which he is charged with second-degree grand larceny. He was released without bail and ordered to return to court on June 29, 2021.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today made the announcement.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant allegedly abused his power and betrayed his client to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars to which he was not entitled and has not returned despite the victim’s repeated attempts to contact him. We will now seek to hold him accountable for this flagrant and brazen theft.

If you believe that you or someone you know is the victim of fraud or theft perpetrated by the defendant, please call the District Attorney’s Action Center at (718) 250-2340.

This case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Sara Walshe of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Laura Neubauer, Chief of the Public Integrity Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt

 

Seth Andrew, 42 has been charged with wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements to a financial institution, in connection with a scheme in which Andrew stole $218,005 from a charter school network that he founded.

As alleged in the Complaint unsealed today[1]:

In 2005, Seth Andrew helped create “School Network-1,” a series of public charter schools then based in New York City, New York.  In the Spring of 2013, Andrew left School Network-1 and accepted a job in the United States Department of Education and, thereafter, as a senior adviser in the Office of Educational Technology at the White House.  While employed at the Department of Education, and at the White House, Andrew was paid by School Network-1.  In November 2016, Andrew left his role in the White House and, shortly thereafter, in January 2017, Andrew officially severed his relationship with School Network-1.

School Network-1 comprises several charter schools throughout United States including several in New York City.  Pursuant to an agreement with the New York State Board of Regents, School Network-1’s New York-based charter schools must maintain an “escrow account” that may be accessed only if the school dissolves.  Three such escrow accounts, for three New York City-based School Network-1 schools, were opened by Andrew and other School Network-1 employees at  “Bank-1” in 2009, 2011, and 2013.  As to each of those three accounts – Escrow Account-1, Escrow Account-2, and Escrow Account-3 – Andrew was a signatory and had access to the funds in them.  However, pursuant to the charter agreement, the funds in the Escrow Accounts were reserved in case the school dissolved, and the funds could not be moved by Andrew, or anyone, without proper authorization.

After he severed his relationship with School Network-1, on March 28, 2019, Andrew entered a Bank-1 branch in New York City and closed both Escrow Account-1 and Escrow Account-2.  Bank-1 provided Andrew a bank check in the amount of $71,881.23 made payable to “[School Network-1] Charter School” (“Check-1”) and a second bank check in the amount of $70,642.98 to “[School Network-1] Harlem Charter” (“Check-2”).  Check-1 and Check-2 represented the funds that were in Escrow Account-1 and Escrow Account-2, respectively.

The same day that Andrew closed Escrow Account-1 and Escrow Account-2, Andrew entered a Manhattan branch of a different FDIC-insured bank (“Bank-2”) and opened a business bank account in the name of “[School Network-1] Charter School” (“Fraud Account‑1”).  To open that account, Andrew represented to a Bank-2 employee that he was a “Key Executive with Control of” School Network-1 Charter School, which was a lie.  Andrew then deposited Check-1 into the account but, that day, Andrew did not deposit Check-2.

Five days later, on April 2, 2019, Andrew used an ATM machine in Baltimore, Maryland, to deposit Check-2 into Fraud Account-1.  It appears Andrew waited to deposit Check-2 because it was made payable to “School Network-1 Harlem Charter” and not “School Network-1 Charter School.”  Had he tried to deposit Check-2 when he opened Fraud Account-1 it would not have been honored by Bank-2.

At the time Andrew deposited Check-1 and Check-2 into a Bank-2 bank account, Andrew was contemplating obtaining a mortgage from Bank-2 to purchase a residential property.  At that time, Bank-2 offered certain customers, as a promotion, more favorable mortgage interest rates if those customers maintained a certain amount of funds in Bank-2 accounts.  Specifically, for every $250,000 on deposit, up to a total of $1 million, Bank-2 would lower that qualifying customer’s mortgage interest rate by 0.125%.  Thus, in total, if a qualifying customer maintained $1 million or more of his/her funds in Bank-2 accounts that customer would receive a 0.5% interest rate deduction on a Bank-2 mortgage.  But to take advantage of the interest rate deduction promotion, Bank-2 required that the funds a customer deposited be funds owned by the customer or, in some instances, a business the customer owned, controlled or was lawfully associated with.  Bank-2 did not permit a customer to utilize money owned by someone else to gain the benefit of the interest rate deduction promotion.

By April 2019, because of the $142,524 Andrew deposited in Bank-2, using the money he stole from two charter schools, Andrew deposited a total of approximately $1,007,716 with Bank-2, and therefore became eligible to receive a 0.5% interest rate deduction – the largest deduction a customer could receive from Bank-2’s promotion.  Without the $142,524 deposited stolen funds, Andrew would have been eligible for only a 0.375% interest rate deduction.  On August 21, 2019, Andrew purchased a residential property located in New York, New York, for approximately $2,368,000.  To effectuate that purchase, Andrew, and his spouse, obtained a mortgage from Bank-2 in the amount of $1,776,000 with an interest rate of 2.5% –  taking full advantage of the promotion Bank-2 offered.

On October 17, 2019, Andrew closed out Escrow Account-3 and received a check (“Check-3”) made payable to “[School Network-1] Endurance” in the amount of $75,481.10.

On October 21, 2019, Andrew deposited Check-3 into an account that he opened at a third bank (“Fraud Account-2”).  Approximately one month later, Andrew obtained a check from Bank-2 for $144,473.29, which constituted the funds stolen from Escrow Account-1 and Escrow Account-2, and Andrew ultimately deposited those funds into Fraud Account-2.  Five days later, Andrew rolled the funds in Fraud Account-2 into a certificate of deposit.  That certificate of deposit matured on May 20, 2020, which earned Andrew $2,083.52 in interest.  Andrew then transferred the funds from the certificate of deposit – including the funds stolen from the Escrow Accounts – into a bank account held in the name of a particular civic organization that Andrew currently controls, thereby concealing the money’s association with School Network-1, and depositing the stolen money into an account under Andrew’s complete control.

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), made the announcement today

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As alleged, Seth Andrew abused his position as a founder of a charter school network to steal from the very same schools he helped create.  Andrew is not only alleged to have stolen the schools’ money but also to have used the stolen funds to obtain a savings on a mortgage for a multimillion-dollar Manhattan apartment.  Thanks to the FBI’s diligent work, Andrew now faces federal charges for his alleged scheme.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “Locking into the lowest interest rate when applying for a loan is certainly the objective of every home buyer, but when you don’t have the necessary funds to put down, and you steal the money from your former employer to make up the difference, saving money in interest is likely to be the least of your concerns. We allege today that Andrew did just that, and since the employer he stole from was a charter school organization, the money he took belonged to an institution serving school-aged children. Today Andrew himself is learning one of life’s most basic lessons – what doesn’t belong to you is not yours for the taking.”

Andrew is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of making a false statement to a bank, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorney Ryan B. Finkel is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges in the Complaint are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

 

Gerald Douglas, 52, East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York was arraigned today on an indictment in which he is charged with second-degree grand larceny for allegedly stealing the down payment toward the purchase of a Brownsville, New York home whose seller he represented.

According to the investigation, the defendant represented a 76-year-old woman in the sale of her Brownsville house, negotiating the contract for her in September 2018. A down payment of $71,700 was allegedly deposited into the defendant’s escrow account. The closing occurred in August 2019, by which time the defendant had allegedly stopped returning his client’s phone calls and she was forced to retain new counsel to close the transaction. The client received the sale proceeds at the closing, but not the down payment despite repeated requests to the defendant.

It is further alleged that in June and July 2018, the defendant asked the same client if she would loan him money, first $6,000 and then $8,000. He allegedly told her he was expecting a rental payment for a property he owned in Flatbush, Brooklyn, though in fact the property had gone into foreclosure five years earlier and he was no longer the owner.

Douglas was released without bail and ordered to return to court on May 12, 2021.

The defendant was disbarred by the Appellate Division Second Department in 2019.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

District Attorney Gonzalez said “The victim in this case was allegedly defrauded of a large sum of money by her own attorney, who had a legal duty to protect her interests. I would like to thank my Public Integrity Bureau for its hard work in seeking to hold the defendant accountable for his alleged criminal act and betrayal of trust.”

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Laura Neubauer, Bureau Chief, 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 Investigations Division.

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

 

Robert Morgan, Todd Morgan, Frank Giacobbe, and Michael Tremiti, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud for their roles in a wide-ranging mortgage fraud scheme.

According to the indictment, between 2007 and January 2019, the defendants conspired with Kevin Morgan, Patrick Ogiony, Scott Cresswell, and others fraudulently to obtain funds from financial institutions such as Arbor Commercial Mortgage, LLC, Berkadia Commercial Mortgage, LLC, UBS and Deutsche Bank, and government sponsored enterprises, including Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae).

During the course of the conspiracy, the defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises by providing false information to lenders in support of applications for mortgage loans to purchase properties, refinance properties or build properties. As part of the applications for mortgage loans, the defendants submitted inflated and false rent rolls which included non-existent tenants and inflated rents to fraudulently increase the income for a building in order to justify a loan amount that they would not otherwise qualify for.  Similarly, in order to further inflate the income, defendants told lenders they were receiving fake fees, such as stating that residents paid for cable when it was actually included in the rent.  Defendants also fraudulently reduced and improperly capitalized expenses in order to make the property appear to generate more income to, again, justify a larger mortgage loan than they would otherwise qualify for.

The defendants took steps to conceal the fraud from the lenders, including by making vacant units appear occupied during inspections by turning radios on in vacant units, by placing welcome mats and shoes in hallways outside vacant units, and by paying individuals to pretend to be tenants in units the inspectors would enter.

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 to insurance companies for repairs after damages to properties in Robert Morgan’s real estate portfolio.

While the loans which were the subject of defendants’ alleged fraudulent conduct exceeded $400 million in value, the total loss sustained by financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises throughout the mortgage fraud scheme is currently estimated to exceed $9,500,000. The loss resulting from the insurance fraud scheme is currently estimated at approximately $3,000,000.

The defendants were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder and were released on conditions.

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 defendants each face charges of wire and bank fraud. Robert and Todd Morgan are also charged with defrauding 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.

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

Upon executing search warrants in this case, my Office, together with our law enforcement partners, acted quickly to take action in an effort to try to limit the amount of damage occasioned by the defendants’ alleged widespread fraud,” noted United States Attorney Kennedy.  “While that effort succeeded in that objective, the unfortunate truth is that the swiftness with which we moved may have also contributed to the reasons for which the original indictment in this case was dismissed by the Court.  In the end, however, this new indictment now ensures that the defendants will be held to answer for the serious crimes alleged therein.”

The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia, 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.

 

Iskyo Aronov (also known as “Isaac Aronov”) Middle Village, New York, Ron Borovinsky, Hollis Hills, New York and Michael Konstantinovskiy, Roslyn Heights, New York have been charged in a wide-ranging mortgage fraud scheme to defraud the government.

In a complaint unsealed today, Aronov, Borovinsky, Konstantinovskiy, and companies that they owned or controlled (175 Vernon Ave. Inc., 308 Linde St. LLC, 725 Management LLC, 1021 B Holdings LLC, 1083 Lafayette Ave. LLC, 1178 Gates Ave. Inc., 2320 Baeumont Ave Unit 3d LLC, 1S8C Holdings LLC , Ag2 Equities, Inc., Arbie Management Inc., Bedstuy Group LLC, Bert Holdings LLC, BNE Management LLC, Etuy Equities LLC, IA Investors LLC, IJ Development LLC, LL Fund Inc., LL Organization Inc., MI 1 Holdings LLC, MIP Management Inc., My Ideal Property Group LLC, My Ideal Property Rockaway Blvd. LLC, National Homeowners Assistance Inc., Phase 2 Development LLC, Pim Equities Inc., Settle NY Corp, ZOR Equities LLC, ZT Equities LLC), have been charged in engaging in a fraudulent short sales of residential properties insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Pursuant to HUD’s Pre-Foreclosure Sale Program, qualifying homeowners with defaulted, FHA-insured mortgages may sell their properties in a “short sale” for less than the balance of the mortgage if the sale is for the fair market value of the property.  If a homeowner obtains approval for a short sale, the lender releases the mortgage after the short sale and submits an FHA insurance claim to HUD to cover the outstanding mortgage balance net of the short sale proceeds, plus approved costs and interest.  HUD, in turn, pays the lender’s claim from federal funds.

Aronov was the founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of defendants My Ideal Property Inc., My Ideal Property Group LLC and MIP Management Inc., and also controlled other affiliated corporate entities that he allegedly established to help him fraudulently acquire residential properties.  Borovinsky identified himself as a co-founder with Aronov of My Ideal Property.  Konstantinovskiy worked as an agent for My Ideal Property where he allegedly conspired with others to fraudulently obtain properties.

As alleged in the complaint, from at least 2013 through 2016, the defendants defrauded HUD by manipulating the short sale process to acquire residential properties from numerous distressed homeowners for below-fair market value prices in non-arm’s-length transactions.  The individual defendants used various corporate entities in furtherance of the fraudulent scheme.  In the process, defendants made a host of material misrepresentations in critical transaction documents.  As a result, defendants not only acquired the properties for below-fair market value prices, but obtained broker fees in the transactions and induced lenders to release the FHA-insured mortgages at a loss.  In turn, HUD paid the lenders’ claims for FHA insurance from federal funds.  These payments by HUD were artificially inflated as a result of the defendants’ fraudulent conduct.

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

As alleged, these defendants fraudulently obtained homes at depressed prices at the expense of a taxpayer-funded program designed to assist borrowers seeking the American Dream of home ownership,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme.  “This Office is committed to protecting the integrity of the FHA insurance program from those who try to enrich themselves through predatory mortgage fraud schemes.

The defendants allegedly engaged in a scheme of wholesale deception when they provided false, misleading, and incomplete information to lending institutions, homeowners, 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.  In addition, the artificial devaluation of residential properties will slow the recovery of market values at a time of economic challenge when affordable housing is at a premium,” stated HUD-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Scaringi.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) is committed to holding accountable those who waste, steal, or abuse the resources of the Government-Sponsored Enterprises regulated by FHFA.  We are proud to have partnered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in this case,” stated FHFA-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Manchak.

The suit is brought pursuant to the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA).

The government’s complaint intervenes in a lawsuit originally brought by under the qui tam provisions of the FCA.  Under the FCA, private citizens with knowledge of fraud against the government can bring a lawsuit on behalf of the United States and share in the recovery.  The act also permits the government to intervene in such actions, as the government has done in this case.  The government’s case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Castiglione, with assistance from Affirmative Civil Enforcement Auditor Michael Gambrell.

 

Alagi Samba, 50, Bronx, New York, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud affecting a financial institution, was sentenced today to time served.

Between about June 2008 and February 2009, the defendant conspired with others to devise a scheme to commit mortgage fraud and obtain eight loans for unqualified borrowers for homes in the Bronx, New York.

As part of the scheme, Samba served as a realtor on behalf of co-conspirator Daniel Badu in the purchase of a property in the Bronx, New York. The defendant was aware that Badu was employed as a home health aide and did not have the income or assets to qualify for a mortgage loan in the amount of $574,543 to purchase the property. Samba obtained Badu’s personal identification information and business documents and provided them to another co-conspirator, a mortgage broker, knowing that the documents would be altered or falsely created to indicate that Badu was an ophthalmologist at his company Eagle Eyes. In addition, fraudulent paystubs and tax returns were submitted to support the loan application. Samba provided these false loan documents in order to secure a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Based on that false application and supporting documentation, the loan was approved.

The defendant and his co-conspirators arranged for additional fraudulent loans to be approved, including another loan for Badu, and caused wire communications to be transmitted in interstate commerce for those loans. The defendant caused losses of approximately $547,000 affecting financial institutions in Buffalo and elsewhere.

Five co-defendants, including Daniel Badu, were previously convicted and sentenced.

Samba was also ordered to pay restitution totaling $790,350.40 to M&T Bank and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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

The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division, under the direction of Inspector-in-Charge Joseph W. Cronin, Boston Division; the Department of Housing and Urban Development, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brad Geary; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia.

Tina Brown, 45, Bronx, New York, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution, was sentenced today to six months home detention.

Between about June 2008 and February 2009, the defendant conspired with others to devise a scheme to commit mortgage fraud and obtain eight loans for unqualified borrowers for homes in the Bronx, New York. As part of the scheme, Brown used a relative to purchase a property located at 4087 Edson Avenue, Bronx, New York. The defendant falsely verified that the purchaser worked for her own company in order fraudulently to inflate the purchaser’s income so that she would qualify for a mortgage for that property. Brown knew that these false loan documents were submitted to The Funding Source, a mortgage bank, in order to secure a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Based on that false application and supporting documentation, the loan was approved. The Funding Source sold the loan on the secondary market to M &T Bank, which wired funds from New York through the State of Ohio to purchase the loan.

The defendant and her co-conspirators arranged for additional fraudulent loans to be approved. These fraudulent transactions caused losses of approximately $244,000 to M&T Bank, Citibank, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Four co-defendants were previously convicted and sentenced: Gregory Gibbons, a mortgage broker, was sentenced to time served; Laurence Savedoff, an attorney, was sentenced to serve four months in prison; Julio Rodriguez, an appraiser, was sentenced to serve six months in prison; and Daniel Badu, a borrower, was sentenced to time served. Defendant Alagi Samba has been convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution totaling $220,042.17 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Citibank.

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

The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division, under the direction of Inspector-in-Charge Joseph W. Cronin, Boston Division, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 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.