Lurlyn A. Winchester, 58, New City, New York, a Justice for the Town Court of Monroe, was charged with making false statements in connection with an application for a loan to purchase a residence in Monroe, New York, which satisfied the residency requirement of her position as Town Justice. She was also charged with obstruction of justice for providing law enforcement officers, who questioned her about her mortgage loan, with false documents, including fabricated rent payment receipts. Winchester was arrested at her home in New City, New York, and was presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith in White Plains federal court.
According to the allegations contained in the Complaint:
In or about 1997, Winchester and her husband purchased a home in New City, New York (the “New City Home”), which they continue to own. On or about October 6, 2013, Winchester, an attorney practicing in New City, was nominated to be the democratic candidate for Town of Monroe Justice. At that time, she provided an address in Monroe, New York (“Monroe Residence-1”), as her residence, and on or about October 7, 2013, she registered to vote in Monroe, New York. Winchester was then elected Town of Monroe Justice on or about November 5, 2013.
On or about October 14, 2014, Hudson United Mortgage, LLC (“Hudson United”), a mortgage broker located in New City, New York, received a letter from Winchesterindicating that she had been elected Town Justice for the Town of Monroe and that she was relocating to Monroe in order to comply with a residency requirement attached to that position. In or about December 2014, the defendant and her husband submitted an application for a residential loan to Hudson United, and indicated that the loan was to be used to purchase a condominium located in Monroe, New York (“Monroe Residence-2”). On both the loan application and a disclosure notice, signed by the defendant and her husband, they asserted that Monroe Residence-2 would be their primary residence.
Winchester also represented to Hudson United that she and her husband were going to rent out their New City Home to a tenant. Specifically, on or about February 6, 2015, Hudson United received a letter from the defendant in which she identified the New City Home as her “current primary residence” and she stated that she and her husband intended to rent the New City Home and they “already had a prospective tenant” who was “anxiously awaiting to take occupancy of the residence.”
In or about March 2015, Winchester learned that the ultimate loan issuer, Plaza Home Mortgage Inc. (“Plaza”), was going to decline to issue the loan due to insufficient income. In response, Winchester again represented that she and her husband were going to rent out the New City Home and indicated they would have rental income of $4,500 a month. Plaza requested copies of a fully executed 12-month lease and a canceled check for a security deposit. Winchester provided a copy of a lease agreement, signed by the defendant, her husband, and a tenant (the “Tenant”). She also submitted a copy of two $4,500 checks for the security deposit and one month’s rent, made out to the defendant, and drawn on the Tenant’s bank account, as well as other documents reflecting that the checks were deposited into Winchester’s bank account. In or about April 2015, Plaza issued the loan.
Contrary to the defendant’s representations, Winchester did not intend to and did not lease the New City Home to Tenant in 2015; instead she fabricated a 2015 lease and caused checks to be issued and deposited to make it falsely appear that Tenant had paid rent and a security deposit. Tenant did not sign a lease in March 2015, never moved in to the New City Home, and Winchester provided the $9,000 that covered the two $4,500 checks purportedly provided by Tenant.
Further, Monroe Residence-2 was not intended to be, and has not been, the primary residence of the defendant and her husband. Interviews with neighbors, cellphone records, and credit card records indicate that Winchester did not move to Monroe. Finally, in a statement to agents, Winchester admitted that: she resided at the New City Home, she had informed Hudson United that she would be renting the New City Home, she submitted rental checks and other documents relating to renting the New City Home, and the Tenant never moved into the New City Home.
With respect to the obstruction charge, during an interview with members of the FBI Task Force relating to Winchester’s statements and submissions in connection with her loan, she provided them with, among other things, purported receipts for rent payments she claimed to have received from the Tenant for rent of the New City Home. The Tenant, however, indicated that he did not know anything about the receipts and never gave Winchester the cash payments supposedly memorialized in them.
Winchester was charged with one count of making false statements to a mortgage lending business, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, as well as falsifying records in a federal investigation, with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of a federal department or agency, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the Complaint.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “As alleged, Lurlyn Winchester, a municipal court judge for the Town of Monroe, lied and provided fake documents to secure a mortgage on a Monroe condominium in an attempt to falsely satisfy the judicial residency requirement. We should expect and demand integrity in our government. This Office is committed to pursuing corruption in all forms and in all three branches of government, including the judiciary. I thank our partners at the FBI for their work in exposing this fraud and holding accountable our public officials.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. stated: “As alleged, Lurlyn Winchester falsely represented her primary residence in order to fulfill requirements for her position as justice for the Town of Monroe. Winchester, who claimed she had relocated her primary residence from New City to Monroe, allegedly remained in her New City home, despite representations to the contrary. She allegedly provided false information to her mortgage company, claiming her New City property was being rented to a prospective tenant, and later lied to federal agents who interviewed her about her claims. If anyone should have respect for the rule of law, it should most certainly be those entrusted to uphold it. Many thanks to our partners in this investigation as we continue to reinforce our commitment to uncover illegal activity on behalf of public officials at every level.”
Mr. Kim praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI. He also thanked the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance.
The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Margery B. Feinzig is in charge of the prosecution.