Federal prosecutors say a $58 million mortgage fraud scheme involving more than 100 mortgages on residential properties in Westchester County, Dutchess County, Long Island and the New York City area has been smashed today with charges filed against 14 people.
Among those charged are the president and owner of mortgage brokerage firm First Class Equities of Long Island, five loan officers, and four attorneys and one disbarred lawyer.
Many of the properties involved in these transactions are now in default or foreclosure, according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.
"As alleged, this brazen and wide-ranging scheme defrauded banks and lenders of millions and enriched its participants, including real estate professionals who took advantage of their inside knowledge of the system to fleece it,” Bharara said. “Mortgage fraud undermines the banking system and hurts hardworking homeowners, and we will continue to work with the FBI to make sure that those who commit such crimes are caught and prosecuted."
A federal indictment charges that from 2004 to 2009, the co-conspirators arranged home sales between "straw buyers" ‑ people who posed as home buyers, but who had no intention of living in, or paying for, the mortgaged properties — and homeowners, often people in financial distress, who were willing to sell their homes.
The following are charged in the Indictment:
GERARD CANINO, 50, of Merrick, NY, head of First Class Equities
IAN KATZ, 32, of Keller, TX
OMAR GUZMAN, 38, of East Quogue, NY
JAMES VIGNOLA, 31, of Freeport, NY
HENRY RICHARDS, 48, of Jamaica, NY
ROBERT THORNTON, 64, of Merrick, NY
NEAL SULTZER, 61, of Plainview, NY
MICHAEL RAPHAN, 63, of Oceanside, NY
MICHAEL SCHLUSSEL, 50, of Merrick, NY
JACQUELYN TODARO, 41, of Westbury, NY
KEVIN HYMOWITZ, 38, of Armonk, NY
MICHAEL CHARLES, 61, of Valley Stream
RALPH DELGIORNO, 38, of Merrick, NY
PANDORA BACON, 54,of Newark, NJ
They are all charged with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, and all face possible sentences of up to 30 years in prison and fines of $1 million.
All but one of those charged, Vignola, was in federal custody today.