Friday, May 21, 2010

Alleged Con Men Steal Millions in Bad Mortgages by Connor Adams Sheets -

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Queens District Attorney Richard Brown (c.) announces his office is charging 17 people in connection with a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme. Photo courtesy Queens District Attorney

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown charged 17 attorneys, mortgage brokers and real estate advisers last Thursday with defrauding homeowners and other entities out of millions of dollars.

The scheme the suspects were allegedly involved in targeted homeowners in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx who were attempting to avoid foreclosure on their homes, according to Brown. The scam, which targeted lending institutions as well as homeowners, cheated its victims out of $3 million of equity at 26 residential properties, according to the DA.

Roger Huggins of Queens Village and Inderpaul Sookraj of South Ozone Park, who were identified as the scheme’s ringleaders, allegedly owned and operated a Richmond Hill company that went by several names — Home Solutions Management, Home Solutions Enterprises and Home Solutions Limited — and claimed to be a home foreclosure rescue company, according to Brown.

“The defendants are accused of creating a human tragedy of immense proportions for the homeowners who had turned to them in a desperate hope of saving their homes from foreclosure,” Brown said.

The scheme targeted homeowners who had substantial equity in their homes but either faced foreclosure or who were behind in payments and wanted to modify their loans with their lenders, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors said Huggins and Sookraj used various means to trick clients and make it appear that they had sold their homes to the pair. They also convinced people to sell their properties to them for reduced prices, shortly after which they would resell them for more.

In another instance, Huggins and Sookraj allegedly created and filed fraudulent documents showing they had purchased a home from a homeowner who had actually died the year before, the DA said. They then flipped the property to a buyer at an inflated price, according to Brown.

Richmond Hill attorneys Trevor Rupnerain of South Ozone Park and Shawn Chand of Valley Stream, L.I., were also charged with fraudulently preparing financial and real estate documents in connection with the fraud.

Assistant District Attorney Gregory Pavlides said they used a database of “bad lawyers” compiled by the DA’s office in order to uncover the fraud scheme.

“As we were looking to the database we found a pattern, and that’s how we were able to make this case,” Pavlides said.

Those charged in the fraud were each charged with one or more of a number of crimes, including grand larceny, money laundering, identity theft, forgery, falsifying business records and scheme to defraud. If convicted, the defendants face as many as 25 years in prison.

Targeted Queens homes include ones in Queens Village, Hollis and South Ozone Park.