Queens Real Estate Charade Ends – QNS.com

Queens Real Estate Charade Ends

A three-year, multi-agency investigation recently netted 17 arrests and broke up a $1 million real estate "charade" in south Queens, District Attorney Richard Brown announced on Thursday, May 8.
The group allegedly used forged documents to stage six sham real estate closings, selling the homes of property owners in South Ozone Park, Jamaica and St. Albans unbeknownst to those property owners. These closings also defrauded two mortgage companies, Interstate Resource Corporation of Newburgh, New York, and Equicredit Corporation of Jacksonville, Florida, of more than $1 million.
"The defendants are accused of turning real estate closings into a game of charades in which nothing was authentic except the money that changed hands," Brown said.
According to the district attorney, detectives with the NYPD launched an investigation in January 2000, after receiving a series of tips about identity theft. The investigations scope gradually widened, eventually involving the DAs Economic Crimes Bureau, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Nassau County Police Department and the New York State Departments of Banking and Motor Vehicles.
Laurelton resident Denise Smith, a 49-year-old unlicensed real estate broker, is the alleged ringleader of the group. She ran two companies, MQ Star Development Corporation and Equity Care Consortium, and worked with a trio of lawyers to obtain a range of false documents New York State drivers licenses, property deeds, contracts of sale, loan applications, requests for employment, and state and federal W-2 tax forms and to recruit "straw" buyers and sellers.
Impersonators were paid up to $500 to pose as buyers or sellers. They used the fraudulent documents to open bank accounts, complete the real estate transactions, and arrange six sizeable mortgages, from $148,500 to $211,500.
The real estate closings took place, allegedly, at the Garden City office of Sonya Moody-Barksdale.
According to records seized by investigators, for instance, the defendants staged two closings at Moodys office in the sale of a South Ozone Park home for $170,000, while getting a $161,500 mortgage from Equicredit.
Victimized homeowners in Queens had no knowledge of the transactions until they were contacted by mortgage banks months later.
"They were told that they had to make a mortgage payment, or theyd face foreclosure," said Patrick Clark, a spokesman for the DAs office.
Most of those homeowners are now trying to restore their credit records.
Smith, Moody-Barksdale, and three other defendants are charged with multiple offenses, including enterprise corruption, conspiracy, and grand larceny. They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
The other 12 defendants are not charged with enterprise corruption, but they still face up to 15 years in prison. Among them are two Queens residents, Steven Faucette of Ridgewood and Michael Swarez of Jamaica.
Delroy Levy, an investigator involved with the case for the Department of Banking, acknowledges that the two mortgage companies, Interstate and Equicredit, should have been more vigilant in checking the credit backgrounds of the alleged buyers.
He urges homeowners to avoid "one-stop services," where brokers or lawyers offer a bevy of questionable services on top of their standard fare.
In general, vigilance is the best defense against identity theft, Levy continued.

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