Whitestone CEO indicted

An unscrupulous CEO has been indicted on numerous charges after an investigation revealed that the real estate appraisal company he operated out of his home inflated house values, and that he committed identity theft.
In a 397-count indictment, D & T National Appraisals, Inc., and its CEO, Donato Odato, 54, of 166-11 Cryders Lane in Whitestone, have been charged with second- and third-degree forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, first- and second-degree falsifying business records, first- and third-degree identity theft, first-degree scheme to defraud and fifth-degree conspiracy.
Odato faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. The company faces a fine of up to $10,000 for each felony count conviction or double the amount of the illegal gain.
“The arrests are the result of a nine-month investigation which alleges a pattern of fraud committed by the defendants in the sale of numerous homes in Queens County and elsewhere in the United States and resulted in artificially high appraisals of the properties,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “This type of mortgage fraud has the potential to needlessly cost lenders and purchasers millions of dollars, as well as undermine the credibility of the entire real estate market.”
In response to the charges, Odato’s attorney, Rochelle Berliner said, “A 397-count indictment is really overkill.”
According to the indictment, Odato, as the chief executive officer of D & T National Appraisals, Inc., - which is no longer in operation - recruited licensed appraisers over the Internet and offered them positions with his company as part of a ruse to steal their personal identity information.
It is alleged he would then forge the names of the prospective job seekers on numerous appraisals that he filed in connection with residential mortgage applications.
“I think the [charges of] identity theft are quite an exaggeration,” said Berliner.
Odato allegedly took advantage of the Internet’s anonymity, as well as his own background as a former licensed assistant appraiser, to fraudulently induce lenders and other real estate professionals to use his company’s claimed appraisal services.
The indictment further claims that instead of actually doing the appraisal work, Odato would simply concoct information on real estate values from various sources and then inflate the values to match mortgage applications.
The alleged scheme came to light when financial institutions began reaching out to the appraisers who allegedly had their identities stolen and advised them that their services would no longer be needed due to their inappropriate and highly inflated valuations of properties based on falsified data. The appraisers, in turn, contacted the Queens District Attorney’s Office to report the identity theft.
Following his arraignment, Odato was released on $100,000 bail. He is to return to court on January 14, 2008.
“At that point we’ll decide how to proceed,” said Berliner.

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