Forest Hills Lawyers Convicted In Federal Court
Two Forest Hills attorneys were convicted in federal court on Monday, July 30 for participating in a $25 million citywide mortgage fraud plot, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.
Matthew Burstein and Aaron Rabinowitz, who ran an eponymous law firm at 113-25 Queens Blvd., were each found guilty on 10 felony counts of fraud, according to Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
During a seven-day trial, it was revealed that, from January 2006 to September 2008, Burstein and Rabinowitz worked as attorneys at real estate closings for fraudulent home sales in New York City.
The duo, who would act as both bank settlement attorneys and the buyers’ attorneys at closing hearings, worked with Elias Compres, a real estate agent, and two loan officers, John Constantanides and Arturo Giraldo, to falsify loan documents in order to convince banks-including Countrywide Financial, Fremont In- and Loan, IndyMac Bank, Sun Trust Mortgage, Inc., Wells Fargo & Company and New Century Mortgage Corporation-to give them loans for properties located in Bellerose, College Point, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Ozone Park, Queens Village and Woodhaven, as well as in other locations throughout New York City and Long Island.
Many of the properties were purchased by “straw buyers” who had been recruited by the real estate agents and loan officers. Rolando Roldan was named in a superseding indictment as being the recruiter of these straw buyers.
In several instances, the straw buyers then failed to make mortgage payments to the banks and lenders, and as a result defaulted of millions of dollars’ worth of loans. Meanwhile, Burstein and Rabinowitz would pay themselves attorneys’ fees from the proceedings.
“The defendants violated the trust placed in them as attorneys and further damaged the integrity of the real estate market,” said Lynch in a statement. “We will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who engage in mortgage fraud, including professionals who jettison their responsibility to reap rewards from the fraud.”
Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 26. The maximum term of imprisonment for conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud is 30 years.
Compres, Constantanides, Giraldo and Roldan all pled guilty to their roles in the scheme, and will be sentenced separately at a later date.
The government is also seeking an restitution from the defendants and forfeiture of the criminal proceeds, including a criminal forfeiture money judgment in the amount of proceeds traceable to the offenses.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew S. Amatruda and Robert T. Polemeni. The FBI and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation also helped in the case.