It doesn’t get much lower than this.
A Bellerose-based real estate company along with 11 individuals were charged on Wednesday with allegedly carrying out a fraud scheme in which they targeted financially distressed homeowners and convinced them to hand over their properties for assistance that never came.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said that Kings Development Group, based at 246-15 Jericho Tpke., and others named in the 55-count indictment tricked homeowners into transferring their deeds to them with the promise of alleviating their financial burdens. Rather than freeing the victims of debt, he said, the suspects created “a financial nightmare for the homeowners and [placed] them in worse financial situations than when first contacted by the defendants.”
Through an investigation conducted by the Queens District Attorney’s office, prosecutors learned that Kings Development and a Brooklyn-based affiliate, Yisroel Services Corporation, made cold calls to Queens property owners promising to assist them with their financial problems. Many victims of the scam, which was carried out between August 2012 and January of this year, were elderly residents.
Law enforcement sources said the defendants convinced the homeowners to transfer ownership of their homes to a corporate entity. Even though the victims no longer had legal title to the home, authorities noted, they were still held responsible for paying their mortgages.
One victim, Brown said, was a U.S. military veteran who was visited by the defendants at a Veterans Administraiton hospital while undergoing treatment for an extensive illness. They coerced the veteran and his wife to sign a number of documents, including a deed transfer.
In another case, authorities said, they swindled a single mother with five children whose home fell into foreclosure. Rather than rescuing her from financial troubles once she transferred the deed to them, they instead forced her out of her home and moved her into another residence that turned out to be owned by another victim of their scam.
Once the company had the deeds, they began charging the former owners (now tenants) rent, then later evicted them. The defendants then advised the state and city governments that they were the new owners of the properties and began collecting monthly subsidies for their new tenants, along with standard rent payments.
Meanwhile, prosecutors noted, the former homeowners wound up in foreclosure, causing their credit ratings to be destroyed.
Nine of the indicted defendants appeared in court on March 1: Netanel (a.k.a. Nathan) Barnes, 39, of Brooklyn; Welmi Y. (a.k.a. Jasmine) Fernandez-Cabrera, 32, of Manhattan; Michael Herskowitz, 37, of Brooklyn; Yariv Katz, 43, of New Rochelle, NY; Nadia Khedu (a.k.a. Nadia Sankar), 31, of Assaf Moshe (a.k.a. Joe Levi), 40, of Queens; Nissan Pinchasov, 30, of Brooklyn; and Yisroel Steinberg, 36, of Brooklyn. Two others remain at large: Domingo A. Fernandez, 63, of Manhattan; and Shandelle Solny, 25, of Brooklyn.
They are variously charged with criminal possession of stolen property, falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing, grand larceny, unlawful eviction, criminal facilitation, fraudulently obtaining a signature and scheme to defraud. they each face between four and 25 years behind bars if convicted on any or multiple charges.