A Brooklyn man has been charged with bilking home buyers in Flushing out of more than $1 million by allegedly conning nearly two dozen would-be home buyers out of their down payments from September 2016 and December 2018, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
Suspended attorney Freddie Berg, of the Berg Law Firm LLC, was arraigned Tuesday evening, July 6, before Queens Criminal Court Judge Saul Stein on a complaint charging the 62-year-old with grand larceny in the second and third degree, conspiracy in the fourth degree and two counts of scheme to defraud in the first degree.
According to the charges, in the summer of 2016, one of the victims, a woman, responded to an internet listing for two houses for sale on 12th Avenue in Flushing. The would-be buyer spoke to an unapprehended party who partnered with Berg to sell homes. Following a series of conversations, the victim agreed to buy the properties and paid $400,000 in three separate checks as the down payment. In May 2017, the woman spoke to Berg about the properties and he allegedly told her a closing date was imminent. However, a date to complete the purchase of either property was never set and none of her money was returned.
As alleged, the victim’s three checks were deposited into Berg Law Firm’s Citibank account. Soon afterwards, there was a withdrawal for $250,000, a debit for $7,500 that went to a Ford Dealership and a bank check of $33,000 endorsed to another car dealership. There was also a wire transfer allegedly initiated by the unapprehended person to a travel agency. In all there were at least $337,500 withdrawn out of the $400,000 down payment made by the victim.
According to the charge, the defendant and the unapprehended person allegedly swindled a total of 18 people out of $1.3 million and not a single individual was able to close on a property they sought to buy. Only one person received any cash back. That victim was refunded $4,950, even though he allegedly gave Berg a down payment of $205,000 for a home on Madison Street in Brooklyn.
Katz said in February 2018, another victim made an offer through a real estate broker to buy a home on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. The offer was accepted, and in the meeting where the contract was signed, Berg was allegedly the lawyer representing the home seller. Two checks for $25,000 each were allegedly given to the Berg Law Firm. A year later, in February 2019, while the buyer was waiting to close on the brownstone, he learned the property had been sold to someone else. He did not receive a refund of his down payment.
Katz said that as of December 3, 2019, Berg’s license to practice law had been suspended. According to the complaint, in numerous instances money that was deposited into the Berg Law Firm account was wired out to various other banks.
“This defendant is accused of turning the American dream of home ownership into a nightmare for 18 people,” Katz said. “Despite repeated demands for the return of their money, the vast majority of the victims were never refunded their down payments and were never able to close on the homes they sought to buy.”
Judge Stein ordered Berg to return to court on Aug. 11. If convicted he faces up to 5 to 15 years in prison.
Katz added that, if anyone believes they may have been victimized in a scheme of this nature, call her office at 718-286-6560.