Three men plead guilty in Cambria Heights home foreclosure scam: DA

Cambria Heights foreclosure
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Three men from outside the borough — as well as East Coast Money Finders, Inc. — pleaded guilty to criminal possession of stolen property in Cambria Heights and subsequently made restitution of more than $400,000 to their victim, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced Tuesday.

Jonathan Marcus, 53, on Long Beach, Vincent Longobardi, 76, of East 31st Street in Brooklyn, and Edward Doran, 46, of New Windsor in Orange County, along with the corporation, were indicted by a Queens grand jury charged on a 12-count indictment and arraigned in Queens Supreme Court in April for stealing more than $400,000 from a foreclosure sale of a house in Cambria Heights.

According to the charges, between April 2010 and January 2016, three separate written inquiries were made to the NYC Department of Finance by each defendant regarding unclaimed surplus funds from the 2006 foreclosure auction of a house in Cambria Heights. After defendants Longobardi and Marcus made the inquiries in April 2010 and February 2012, Longobardi filed a third request on behalf of East Coast Money Finders in December 2015.

The following January, defendant Doran contacted the NYC Department of Finance to inquire about missing documentation necessary to claim the surplus money, and defendant Marcus submitted the missing documentation a few days later.

In April 2015, Katz said East Coast Money Finders filed a motion in Queens County Supreme Court claiming rights to the surplus funds totaling nearly $350,000. Two documents with the owners’ forged signatures were filed with the court in support of this motion. The documents stipulated that defendant Marcus, the president of East Coast Money Finders, Inc., will split the funds between the company and the couple who had once owned the home.

After the defendants provided the NYC Department of Finance with all the necessary paperwork, including a court order based on the forged documents authorizing the distribution of the funds, an NYC Department of Finance check of $394,216 was deposited into East Coast Money Finders, Inc.’s bank account. Each of the defendants then received a portion of the funds which was distributed into their personal bank accounts.

According to the investigation, the years-long scheme was revealed in January 2021, when the widow who owned the home with her husband at the time of the 2006 foreclosure sale attempted to claim the surplus funds for herself from the NYC Department of Finance. Neither the 67-year-old woman nor her husband, when he was alive, signed any documents giving anyone else access to the finds. The victim and her late husband never received any of the $350,000 that was disbursed in February 2016.

“Seeking justice on behalf of victims when scammers try to take advantage of housing instability is a top priority for my office,” Katz said. “Whenever we can, we also seek to make the victim whole by securing restitution and returning stolen funds to the rightful owners. In pleading guilty, the three defendants, in this case, took responsibility for illegally claiming a nearly $400,000 surplus from a foreclosure sale with forged signatures and fraudulent documents.”

The trio pleaded guilty to criminal possession of the stolen property last month before Queens Criminal Court Judge Stephanie Zaro. As part of the agreement, the defendants and the corporation will provide full restitution in the amount of $416,216.95, which also covers legal fees incurred by the victim in trying to rectify the theft in a civil action.

“They are now on notice that this criminal behavior will not be tolerated in Queens County,” Katz said.”We hope that the constitution provides peace of mind to the victim.”