Manhattan, home to Wall Street and other global institutions, has always viewed itself as the center of the financial universe in terms of growth, management and even fraud. Once again, however, the Queens County District Attorney’s Office may have taken a larger share of the “fraud pie.” According to the Queens District Attorney’s Office press release, 17 people, including two attorneys, have been arrested in a Mortgage Fraud and Grand Larceny scheme were 26 residential properties, valued at nearly $13 million, were used to defraud legitimate homeowners and lending institutions out of $3 million.
According to District Attorney Brown:
“In trying to hide their elaborate scheme from law enforcement and regulatory scrutiny, the two main defendants are alleged to have used unscrupulous attorneys and straw buyers and the fragmented structure of the real estate settlement process to funnel millions of dollars through various shell corporations that they either owned or which were controlled by other defendants. Money loss aside, the defendants are accused of creating a human tragedy of immense proportions for the homeowners who had turned to them in a desperate hope of saving their homes from foreclosure.”
The seventeen defendants (Roger Huggins, Inderpaul Sookraj, Shawn D. Chand, Trevor Rupnarain, Anand Bharat, Prahalad Mahadeo, Mangal Singh, Ariel Huggins, Mohammad Abdallah, Michael Abdul, Faiz Ali, Jagdesh Kuldip, Purnima Mahammed, Aneesa Mohammed, Krishna Ramroop, Vadianuth Sanichar and David Sookdeo) are charged in varying capacities with:
Grand Larceny in the First and Second Degrees (“B” and “C” felonies punishable by up to 25 years and 15 years in prison respectively), Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the First Degree (“B” felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison), Money Laundering in the First Degree (“B” felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison), Identity Theft in the First Degree (“D” felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison), Forgery in the Second Degree (“D” felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison), Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degrees (“D” felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison), Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (“E” felony punishable by up to 4 years in prison) and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree (“E” felony punishable by up to 4years in prison).
Fortunately for the defendants, the Queens District Attorney’s Office did not seek an indictment on one of their hallmark offenses – Enterprise Corruption. That being said, the above offenses are some of the most significant white collar crimes.
For further information on the above crimes, please follow the respective links. For a reading of the press release from the Queens District Attorney’s Office, please go to the next page.
“District Attorney Brown said that the investigation leading to today’s arrests is alleged to have revealed that the two ringleaders of the mortgage fraud scheme were Roger Huggins and Inderpaul Sookraj who owned and operated a Richmond Hill, Queens, company that went by various names – Home Solutions Management, Home Solutions Enterprises and Home Solutions Limited – and held itself out to be a home foreclosure rescue company. It is further alleged that both Huggins and Sookraj also owned shell corporations which were created, in part, to launder the ill-gotten gains from the foreclosure rescue scam. Huggins was also allegedly employed as a loan officer with the defendant DMV Mortgage, a licensed mortgage brokerage firm owned by defendant Mangal Singh, who allegedly received a share of the profits of the alleged scheme from Huggins and Sookraj.
The investigation further allegedly revealed that Huggins and Sookraj targeted homeowners in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx who had substantial equity in their residences but either faced foreclosure due to their inability to make monthly mortgage payments or were simply behind in their mortgage payments and looking to refinance or modify their loans with their lenders. It is alleged that Huggins and Sookraj offered to help the homeowners by instructing them to permit title to their homes be put in the name of a third-party purchaser (a “straw buyer”) for one year, during which time the two defendants promised to improve the homeowners’ credit rating, help them obtain more favorable mortgages on their homes and ultimately, return to them the title to their homes. What allegedly occurred at the closings, however, was that Huggins and Sookraj – in order to keep as much of the mortgage proceeds as possible – fabricated reasons why they needed to hold the homeowners’ funds in escrow – such as that the equity withdrawn from the properties would be used to pay the mortgages and expenses on the homes and to repair the homeowners’ credit.
In some cases, it is alleged, Huggins and Sookraj induced distressed homeowners to sell or transfer their properties directly to them for reduced prices. Huggins and Sookraj then allegedly resold or “flipped” the properties to straw buyers at inflated prices, usually within a short period of time. In some of these cases, the two defendants allegedly paid off the homeowners by using the home mortgage loan funds obtained from the lenders for the straw buyers. In those cases, the difference between the inflated home mortgage loan amounts and the reduced sale amounts represented, in part, the defendants’ profits from the scheme.
In another instance, it is alleged, Huggins and Sookraj drafted and filed fraudulent documents which purported that they had purchased a home from a homeowner who, in fact, had died a year prior to the closing. The defendants subsequently flipped the property to a straw buyer at an inflated price ($420,000), thus allowing them to keep and split the entire loan proceeds between themselves and their co-defendants as there was no actual seller of the property. To date, the Jamaica, Queens, property remains vacant and the loan has gone into default. It is additionally charged that Huggins and Sookraj stole the property deeds of at least two homes outright by fraudulently creating documents – complete with such identifying information of the homeowners as their social security numbers, dates of birth and driver’s licenses – which purported that the homeowner had sold their homes to Huggins and Sookraj, who then turned around and sold the properties to straw buyers. The homeowners neither had any knowledge of the fraudulent transactions, nor did they realize that their home had been stolen. In both instances, the original homeowners allegedly had met Huggins when he offered to assist them with the “short sale” of their properties. In one case, the homeowner had gone to Huggins because he had lost his job and his wife was stricken with cancer. In carrying out their scheme, it is alleged that Huggins and Sookraj paid various individuals to recruit homeowners to sell or refinance their properties or to act as straw buyers to carry out the fraudulent real estate deals by applying for loans. In most cases, it is alleged, the mortgage applications submitted to the lending institutions contained falsified income statements of the straw buyers.
For example, it is alleged that straw buyer Aneesa Mohammed obtained two home mortgage loans in the aggregate amount of $410,000 from Freemont Investment and Loans to fund the purchase of a home. The submitted documents allegedly prepared by Huggins and Sookraj through DMV Mortgage contained numerous false representations, among which were that Mohammed falsely represented that she made more than $100,000 annually and had more than $30,000 in her bank account when, in fact, her true income was $12,800 and her bank account contained only $1,700.
In furtherance of the scheme, Huggins and Sookraj allegedly had two attorneys – Trevor Rupnerain and Shawn Chand- representing lending institutions, buyers or sellers at various Home Solution property closings. The two attorneys are alleged to have concealed the true nature of the transactions from their clients and distributed fraudulently obtained loan proceeds to themselves, as well as to other defendants and entities on behalf of Huggins and Sookraj. They are also charged with fraudulently preparing various financial and real estate documents.
Finally, it is alleged that Huggins and Sookraj would make several monthly mortgage payments together on properties used in the mortgage scheme in order to avoid early default and thus preventing lending institutions – who sold their mortgages into a secondary market – from identifying the true nature of the fraudulent scheme. This device further permitted the initial lender to sell the loans in the secondary market.”
Crotty Saland PC is a New York White Collar criminal defense firm. Founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, Crotty Saland PC represents clients throughout the New York City region. For further information on criminal statutes, newsworthy cases or interesting legal decisions, please review the New York Criminal Law Blog at NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com.