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P R E S S   R E L E A S E


March 7, 2012


Brooklyn, March 7, 2012 Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes today announced charges against 12 defendants for participation in seven different cases of mortgage fraud and real estate crimes, including one case in which the defendant is charged with hate crimes, for targeting the elderly victim because of his age.

"Defendants who commit real estate crimes do far more than steal property and money: they rob their victims of the American Dream of homeownership," said District Attorney Hynes. "Particularly troubling is the use of so-called 'reverse mortgages', available only to senior citizens, to steal the equity from homes belonging to elderly victims."

The Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit started in March of 2009, from a federal appropriation sponsored by Senator, Charles Schumer. Since its inception the Unit has achieved many successes, undertaking well over 300 investigations, resulting in over 50 prosecutions. Sentences have ranged from one to 36 years. Also, courts in these cases have ordered restitution in excess of $400,000 dollars and seven homes, valued in the millions of dollars have been returned to their owners.

Sal Lauria, 36, and an unidentified accomplice are charged with obtaining a reverse mortgage in the name of their 81-year-old victim, who met Lauria after the victim responded to a television commercial for debt assistance. Lauria worked for a company that was associated with the owner of the ad. Lauria is charged with offering the victim a "stream-lined" mortgage and collecting all of his personal identification information to apply for it. Lauria is charged with setting up a false bank account in both his name and the victim's name, into which he deposited $350,000, which represents proceeds from a reverse mortgage. Lauria kept all the money for himself, according to the indictment.

Lauria is charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree as a Hate Crime, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Five defendants, John Rondell, 32, Van Mobely, 52, Josef Perlstein, 29, Rene Tenpow, 32, and Eleanora Temis, 24, are charged with using 293 Franklin Ave. to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars. Perlstein owned the property, but the mortgage exceeded the property's value. Perlstein transferred the property to himself, Rondell and Mobley, and Mobley recruited two loan processors, Tenpow and Temis, to find a straw buyer. They found a 59-year-old Russian immigrant from Sheepshead Bay with minimal assets, and made it appear on paper as though he possessed enough assets to qualify for a $1.6 million mortgage, according to the indictment. Next, according to the indictment, they arranged for the straw buyer to use the mortgage to purchase the property from Perlstein, Rondell and Mobley. The scam came to light when the straw buyer reported to the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office that her identity had been stolen and used to obtain a mortgage for a property in Nassau County.

Nicholas Baucom, 26, is charged with forging a deed and moving into a vacant, foreclosed property, at 434 Macon Street. The victim in this case had purchased the building a few weeks prior to discovering Baucom and several "tenants" living there. Baucum is suspected of forging deeds to as many as five other abandoned properties in the neighborhood, and the investigation into his activities is ongoing. Baucom is currently charged with Criminal Trespass and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree.

Jonathan Smith, 41, is charged with stealing two vacant properties from the estates of their deceased owners. The indictment charges that he forged a deed to, 201 Cornelia Street, valued at $480,000, and made a deal to sell the property, accepting $10,000 for a down payment. He is also charged with using a stolen identity to transfer 865 Greene Ave. from the estate of its rightful owner, a Manhattan resident who died in 2009, to himself. He later contracted to sell the property for $410,000, accepting a $25,000 from an unsuspecting purchaser, according to the indictment. Charges against Smith include Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Identity Theft in the First Degree, and Forgery in the Second Degree. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Wilhemina Smith, 61, is charged with running an illegal rooming house in a building she did not own, which had no heat or hot water. She is also charged with threatening to evict a tenant who was late with the rent. Smith is charged with Unlawful Eviction and Harassment in the Second Degree.

Margarita Alava, 60, and Glenn Currence, 59, are charged with forging Alava's brother's name on a deed to sell his house, which they sold the same day, earning more than $88,000. They are charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Forgery in the Second Degree. They face up to 15 years in prison, if convicted.

In 2008 Alvin Ashby, 36, along with his child's mother and grandmother, purchased 1091 E.91st Street, and all three shared in the mortgage payments. However, Ashby is charged with forging a deed giving sole ownership to himself and then attempting to take out a larger mortgage on the property. He is charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree.

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant's guilt.

The cases were investigated by Joseph Ponzi, Chief Investigator, Special Investigations Unit; Michael Seminara, Supervising Detective Investigator, Special Investigations Unit and Jeannnette Sbordone, Detective Investigator.

Detective Shirley Chambers and Detective Gerald Amato from the DA's and NYPD squad: Captain Walter Ward is commanding officer of the DA's squad.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Kurtz; Assistant District Attorney Andrea Clarke; Deputy Bureau Chief of the Rackets Division, Frank Dudis; Lawrence Oh, Rackets Division Bureau Chief; and, Richard Farrell, Chief of the Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit in the Rackets Division. Michael F. Vecchione is Chief of the Rackets Division.

Source: Kings County District Attorney's Office

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