A major milestone in every homeowner’s life is the day when they pay off their mortgage and their humble abode is truly theirs.
That being said, you can truly understand how Marine Park resident Jean Kemp felt when she got a phone call from a bank demanding she make an installment on her mortgage — 22 years after she made her last payment.
“It was so scary. I was just furious,” Kemp told reporters Thursday when it was announced that an unscrupulous attorney and his sidekick were responsible for “stealing” her home and using it to secure a $225,000 mortgage — two of a dozen charlatans in Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes’ ever growing real estate rogues gallery.
Standing with Kemp, Hynes explained that Victor Koltun and Jarrett Haber, the attorney, doctored paperwork to make it look like they owned Kemp’s home, even though her family has been living there since 1975 (they hadn’t had a mortgage on the property since 1987).
The duo then used the property, as well as several others, to get a $225,000 loan, Hynes said. They reportedly used the money to pay down a large debt related to another real estate scam they were conducting in Long Island.
“Ordinarily, in real estate deals, you would say, ‘Get a lawyer.’ Now you say, ‘Get an honest lawyer,’” Hynes said, adding that his Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit arrested Koltun and Haber after learning of Kemp’s plight through State Senator Carl Kruger’s (D-Mill Basin, Brighton Beach) office.
Upon learning that a second mortgage miraculously appeared on her house, Kemp, whose husband is in a nursing home, contacted Kruger’s office, looking for help. Finding something shady, Kruger’s people contacted the D.A.’s office, who arrested Haber and Koltun after a brief investigation.
Kruger was with Hynes and Kemp to announce the arrest Thursday.
“With mortgage fraud gaining status as the ‘crime of choice’ among thosewho prey on the elderly and other vulnerable residents, I applaud the efforts of District Attorney Hynes in aggressively pursuing those whoperpetrate this crime and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law,” he said in a statement.
But Kemp’s plight was one of several mortgage swindling stories outlined Thursday. Ten other flim flam artists have also been recently been indicted in various investigations conducted by the Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit. Some of them were down right devilish.
Case in point: Attorney Alan Rocoff found himself being investigated by the Real Estate Crimes Unit when allegations were made that he had pocketed more than $200,000 he gained from an auction on a foreclosed church at 2525 Snyder Avenue in East Flatbush back in 2005.
Rocoff, who has now been suspended from practicing law in New York, reportedly got more than $300,000 for the property at auction.
After paying off all of the debts attached to the house of worship, Rocoff, the court appointed referee, allegedly held onto the money, despite repeat attempts of Pastor Robert Booker Sr., the owner of the property, to reclaim the leftover cash.
When Pastor Booker died in 2008, he was still trying to get the money owed to him returned, family members told reporters, who said that they were “jubilant” that justice had finally been served.
“This was his life,” his daughter Dorcel Egerton told reporters. “He would go outside and administer to the community, help people, giving people money.”
Rocoff is currently charged with grand larceny in the second degree.
Other charlatans busted by the DA’s Mortgage Fraud and Real Estate Crimes Unit included Joseph Nykian and Nitza Jones who were charged with forging power of attorney in order to take out a $300,000 mortgage on a St. Marks Avenue home without the owner’s consent, New York City Corrections Officer Margareth Blanc, who was charged with collecting more than $30,000 in Section 8 rental subsidies while living in a home owned by his sister, and Todd Graham, who was accused of placing an ad on Craigslist for an apartment in a building he neither owned nor managed. Graham reportedly collected the first month’s rents and a security deposits from two prospective tenants before his scam was uncovered, officials said.
Hynes estimated that the 12 suspects were responsible for bilking banks, homeowners and tenants of more than $2 million dollars with these scams.
“The diversity of crimes committed by all of these defendants shows the lengths to which some unscrupulous people will go to enrich themselves illegally,” Hynes said. “The arrests and indictments should serve as a strong warning to all who still think that they will devise some new scheme and get away with Real Estate and Mortgage Fraud related crimes.”
“No matter how creative they think they are, no matter what lengths they go to avoid detection, they will be caught and prosecuted,” he said.