PLG attorney convicted of lying to Feds about property-sale scheme

PLG attorney convicted of lying to Feds about property-sale scheme
U.S. Attorney’s office

A crooked Prospect-Lefferts Gardens lawyer faces up to 20 years in prison for lying to the Feds to help her aunt avoid paying millions of dollars she owed to the government, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

“As proved at trial, she violated her oath as an attorney by participating in a corrupt scheme to impede the collection of forfeiture and restitution owed to the government by her client,” Richard Donoghue said on Wednesday.

A jury convicted attorney Lydia Hills of obstructing an official proceeding, following a three-day trial in which prosecutors described how she requested that the U.S. Attorney’s office remove a lien against four of her aunt’s Queens properties. The Feds imposed the lien after convicting Hills’s aunt of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud in 2010, when a judge sentenced her to more than five years in prison, and ordered her to pay more than $17 million in restitution.

Hills — who was working as a real-estate broker to help her aunt sell the properties — in March 2016 sent a letter requesting officials remove the lien, according to prosecutors, who alleged the attorney falsely claimed her aunt would not benefit from selling her properties, because she would use funds from the sales to pay off mortgages on the homes as part of a “short sale.”

But by the time she sent the missive, Hills had already conspired with her aunt to secretly sell one of the properties in a scheme that would allow both of them to pocket the cash proceeds, and hide the money from the Feds, according to information from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

In April 2016, Hills and her aunt met the buyer — who was doubling as a confidential source for the Federal Bureau of Investigation — to close the deal.

The buyer-source handed over a bag with $25,000 in cash for one of the properties, plus another $8,100 for Hills’s broker fee, according to information from the U.S. Attorney’s office, which noted that the federal agency recorded the closing and caught Hills telling the buyer she was worried that the Feds would find out about her scheme.

“I’m afraid. I’m an attorney … I don’t want her to say something … The wrong thing on the phone one day and it’s being recorded and I’m screwed,” Hills said.

Hills’s sentencing is set for July 9, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, who said the Feds indicted her aunt for the scheme, but later dropped the charges against her because she was found not competent to stand trial.

The corrupt local attorney has yet to be disbarred, according to a law-enforcement source.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.