TRENTON – Three people, including a lawyer from Essex County, were indicted today on charges that they conspired to steal approximately $873,520 from a lender by using stolen identities to file fraudulent mortgage loan applications for two real estate transactions, falsifying settlement statements and diverting loan proceeds, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced.
The Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Stephanie Hand, 49, of Livingston; Julio Concepcion, 48, of Passaic; and Thomas D’Anna, 38, of Saddle Brook with second-degree counts of conspiracy, money laundering and theft by deception.
The three defendants allegedly conspired in two fraudulent real estate sales in January and February of 2009 involving properties at 248 River Road in Garfield and 91 Isabella Avenue in Newark. In both instances, D’Anna was the seller and no actual buyer existed. D’Anna owned the Garfield property with his wife, and he owned the Newark property through his company Metro Property Partners, LLC.
The defendants allegedly used identities stolen from two residents of Puerto Rico to apply for loans for the purchases, submitting false bank statements and other false information to support the applications. The lender provided a loan of $415,865 for the Garfield property (sale price $458,000), which the D’Annas bought for $269,000 in 2003, and a loan of $457,655 for the Newark property (sale price $510,000), which Metro bought for $92,000 in 2007.
Hand was the attorney and settlement agent for both closings. She allegedly filed false HUD settlement statements indicating the buyers/borrowers made required payments and the loan proceeds were properly disbursed. It is alleged that $74,500 in proceeds from the Garfield property and $84,400 from the Newark property were diverted to companies owned by Concepcion.
D’Anna paid off three mortgages on the properties and allegedly received over $100,000 in profits on the two sales. Only a few monthly payments were made on each of the loans.
“It is particularly troubling that an attorney – a person who took an oath to uphold the law – is charged with conspiring in this type of scheme,” said Hoffman. “Attorneys and licensed real estate brokers should serve as watchdogs to prevent mortgage fraud. If instead they use their licenses to commit fraud, we will make sure that they face stern punishment.”
“We are seeing this combination of mortgage fraud and identity theft with increasing frequency, as con artists seek to take out major loans, steal the proceeds and escape under the cover of a false identity,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “This indictment serves notice that we are on the lookout for these schemes and will aggressively prosecute any participants.”
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Essex County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court for arraignment at a later date.
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