Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Apartment-Seeking Single Mom, Fair Housing Advocates Tag A Dozen NYC Landlords With Lawsuit For Alleged Discrimination Due To Her Proposed Use Of Section 8 Housing Voucher To Pay Portion Of Rent

In New York City, the Fair Housing Justice Center (1) recently issued the following announcement of a lawsuit it filed alleging fair housing violations against a dozen area landlords over alleged violations of the New York City Human Rights Law:
  • On October 31, 2014, Ms. B., a single working mother with a Section 8 housing voucher, filed a state court lawsuit in Manhattan alleging that a dozen landlords, property managers, and real estate companies discriminated against her because she has a rental subsidy in violation in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. The lawsuit names Peace of Mind Realty, Premier Metro Realty Corp., 1675 Lincoln LLC, Zuz Realty Corp., Golden Life Realty Corp., IMS Realty Group LLC, Cortelyou Realty & Estates, Inc., 5 Linden LLC, Spire Group Inc., Open Housing Management, LLC, NY Standard Realty LLC, Bridge and Tunnel Real Estate Brokerage, and individual agents for these companies as defendants. Since 2008, the New York City Human Rights Law has prohibited discrimination in housing based on source of income, including rental subsidies.(2)

    Earlier this year, Ms. B. complained to the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) that multiple rental housing providers were discriminating against her based on the fact that she planned to use a Section 8 housing voucher to pay a portion of her rent. The FHJC conducted an undercover testing investigation into these allegations. The FHJC provided additional assistance to Ms. B. by having trained testers contact other housing providers on her behalf in response to rental advertisements featuring two bedroom apartments that were in her price range and met her needs. FHJC testers were repeatedly informed that the advertised housing was not available to persons with rental subsidies.

    According to the complaint, overt statements were made by many of the defendants indicating that tenants with rental assistance would not be considered such as “We don’t have any two bedrooms that are accepting Section 8,” “Section 8’s gonna be a problem,” or they will not “take programs.” As a result of this rampant discrimination and an inability to find a home for her and her son, Ms. B. has remained homeless since May, 2014.

    The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to stop the discrimination, as well as damages and attorney’s fees. The plaintiff is represented by Mariann Meier Wang and Daniel Mullkoff with the law firm of Cuti Hecker Wang LLP.

    Attorney Mariann Wang stated, “Six years after New York City prohibited source of income discrimination in housing, many real estate brokers, property managers, and landlords still blatantly refuse to follow the law. That refusal prevents hardworking people like my client from finding a home. Having a housing subsidy should not be an impediment to finding a decent place to live.”

    FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “This case illustrates the human, social, and economic costs associated with pervasive housing discrimination. Discrimination in housing prevents people from finding suitable housing in many neighborhoods. Not only is it a personal indignity and an affront to all New Yorkers, but it disrupts families and contributes to homelessness.” Freiberg added, “This lawlessness must stop. The City needs to more vigorously enforce its Human Rights Law, including the ban on source of income discrimination. In addition, the New York Department of State must be more pro-active and ensure that real estate licensees who continue to engage in housing discrimination lose their licenses to do business in the State of New York.”
Source: No Peace of Mind for Voucher Holders in NYC (Landlords, Property Managers, and Real Estate Companies Face Lawsuit Alleging Source of Income Discrimination.

(1) The Fair Housing Justice Center, Inc. (FHJC) is a regional fair housing organization based in New York City. The FHJC provides a full-service fair housing program to New York City and the seven surrounding New York counties of Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Westchester.

(2) For more on 'source of income' discrimination in New York City, see No License to Discriminate (Real Estate Advertising, Source of Income Discrimination, and Homelessness in New York City).

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Sale Leaseback Peddler Gets Ten Years In Equity Stripping, Foreclosure Rescue Ripoff While Co-Defendant/Brother Lands 35 Years Prison Stay As Mastermind Of Scam That Netted $15M+ From Unwitting Homeowners

From the Office of the U.S. Attorney (Sacramento, California):
  • Jeremy Michael “Mike” Head, 34, of Huntington Beach, was sentenced [] to 10 years in prison for a nationwide foreclosure rescue scam, United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner announced.

    A federal jury found him guilty in May 2013, after a nearly four-week trial before United States District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller. Mike Head’s brother and co-defendant Charles Head, 40, was sentenced in September 2014 by Judge Mueller to 35 years in prison.(1)

    According to evidence presented at trial, Mike Head played an important leadership role in a fraud scheme that promised to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and repair their credit. He recruited and managed other members of the scheme. Through misrepresentations, fraud and forgery, the Head brothers and their associates substituted straw buyers for the victim homeowners on the titles of properties without the homeowners’ knowledge.

    These straw buyers were often friends and family members of the defendants. Once the straw buyers were on title to the homes, the defendants applied for mortgages to extract the maximum available equity from the homes. The defendants then shared the proceeds of the ill-gotten equity and the “rent” that the victim homeowners paid them.

    Ultimately, the victim homeowners were left with no home, no equity, and with damaged credit ratings. Between January 2004 and March 2006, the scam netted more than $15 million in fraudulently obtained funds from scores of homeowners, many of whom were in California.

    U.S. Attorney Wagner said: “Mike Head made a small fortune taking advantage of victims who looked to him for help. Instead of helping, he stole the last remaining equity in their homes, and many victims were evicted and left destitute. He will now go to prison and pay for his crimes. This office continues to vigorously prosecute multiple variations of mortgage fraud throughout our district.”

    “The scheme Head and his co-conspirators devised preyed upon individuals when they were most vulnerable and lived in fear of imminent foreclosure. Despite promises to help their victims avoid foreclosure, many were financially devastated by the scheme,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the Sacramento FBI. “The FBI is committed to thoroughly investigating complex mortgage fraud schemes, identifying all participants, and ensuring that those who have violated the trust of the American public face justice in federal court.”(2)

    "[This] sentencing sends a clear message to those who commit mortgage fraud, the consequences can be severe,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Thomas McMahon, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “The defendants in this case have hurt so many people and so many of our communities. This sentencing highlights IRS-CI's commitment to hold accountable those involved in these types of crimes."

    This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Anderson and Matthew Morris are prosecuting the case.

    This case began on February 28, 2008, when a federal grand jury indicted Mike Head, his brother Charles Head, and 14 other defendants with violations of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and other charges. Eleven of Heads co-defendants have entered guilty pleas, and charges were dismissed against one.

    Charges against the two remaining defendants, Domonic McCarns, 37, of Brea, and Anh Nguyen, 40, of Los Angeles are pending. The charges are allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Source: Huntington Beach Man Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison For Nationwide Foreclosure Rescue Scam.

Go here for earlier posts on this story.


(1) See 35 Year Prison Sentence For Nationwide Foreclosure Rescue Scam.

(2) For more on this type of foreclosure rescue ripoff, see:

Monday, November 03, 2014

Expired Statute Of Limitations Allows Indicted Bigshot Brooklyn Politician/Attorney To Dodge Bullet On Charges Of Illegally Snatching $440K In Surplus Sale Proceeds Held In Trust Account While Acting As Court-Appointed Foreclosure Sale Referee; Loot Left Unclaimed By Unwitting Foreclosed Homeowners; Prosecuting Fed: 'Appeal Likely'

In Brooklyn, New York, The New York Times reports:
  • The government’s case against State Senator John L. Sampson lost some of its heft on Friday when a federal judge dismissed two central embezzlement charges.

    Mr. Sampson will now probably face only eight counts, including making false statements, concealing records, obstructing justice and witness tampering, when he goes to trial early next year. The politician, a Democrat who represents East New York and Canarsie in Brooklyn, easily won his primary and is expected to be re-elected next week.

    The two dropped charges had to do with Mr. Sampson’s role as a court-appointed overseer for two foreclosed properties in Brooklyn. He was supposed to give the surplus money from the sale of the properties back to the State Supreme Court after those properties sold, which was in 1998 and 2002. Instead, the government said, he held on to the money, then withdrew it for his own use in 2008.

    If the court considered the date of the embezzlement to be 2008, which would have fallen within the five-year period of the statute of limitations for this kind of embezzlement, the charges would have stood. But the judge, Dora L. Irizarry of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, said on Friday that she sided with the defense, which had argued that the clock started ticking in 1998 and 2002.

    “The effective date of the embezzlement is the time in which the defendant did not return to the Kings County clerk” the foreclosure checks, she said.

    At a hearing last week, Nathaniel H. Akerman, a defense lawyer, argued that “the crimes were complete when the indictment says: 1998 and 2002.” It is “extraneous” and “irrelevant” how and when the embezzled money was used, he said.

    Prosecutors argued at that hearing that the funds Mr. Sampson was holding on to were not necessarily for his own use — thus he was not necessarily embezzling — until he withdrew the funds and spent them.

    A prosecutor, Paul A. Tuchmann, said on Friday that the government would most likely appeal the decision.

    Judge Irizarry said she would “welcome” clarification on the issue from the Second Circuit, because there is not much case law on how the statute of limitations for embezzlement should be applied.

    Prosecutors also asked the judge to postpone Mr. Sampson’s trial until they got an answer on their appeal. Judge Irizarry declined, saying that appeals can take a few years.

    The bizarre position of a politician running for office while under indictment was on view on Friday, as Mr. Sampson’s lawyers asked the judge to modify his travel restrictions so that he could attend a legislative conference in Puerto Rico. “It’s quite likely he’ll win his election,” Joshua N. Colangelo-Bryan, one of the lawyers, said.

    Judge Irizarry granted the request.
Source: 2 of 10 Counts Against Sampson, a Brooklyn State Senator, Are Dismissed.

See also, New York Post: Judge dismisses claims Sampson stole $440K (Allegedly Used Part Of It To Help Fund A Failed 2005 Bid To Become Brooklyn District Attorney).

Go here for earlier posts on this story.