Friday, February 17, 2012

Scammer Gets Six Years In $300K Loan Counseling Ripoff; Insurer Stiffs Unwitting Housing Agency On Damage Claims Relating To Thefts Of Victims' Cash

In Buffalo, New York, The Buffalo News reports:

  • The woman who earned their trust and then turned around and betrayed it is going to federal prison. Lori J. Macakanja, the former West Side housing counselor who stole from clients and then gambled away their money, was sentenced Thursday to six years in prison.

  • Macakanja admitted stealing nearly $300,000 from 136 people who came to her looking for help. Many of them were on the verge of losing their homes to foreclosure.


  • Macakanja worked as a counselor at HomeFront, a West Side housing agency, and over the course of 18 months in 2009 and 2010 defrauded the very people she was supposed to help.


  • Outside the courtroom Thursday, Macakanja's victims reacted with mixed feelings to her sentence. They're pleased that she's spending time in prison but wonder if they'll ever see a penny of the restitution she was ordered to make as part of her sentence.


  • Investigators found no evidence that HomeFront, as an organization, was intentionally involved in the fraud. Nevertheless, victims believe it needs to ensure that former clients are compensated.

  • HomeFront has stopped short of accepting responsibility for the thefts but sued its insurance carriers in state court after they denied its initial claims. So far, the insurance companies are balking, leaving the victims to wonder if they'll ever get their money back.

  • "This case is a tragedy for many people," James P. Harrington, a lawyer for HomeFront, said in a statement. He said the organization is addressing a number of claims filed by victims in Buffalo Small Claims Court as part of its suit against the insurance carriers. "Other victims may want to follow this procedure or contact their attorneys about it," he said.

For more, see Counselor who stole gets six-year sentence.

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