Monday, March 12, 2012

Sale Leaseback Peddlers Continue Feeling Heat As Queens DA Indicts Duo For Grand Larceny, Criminal Possession-Stolen Property, Records Falsification

In New York City, Reuters reports:

  • A disbarred lawyer was charged [] with taking part in a real estate scam that allegedly bilked a Queens couple out of more than $65,000, the Queens district attorney's office announced Friday.

  • Thomas Zacharia, 38, a former lawyer from Staten Island, and investor Jose Toral, 28, were arraigned [] before Acting Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho on a seven-count indictment charging them with larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and falsifying business records.

  • Zacharia was also charged with criminal facilitation, according to the DA's office. He has pleaded not guilty, according to his lawyer, Stuart Tarshis of Tarshis & Hammerman, who said the charges against his client are without merit.

  • According to the DA, a Queens couple agreed in May 2007 to sell their residence to Toral with the understanding that they could continue living in their home while making mortgage payments to the investor. After a year, they would be able to re-purchase their property, while proceeds from the sale were used to pay down their debt, the DA's office said.

  • Zacharia allegedly helped Toral arrange for the sale of the property and handled funds given by the couple to Toral, according to the DA's office.

  • After the sale of the residence was completed, the couple made monthly cash payments to Toral, prosecutors said. But in 2008, Toral allegedly stopped making monthly payments on the mortgage, and the property went into foreclosure.

  • In all, Toral and Zacharia kept $65,000 from the sale of the couple's home,(1) the DA's office said. "[T]he defendants arranged for only a portion of the homeowners' debts to be paid off while retaining a major portion of the mortgage proceeds for themselves," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.

  • Zacharia was disbarred in 2008 by the Appellate Division, Second Department. According to the Second Department's decision, Zacharia was under investigation by the local grievance committee for two complaints of professional misconduct alleging that checks from his attorney trust account had bounced due to insufficient funds.

  • An attorney for Toral could not immediately be reached for comment [...]. If convicted on all charges, both men face up to 15 years in prison, according to the DA's office.(2)
Source: Lawyer charged in Queens real-estate scam

For the Queens County DA press release, see DA Brown: Real Estate Investor And Attorney Indicted In Alleged Mortgage Fraud Scheme Involving Queens Village Couple (Face Up To 15 Years In Prison).

(1) According to the Queens DA press release, authorities allege that the victims were represented at the transaction closing by Zacharia. To the extent the now-disbarred attorney Zacharia is found guilty of playing a role in this alleged ripoff and fails to cough up restitution, and inasmuch as Zacharia was a licensed practicing attorney at the time of the alleged ripoff, it may be that the victims in this case could turn to The Lawyers’ Fund For Client Protection Of the State of New York and request that it step up and cover at least some of the losses they suffered. The Fund exists to protect legal consumers from dishonest conduct in the practice of law in the state, to preserve the integrity of the bar, to safeguard the good name of lawyers for their honesty in handling client money, and to promote public confidence in the administration of justice in the Empire State. It attempts to secure these goals by, among other things, reimbursing client money that is misused in the practice of law.

For similar "attorney ripoff reimbursement funds" that cover the financial mess created by the dishonest conduct of lawyers licensed in other states and Canada, see:

Maps available courtesy of The National Client Protection Organization, Inc.

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

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