Brooklyn DA cracks down on real estate fraud

March 7, 2012 3:22:44 PM PST
An elderly man just trying refinance his home was lured in by one of those reverse mortgage ads.

He's out hundreds of thousands of dollars and 12 people are busted for what prosecutors in Brooklyn say was a big scam targeting homeowners.

"Those people put me between a rock and a hard place," said Earnest Leak, a real estate fraud victim.

81-year-old Earnest Leak referred to the scam artists who were able to obtain a $350,000 reverse mortgage on his Bedford-Stuyvesant home without his consent.

"It's sad that people are taking advantage of our seniors like this," said Reginald Leak, the victim's son.

Leak, said that the Brooklyn DA, is just one of a growing number of victims of fraud and other real estate crimes.

The office announced 12 arrests in seven different cases.

In some instances, the suspect used straw buyers and stolen identities to obtain million dollar mortgages.

In other cases, vacant or foreclosed properties were bought and sold with forged deeds.

Earnest Leak's personal information was used to apply for the reverse mortgage after he responded to an ad for debt assistance.

The defendant identified as Sal Lauria is now charged with a hate crime.

The DA believes that Leek was targeted because of his age.

"We think this is one way of maybe raising up for people who would engage in this type of fraud, that they are facing enhanced penalties because of it," said Charles Hynes, Brooklyn DA.

"I don't feel that these people will walk away with debt, it's easier than they apparently thought," Leak said.

The Brooklyn DA emphasizes that many instances of real estate fraud could be avoided, simply by getting an attorney to advise you.

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