United States Attorney
Eastern District of New York
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Leader of $98 Million Mortgage Fraud Sentenced to 108 Months in Prison in New York
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Earlier today in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., Thomas Kontogiannis, a New York real estate developer who led a mortgage fraud conspiracy resulting in more than $98 million in losses, was sentenced to 108 months in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. U.S. District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto imposed the sentence in accordance with Kontogiannis’s October 2010 guilty plea. Seven co-defendants previously pleaded guilty.
The sentence were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Janice K. Fedarcyk; Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI, New York Field Office; Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent, New York State Department of Financial Services; and Jon T. Rymer, Inspector General, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Kontogiannis defrauded Washington Mutual Bank (WAMU) and DLJ Mortgage Capital Inc., a subsidiary of Credit Suisse, in connection with his development of two tracts of land in Brooklyn and Queens, N.Y. He purchased and subdivided Loring Estates, located in East New York, Brooklyn and Edgewater Development, located in College Point, Queens, and then staged sales of the properties financed by mortgage loans to straw buyers. Kontogiannis directed others to prepare false loan files to create the appearance that the straw buyers were creditworthy homeowners. The mortgages were supported by fraudulent appraisals depicting finished homes, when the buildings had yet to be built or had fictional addresses, and the mortgage files contained fraudulent title abstract reports and other documentation designed to indicate that the seller, a Kontogiannis-controlled entity, had clear title to convey and that the lender’s interest was protected by title insurance. The loans were financed by lenders controlled by Kontogiannis, including Interamerican Mortgage Corp., later known as CIP Mortgage Corp. and Coastal Capital Corp. After the loans were closed, Kontogiannis ensured that the mortgages and deeds were not recorded, thereby permitting him to “sell” the same property repeatedly. Eventually, Kontogiannis sold the loans to WAMU or DLJ.
In an effort to conceal the multiple sales of the same properties, Kontogiannis changed the addresses of properties located in East New York, Brooklyn, to addresses in neighboring Howard Beach, Queens. In addition, he directed others to make monthly payments on the mortgages, ensuring that none of the mortgages became delinquent. The payments ceased in 2007, with approximately $98 million in principal outstanding on the fraudulent mortgages.
The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shannon Jones and Claire S. Kedeshian, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan E. Green.
This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. More information about the Task Force can be found at www.stopfraud.gov.