Thomas Kontogiannis, a New York real estate developer who led a mortgage fraud conspiracy resulting in more than $90 million losses, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y. Kontogiannis admitted defrauding Washington Mutual Bank and DLJ Mortgage Capital Inc., a subsidiary of Credit Suisse, in connection with his development of two tracts of land in Brooklyn and Queens. The proceedings were held before United States District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto.
The guilty plea was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, Richard H. Neiman, New York Superintendent of Banks, and Jon T. Rymer, Inspector General, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
The indictment alleges that from 2001 to 2003, Kontogiannis purchased and subdivided Loring Estates, located in East New York, Brooklyn, and Edgewater Development, located in College Point, Queens. After the conspirators obtained permits to construct multi-unit housing, Kontogiannis staged sales of the properties financed by mortgage loans. He then directed others to prepare false loan files to create the appearance that the properties were being purchased by creditworthy homeowners, when, in fact, Kontogiannis sold the properties to family members and employees who acted as straw buyers. 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. Kontogiannis eventually 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 $92 million in principal outstanding on the fraudulent mortgages.
Kontogiannis, along with eight other defendants, were indicted on conspiracy and bank and wire fraud charges in June 2009. Four other defendants have pleaded guilty to date.
"The scope of this fraud is staggering," stated United States Attorney Lynch. "The defendant controlled every aspect of the mortgage lending process, right up to the sale of fraudulent loans into the secondary market." Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the New York State Banking Department for its assistance.
New York Superintendent of Banks Richard H. Neiman said, "This plea of guilty to one of the largest mortgage frauds directed by a single individual was made possible by seamless coordination between federal agencies and the state banking department. This degree of cooperative federalism, with each agency contributing specialized expertise, will restore confidence in the mortgage sector and the greater financial system."
Kontogiannis faces up to 30 years’ imprisonment on the conspiracy count to which he pleaded guilty. Kontogiannis also consented to forfeiture of the proceeds of his fraudulent activity, including a criminal forfeiture money judgment and money traceable to four commercial properties he controlled worth at least $50 million.
For more information, visit http://newyork.fbi.gov.