Thomas Kontogiannis, a New York real estate developer who led a mortgage fraud conspiracy resulting in more than $98 million in losses, has been sentenced to 108 months of imprisonment for conspiracy to commit bank fraud in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn. United States District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto imposed the sentence pursuant to Kontogiannis’s October 2010 guilty plea. Seven co-defendants previously pleaded guilty.
Kontogiannis defrauded Washington Mutual Bank and DLJ Mortgage Capital Inc. (DLJ), a subsidiary of Credit Suisse, in connection with his development of two tracts of land in Brooklyn and Queens. 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 Corporation, later known as CIP Mortgage Corporation and Coastal Capital Corporation. 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.