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Messages - toddg

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Neighborhood Chat / Local Fraudsters
« on: October 30, 2007, 07:57:25 AM »
Broker at center of mortgage scam probe affecting NYC homeowners
By PAT MILTON | Associated Press Writer
    7:18 PM EDT, October 17, 2007

NEW YORK -- A mortgage broker and part-time political donor is the focus of a widening probe into a scheme to defraud mortgage applicants -- including some who may have bought houses without knowing it.

Investigators say that scores of homes may have been purchased under false pretenses and dozens of victims may have fallen prey.

"This may very well be the tip of the iceberg," Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said Wednesday. "We are examining hundreds of properties to see if they were fraudulently obtained."

Jacob Milton, a business manager at Griffin Mortgage Co., has pleaded not guilty to charges of grand larceny, identity theft and falsifying business records. His attorney, Sally Butler, did not immediately return phone messages.

Lorena Alvarez said she and her husband, Hector Sandoval, a $30,000-a-year pizza parlor worker, were stunned to discover that they owned two homes and were holding $1.3 million in mortgages for which they never applied.

"We are sick over it," Alvarez told The Associated Press.

The couple, who have a 1-year-old daughter, said they went to a Griffin Mortgage Co. office last April in the Jackson Heights section of Queens. They met with Milton, a Griffin director, and provided personal information he requested, including dates of birth and Social Security numbers.

They received a mortgage and purchased a house in Jackson Heights.

But last Oct. 9, when Sandoval and Alvarez received their credit report, they were taken aback.

The report showed that in addition to couple's legitimate Jackson Heights house, they were holding mortgages on two additional properties: a house in Queens which sold for $625,000 and a house in Brooklyn which sold for $685,000, according to New York City Department of Finance records.

They say they had no knowledge of the properties.

"We are praying this doesn't ruin our credit," Alvarez said.

She said they thought Milton was a nice guy. "He always mentioned God," said Alvarez. "We trusted him."

Milton, 41, a Port Washington resident, is known for his involvement in the Bangladeshi community. He also hosts a local cable television show.

The case has attracted attention in part because Milton donated $2,000 in 2005 to Sen. Hillary Rodham's re-election campaign, along with $500 to state Sen. Eric Adams. A call and e-mail to Clinton's office seeking comment were not immediately returned. Adams has said he would give back the money if Milton were convicted.

The charges against him and his sister, Nira Niru, who was also arrested, allege a scheme involving four stolen identities used to buy houses or to make credit card purchases. Some victims found thousands of dollars in charges on their bills from Home Depot, Lord & Taylor and Victoria's Secret _ more than $15,700 worth of merchandise in all, the district attorney's office said.

Milton, who was being held without bail, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Niru, 38, a secretary at Griffin, has pleaded not guilty to similar crimes and is free on $500,000 bail. She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. Her attorney, James Stovall, did not immediately return a voicemail message.

The case surfaced last July after a woman reported that she had received a $4,500 bill for a Home Depot card she didn't own, according to police Lt. Richard Rudolph, who is heading the investigation.

A few days later, four others came into the Queens police precinct with similar complaints, said Rudolph. Detectives identified a common thread: All had applied for mortgages at Griffin, according to Rudolph.

Since then, the investigation has snowballed and charges involving more victims are expected.

"People have been coming in like crazy," said Rudolph. "The phones have not stopped ringing."

Police seized three truckloads full of business records and equipment, including 10 computers, from Milton's office and his homes in Deer Park and Port Washington, said Rudolph.

Detectives are combing through 2,000 properties transactions that Milton apparently conducted over the last couple of years.

Besides the Jackson Heights office, which is now closed, Griffin has offices in Jamaica and Garden City.

Copyright © 2007, The Associated Press

Restaurants & Food / Re: Where can I buy Mexican cocoa powder
« on: October 29, 2007, 10:23:43 AM »
I can't speak to that specific ingredient, but you might want to try the Panaderia Coatzingo, near 76th & Roosevelt.

Restaurants & Food / The Obligatory JH Starbucks Thread
« on: October 29, 2007, 08:32:08 AM »
By popular demand, we now have a thread dedicated to discussion of the Jackson Heights Starbucks...

Best thing ever to happen to the neighborhood?
A sign of the coming apocalypse?
Never going to happen?

Your opinions and rumors are welcome here!

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