One of the ringleaders of a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud, preying on Guyanese immigrants in Richmond Hill and other parts of Queens and Brooklyn, was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison last Thursday.
Roger Huggins, 36, of Queens Village co-owned and operated a company in Richmond Hill under various names including Home Solutions Management, Home Solutions Enterprises and Home Solutions Limited. The company posed as a foreclosure rescue firm.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Huggins and other members of his fraud ring, including two lawyers, targeted homeowners facing foreclosure and persuaded them to sign over titles to their homes to “straw buyers.” However, Huggins would hold the homeowner’s funds, claiming it was needed to improve their mortgages or make repairs to the home.
The two lawyers, Trevor Rupnerin and Shawn Chand, concealed the nature of the transactions and fraudulently prepared various financial and real estate documents. Rupnarin pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge. He also resigned from the New York State Bar.
Chand was also disbarred and pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny in October 2010.
Huggins’s scheme is thought to have bilked homeowners and various lending institutions out of more than $2 million and illegally taken 17 properties worth $8 million. He pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny last October.
“In unjustly enriching himself and his accomplices of millions of dollars, the defendant created a human tragedy of immense proportions for the homeowners—many of whom were members of Queens Guyanese community—who had turned to him in desperate hope of saving their homes from foreclosure,” Brown said. “In light of the enormous fiscal damage the defendant has caused, the sentence imposed is a just and reasonable resolution of the matter.”
In total, 17 individuals were charged in this scheme. Twelve have pleaded guilty, four are fugitives and one case is still pending.
In light of the sentencing, Brown reminded homeowners that the city has tools to protect them from mortgage fraud. A new city recording system that monitors real estate transactions allows property owners to receive a notification any time certain property-related documents are filed with the city. This can prevent outright thefts and ensure companies are performing the work they claim are providing.
Property owners can sign up for the program at nyc.gov or 311.