NEWARK, N.J. – Two real estate brokers and a client were arrested today and charged in connection with a scheme to use bogus information and simultaneous loan applications at multiple banks to fraudulently obtain home equity lines of credit, a practice known as “shotgunning,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Simon Curanaj (a/k/a Simone Curanaj, Simon Curanovic, and Simone Curanay) 62, of Yonkers, New York; Michael Arroyo, 58, of Bronx, New York; and Rafael Popoteur, 65, of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, are charged by complaint with one count each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. They are expected to appear later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion.
According to the complaint:
Curanaj and Arroyo are real estate brokers and Popoteur was one of Curanaj’s clients. From 2012 through January 2014, the three defendants and others allegedly conspired to fraudulently obtain multiple home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) from banks on multiple residential properties located in New Jersey and New York.
To get the banks to extend lines of credit they would not have otherwise approved, Curanaj and his conspirators allegedly used the names and personal information of homeowners or straw borrowers, sometimes without their knowledge, to apply for the HELOCs. They made various false representations on loan documents. They then applied for several home equity lines of credit with multiple banks at the same time using the same residential property as collateral. They hid from the lenders the fact that the properties offered as collateral were either already subject to senior liens that had not yet been recorded, or that the same property was offered as collateral for a line of credit from another lender.
The two representative HELOC shotgun schemes highlighted in the complaint caused a loss of more than $1 million dollars. After receiving the fraudulently obtained home equity lines of credit, Curanaj and his conspirators shared in the illicit proceeds obtained from the banks.
The conspiracy to commit bank fraud count carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million or twice the gross pecuniary gain to the defendants or twice the gross pecuniary loss to others, whichever is greater.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Federal Finance Housing Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Steven Perez; and special agents of the FBI, under the direction Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher of the Newark office, with the investigation leading to today’s charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jihee G. Suh of the U.S. Attorney’s General Crimes Unit in Newark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory of the FHFA, Office of the Inspector General.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.