WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — Twelve members of a single Brooklyn-based family were charged Thursday with lying about being wealthy to obtain mortgages or lying about being poor to get food stamps and other benefits.
Some did both, the indictment said.
"They alternately played the part of prince or pauper depending on which scam was being perpetrated," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a news conference in the White Plains courthouse. "Regardless of whether they were posing as rich men or poor men, they were always con men."
He said one indicted couple claimed monthly income of $25,000 when taking out a mortgage and $180 when applying for food stamps and Medicaid.
The fraudulently obtained mortgages totaled more than $20 million and the welfare fraud realized about $700,000 in benefits, the indictment said.
Yehuda Rubin, 29, of Monroe, was described in the indictment as "an organizer" of the scheme but Bharara would not say he was the leader. Rubin's father, Irving Rubin, 58, of Brooklyn, is the lead defendant.
Both men pleaded not guilty later Thursday to charges of bank fraud and making false statements. The maximum penalty is 30 years in prison.
Other defendants include Irving Rubin's wife, another son, three brothers and five in-laws. Three unrelated men also were charged, including a real estate lawyer and an appraiser.
Eleven of the 15 defendants live in Brooklyn. Thirteen were arrested Thursday and the other two were expected to surrender, Bharara said.
The indictment said family members lied to lenders about their assets, income, employment and primary residence to obtain mortgages on at least 18 properties they claimed to own, most of them in Brooklyn.
The lies gave "the false appearance of creditworthiness, when in fact the assets and/or bank accounts were nonexistent" or were not fully owned by the applicant, the indictment said.
The defendants used the proceeds to pay their credit card debts and their own home mortgages and to fund other real estate projects, Bharara said.
When the loans defaulted, he said, the defendants would lie again, either to claim poverty or to claim they had found buyers who would take the properties — at a discount.
Bharara said the overall deception was so widespread that prosecutors still do not know exactly what properties the defendants own or how wealthy they are.
"It's hard to find any examples of when they told the truth," he said. But the government is asking the court to order forfeiture of 23 properties and several bank accounts.