Joseph Atias of New York, 54 years old was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment and his wife Sofia Atias, 48, was sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment, following their trial convictions for bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with the sale of their real property to Sacred Heart Academy, Hempstead, New York for athletic fields. They were also convicted of Medicaid fraud.
The government’s evidence established at trial that shortly before the sale of their property adjacent to Sacred Heart Academy for $925,000, the defendants sold the property in a short sale to Bank of America for $480,000 to discharge their mortgage debt. In negotiating the short sale with the bank, the defendants and their co-conspirator attorney concealed Sacred Heart Academy’s pending offer and submitted a fraudulent contract of sale and other false documents representing that they did not have funds to pay off the mortgages in full.
The defendants used a relative as a straw buyer of the property in keeping with the fraudulent transaction to create the appearance of an arms-length sale. Shortly after that sale, the defendant’s straw buyer sold the property to Sacred Heart Academy for approximately half a million dollars in profit.
The government’s evidence at trial established that the defendants also fraudulently obtained Medicaid funds, by concealing their self-employment income and available cash resources, including trust fund monies and the $465,000 in proceeds from the bank fraud scheme.
As part of their sentences, United States District Judge Denis R. Hurley ordered the defendants to pay $465,965 in forfeiture and $49,956 in restitution.
The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard P. Donoghue and Assistant Director-in-Charge, FBI, William F. Sweeney, Jr. announced the sentence saying, “Joseph and Sofia Atias committed fraud schemes to try to get out from under mortgage debt and to fraudulently obtain Medicaid funds, essentially flaunting the laws to which we all must adhere,” stated Donoghue. “This Office and our law enforcement partners will make every effort to ensure that those who would manipulate the system are called to account.”
“In a clear case of double dipping, the defendants convinced the lending institution of their eligibility to qualify for a short sale on their property, recruited a relative to serve as a straw buyer for the property, and profited from the funds of a subsequent sale of the property,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “At the same time they were running this scheme, they were also found to have engaged in significant fraud against the government. May today’s sentencing remind those who exploit government programs and manipulate gaps in the mortgage and banking sectors that they will face the error of their ways.”
If you or someone you love has been accused of fraud, it is imperative that you retain the services of a skilled criminal defense attorney who is experienced in defending against fraud charges to protect your rights and safeguard your freedom.
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