Over the past dozen years, Sanford Solny has designed a New York actual estate empire, snatching up modest household structures throughout the metropolis that churn out hundreds of 1000’s of pounds in rent.

His portfolio would be enviable but for 1 matter — a lot of it, prosecutors and owners contend, was stolen. In criminal prices and lawsuits, they have accused him of fraud: offering to help homeowners dealing with foreclosure by arranging to pay off their mortgages, while essentially tricking them into signing about their buildings at bargain-basement rates. In approximately each case, the mortgage was hardly ever paid, leaving the home-owner with no residence but a pile of credit card debt.

The apply is identified as deed theft, and as city and state officials promised to crack down on it, they homed in on Mr. Solny. The Brooklyn district legal professional, whose business office has billed him with getting the households of seven families, named his actions “despicable.” In Queens, prosecutors accused Mr. Solny and his associates of cheating 10 people today out of their properties. The courtroom appointed a keep track of to scrutinize his transactions.

But an evaluation by The New York Situations has uncovered that not only is Mr. Solny however profiting from buildings underneath dispute, city companies are contributing to his earnings by subsidizing the hire at some of his properties.

His case exemplifies the slow and stumbling struggle against deed theft, which usually targets immigrants and Black and Latino house owners. Inspite of repeated pledges from the New York Condition attorney normal and legislature to curtail the fraud, only a modest portion of hundreds of issues are ever prosecuted. Owners, stripped of their most major asset, are left to have interaction in a lengthy and costly struggle to try to reclaim their homes in civil courtroom.

A shut evaluation of Mr. Solny’s holdings and transactions — drawing on housing courtroom conditions, lawsuits, city assets information and interviews — reveals a extensive report of questionable dealings and a mainly ineffective govt response. In excess of extra than a decade, Mr. Solny and providers joined to him took possession of at minimum 140 attributes, The Times located. The former proprietors of 40 of individuals buildings — which involve a coveted brownstone in gentrifying Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, a 3-tale condominium setting up close to Rockaway Beach and a suburban Craftsman-type property with a garden in Rosedale, Queens — have claimed they were being victims of deed theft, civil and criminal court docket records show.

Even though Mr. Solny was under the eye of the check, a company managed by him paid out a Brooklyn woman $5,000 for a property truly worth about 100 occasions that considerably and still left her relatives with the financial debt, according to the girl and town property data.

By way of a website of shell providers, Mr. Solny nonetheless owns 19 homes whose entrepreneurs he has been accused of defrauding, and he collects rent from tenants he installed in lots of of them, in accordance to court docket filings, metropolis data and interviews. As criminal costs against Mr. Solny have piled up, metropolis businesses have paid out the rent of tenants at some of these houses via very affordable-housing vouchers, The Periods found.

“How does the procedure perform for him and not for us?” mentioned Janet Bruce, a retired residence wellness aide from Guyana who explained in court docket filings that Mr. Solny walked into her household in Flatbush, Brooklyn, in 2014 with a stack of paper and a guarantee to rescue her and her spouse from foreclosure. He gave the pair $14,000 but never ever paid out off their home loan, she said.

He walked out as the owner of a building now worth about $900,000, stated Ms. Bruce, 69, who has sued Mr. Solny. The transaction is also element of the legal situation in Brooklyn.

From July 2014 via February of this year, there had been a lot more than 3,350 issues of deed theft in New York City, virtually half of which had been in Brooklyn, according to the metropolis Office of Finance. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office brought rates in 27 cases of deed theft since 2014, according to a Moments critique.

“It just makes you surprise how very seriously we, as a society, and our criminal justice method, get white-collar criminal offense that essentially victimizes people today,” mentioned Oda Friedheim, a supervising attorney at the Lawful Help Society who promotions with house fraud.

A law firm for Mr. Solny declined to reply certain questions from The Times, citing the open up criminal situation in Brooklyn.

“The fact that these shoppers would get rid of their properties experienced been a foregone summary very long right before they ever met Mr. Solny,” the lawyer, Michael Farkas, explained in a statement. “When they sought his support with handling that unfortunate and advanced actuality, these clientele executed files that plainly conveyed their homes to Mr. Solny.”

Deed fraud issues in New York Town have fallen from a peak of 665 in 2015 to 154 previous 12 months. But these quantities mask what could be a looming surge now that protections versus foreclosures that have been place in spot through the pandemic have expired.

“You have a very significant number of home owners that are in distress, and true estate in New York has hardly ever been far more beneficial,” mentioned Ivy Perez, the senior policy and exploration manager for the Middle for NYC Neighborhoods, an cost-effective-housing nonprofit. “That is a strong mixture for scammers.”

Deed theft normally takes various sorts, but Mr. Solny is accused of 1 of the most widespread.

The fraud preys on individuals who are in danger of shedding their residences, info that is simply available in serious estate databases. Some customers also recruit neighborhood inhabitants to find people they know who are in fiscal difficulty.

Property owners are told they qualify for a limited sale — a offer in which the lender settles for fewer than the quantity owed on the property finance loan. The entrepreneurs, presently resigned to dropping their houses to foreclosures and puzzled by a mountain of paperwork, consider the deal will at minimum decrease them of their personal debt and give them a small quantity of money.

In truth, the documents they indicator transfer ownership of the developing whilst nonetheless leaving the home owners responsible for the financial debt. The man or woman committing the fraud delivers in tenants and collects hire, from time to time for yrs, until eventually banking institutions or other lenders lastly foreclose on the home.

Ms. Bruce fell guiding on her house loan payments in 2013, just after her husband, James, a approach examiner for the Office of Structures, experienced a stroke.

A friend from church referred Ms. Bruce to Mr. Solny, who claimed he could assist arrange a brief sale. Mr. Solny instructed her she would reduce the household but the mortgage loan would be paid out, and he would take care of almost everything as her attorney, she claimed in her lawsuit.

Mr. Solny and his associates arrived late, Ms. Bruce stated, and then rushed her and her husband to sign paperwork in separate rooms. He paid them each $7,000, in accordance to the grievance.

No small-sale attempt was manufactured, she stated, but a deed transferring the residence to East 29th Street Realty Inc. was recorded with the metropolis, documents clearly show. Mr. Solny signed as the customer, and his daughter, Shandelle Solny, signed as a witness. For years, simply because of assurances from Mr. Solny, Ms. Bruce did not understand that the expanding financial debt would continue to be in her name, she claimed. She owes roughly $350,000 — a financial debt she could pay, with revenue to spare, if she ended up equipped to provide or refinance the household.

Mr. Solny put in tenants shortly immediately after the couple moved out and has gathered more than $200,000 from the making, according to Invoice Lienhard, a law firm for Ms. Bruce. Two current tenants confirmed to The Times that they paid out lease to a company managed by Mr. Solny.

“He collects hire until eventually the foreclosures is accomplished, and then he’s out — what does he treatment?” stated Toby Cohen, a further lawyer who has represented various persons suing Mr. Solny.

Prosecutors say they are hamstrung by the legislation: They should clearly show there was felony intent in instances that are not as slam-dunk as those people they desire to provide to courtroom. Years can go by just before a property owner realizes what occurred, and the transactions are complicated. What 1 person promises as fraud can be defended as just a lopsided small business offer.

“Deed theft is notoriously tricky to look into and prosecute,” mentioned Melinda Katz, the Queens district lawyer. The sentiment was echoed by Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district legal professional.

Civil lawsuits are usually the only way a home-owner can try out to reclaim a title, and victims typically can not afford to pay for a lawyer. The plaintiffs hardly ever get — properties after owned by quite a few of Mr. Cohen’s clients ended up sold at foreclosures auctions to other functions just before the situations could be settled.

Litigation is difficult by a web of shell businesses controlled by Mr. Solny and users of his household. Of the 140 transactions The Instances connected to Mr. Solny, none was individually deeded to him. In its place, he signed as an officer of a company entity that assumed possession.

“We misplaced every little thing,” Ms. Bruce explained, recalling a period of time when she slept on friends’ couches and left New York for less expensive housing in Philadelphia. Her husband died in 2020. “Do you know how challenging it is to be finding up the pieces when you are in your senior many years?”

Homeowners are not the only types influenced. Tenants and city companies have complained of significant security and wellness hazards at properties owned by companies linked to Mr. Solny.

Of the 19 disputed qualities those firms nonetheless owned as of June, 15 had open up housing violations, which includes for heat and sizzling-water failures, unsafe wiring and pest infestations.

“They’re not undertaking nothing at all — never have heating, hardly ever resolve nothing at all,” reported Sandy Triunfel, a dwelling attendant who in 2017 stopped spending rent on her apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, according to court data, for the reason that she stated she did not get sizzling water or gasoline for months.

The proprietor, Blue Realty & Companies Team, a business tied to Mr. Solny, evicted her the up coming 12 months. The preceding home-owner had claimed in civil court that the enterprise had tricked him into signing above the deed to the household.

At Ms. Bruce’s former home, metropolis inspectors observed almost four dozen direct paint violations in February 2019, when a mom and her 8 youngsters were living there. Right after the tenants applied for emergency rental support, the city paid about $21,000 in back hire to Mr. Solny’s company. Two current tenants mentioned the town was nevertheless shelling out some of their rent through subsidies.

It was one of three disputed attributes the place The Occasions discovered the town experienced included the rent for Mr. Solny’s tenants. The New York Metropolis Housing Authority, which paid subsidies at one particular of the attributes, said it experienced considering that added Mr. Solny’s enterprise to a checklist of banned landlords.

Neha Sharma, a spokeswoman for the city Office of Social Providers, which administers the hire guidance method at the other two structures, reported the agency’s precedence was to maintain housing security for tenants.

Mr. Solny, 65, who is acknowledged as Sandy, has been on the city’s radar for decades.

In 2012, he was suspended from practicing regulation for pilfering $600,000 from his dying uncle, in accordance to a disciplinary board selection. He compensated back the income but continues to be suspended.

The subsequent 12 months, Mr. Solny and his daughter went on a getting spree: at minimum 50 residences in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, many of which were in or approaching foreclosure. On a solitary day in March 2013, they signed the deeds to three properties in East New York, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Brooklyn, in accordance to city records.

Tenants and householders explained him as cordial, with a smooth voice and grandfatherly mien.

“He’s quite slick,” said Richard Critical, who sued a corporation managed by Mr. Solny in 2015 for boasting the title to his two-family dwelling in East New York. The circumstance is open.

In 2016, Mr. Solny and his associates were being charged in Queens with crimes associated to the theft of 10 homes. He pleaded responsible two many years afterwards to a lesser charge of prison possession of stolen home and was sentenced to up to 5 several years of probation.

Mr. Solny paid a fine and returned hire he experienced gathered, and five deeds were voided as a outcome of the offer. His daughter, Shandelle, 31, was charged with tax fraud and compensated restitution in a plea offer. Ms. Solny declined to comment outside of the statement issued by her father’s law firm.

In 2020, Brooklyn prosecutors charged Mr. Solny with crimes related to the theft of eight qualities. Subsequent the indictment, Mr. Solny’s probation officer advisable that he be sentenced to jail for violating the terms of his plea deal in Queens. A verdict has not nonetheless been achieved in the Brooklyn situation.

The Queens deal did not bar Mr. Solny from shopping for much more true estate, but the court appointed a check in 2018 to critique his organization discounts going ahead and flag any suspicious transactions.

In a overview of assets records, The Situations identified a questionable transaction done right after Mr. Solny’s plea in Queens.

Elizabeth Lewis, 77, a retired bank worker, informed The Occasions that in late 2019, Mr. Solny supplied to organize a short sale on a Brooklyn house, a two-bed room brick residence in East Flatbush belonging to Ms. Lewis’s sister, who experienced a reverse house loan and other personal debt.

Ms. Lewis mentioned she signed paperwork on behalf of her sister, who died in 2020, to initiate a sale. The deed recorded the sale at $35,000, but Ms. Lewis said she was paid $5,000 with the promise of more when the property was offered.

She signed more than the deed to a business controlled by Mr. Solny, but the debt was not compensated, in accordance to assets records and the Office of Housing and Urban Improvement, which holds the loan.

Comparable profits demonstrate the home is almost certainly value a lot more than $500,000, but Ms. Lewis can no more time sell it simply because Mr. Solny’s enterprise is listed with the metropolis as the proprietor.

She has not listened to from Mr. Solny in practically two a long time, she said.

Brian Sanvidge, who has overseen the overview of Mr. Solny’s transactions at Anchin, the monitoring company, said that he had looked at a lot more than 240 properties related to Mr. Solny and had not caught the East Flatbush sale. He identified as it “concerning” and explained he would report it to the Queens district legal professional.

Community initiatives have been produced to counter home fraud, but critics say the steps slide limited.

The point out lawyer general’s workplace announced a campaign to combat deed theft in 2020, funding free of charge lawful expert services and mortgage loan guidance in neighborhoods vulnerable to fraud. But reduction for these who have now missing their households can be hard to get: The business is now prosecuting just 3 deed theft circumstances.

A state regulation handed in 2019 provided a rule that enables prosecutors to file a motion to void a fraudulent home transfer in relationship with a responsible plea or verdict.

But the rule is narrowly defined, limiting its use, and the process can nonetheless just take a long time, claimed Rachel Geballe, a deputy director at Brooklyn Legal Solutions. Neither Queens nor Brooklyn prosecutors have applied the mechanism, despite the fact that the workplaces claimed they had applied other signifies to void fraudulent deeds.

For Ms. Bruce, 8 a long time have handed considering that she signed her dwelling about to Mr. Solny’s organization. The Brooklyn criminal case has been adjourned 13 situations given that late 2020. Mr. Farkas explained in courtroom in June that his consumer was contemplating a plea offer.

“I’m hoping some form of justice will occur from this,” Ms. Bruce mentioned. “I say, ‘Lord, when is this going to be around?’”

Susan Beachy contributed exploration.

Topics #developer #Real Estate #Real Estate Agency #Real Estate Biz #Real Estate Sale