NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – There is a record number of arrests in a housing scheme connected to CBS2’s award-winning investigation that uncovered New York City paying bad landlords in New Jersey to take in homeless families, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Thursday.
Apparently, 10 more people were getting away with it, too, according to Theodore Stephens, the Essex County prosecutor.
Stephens says the scheme was lead by Darnell Alford, who is at large, as well as Travis Glover and Albert Johnson of New Jersey, and Christina Barnett of the Bronx.
New York City paid one year’s rent upfront, usually around $20,000, to house working homeless families in the SOTA program.
“They were dilapidated, they all needed repair,” said Stephens. “It was always a promise that some of the money that would have come out of the closing proceeds would be wound back into the home.”
But, like the Forgotten Families we covered, the repairs were never made for seven households relocated from New York City.
They weren’t the only victims.
“These unscrupulous individuals were able to entice people who probably would not ordinarily been able to buy a home. With their assistance, they lent the money and they got into the home ownership market,” said Stephens.
Some young professionals were told the investment would pay off their student loans.
The group marketed to first-time home buyers through multiple companies like Glover’s “Integrity First.”
The website says it offers attractive returns, “with much lower financial investment or credit only.”
Stephens said unassuming buyers never saw the properties and never sought legal counsel.
The prosecutor says suspects defrauded homeowners, as well as banks.
Loan applications were allegedly manipulated.
2016 online records show a home in Newark sold for $320,000 – almost double the price is was listed for.
Another home in East Orange, worth around $150,000, sold for $215,000.
In all, the suspects allegedly obtained more than $1.8 million by deceiving mortgage lenders.
The homes fell into foreclosure.
New York City’s department of homeless services says it’s “…closely monitoring the criminal case…[and] will explore our legal options to recover money.”
“The question it raises is, if the city had done a better job of monitoring the program, is it possible someone with the city would have noticed some of these irregularities sooner and this racketeering enterprise might have been broken up sooner?” said CBS2 urban affairs expert Mark Peters.
The city has since modified the paperwork and shifted to paying landlords monthly. But, it’s little comfort to those who were promised a new life, only to be worse off than they were before.
Rozner tried calling and emailing the defendants and their attorneys, but no one got back to her.
Separately, Newark is still suing New York City over the SOTA program.