$30M Long Island Mortgage Fraud Scam Busted, Feds Say

Six men have been indicted on federal charges of allegedly conspiring to commit $30 million in bank fraud by inflating the prices of Long Island homes for sale over a six-year span.

Aaron Wider, 50, of Copiague, owner of Garden City-based mortgage company HTFC Corp., was described by authorities as the ringleader of the alleged scheme.

“Instead of using their skills in banking, the law and investing to assist individuals pursuing the American Dream, the defendants cooked up a sophisticated scheme that defrauded lenders and then fed toxic debt to the investigating public at large in the secondary mortgage market,” Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

Wider’s codefendants include 46-year-old Manjeet Bawa of Dix Hills, 54-year-old Joseph Mirando of Centereach, 68-year-old John Petiton of Garden City and 70-year-old Joseph Ferrara of Long Beach. Eric Finger, 48, of Miami, was also charged. Four were scheduled to appear at Central Islip federal court Tuesday and the other two Wednesday.

Prosecutors said that after the group obtained mortgages using artificially inflated prices of the properties in Nassau and Suffolk counties, they resold the loans in the secondary mortgage market, causing millions in losses when the loans went into foreclosure.

Lynch described the alleged schemed as “a prime example of the type of corrupt mortgage-lending practices that preceded the bursting of the real estate bubble, the loss of faith in securitized mortgage obligations, and the financial collapse of 2007 and 2008.”

Petiton, an attorney, allegedly orchestrated the inflated sales transactions. Mirando, a real estate appraiser, allegedly prepared false reports to justify the prices. And Finger, another attorney, allegedly concealed the true sales prices at closings, then shared the difference in price with the others.

Prosecutors are moving to seize 19 properties between the six men or restitution. They face up to 30 years in prison, if convicted.