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A Prospect Heights hair stylist and his friend reportedly scammed millions out of desperate homeowners throughout the tri-state area, according to a federal charges filed against the two borough residents in nearby New Jersey.
According to documents released in Federal District Court in Newark, both Garth Celestine, 44, and Phil A. Simon, 34, were the backbone of Home Savers Consulting Corporation, which was responsible for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and other charges in five cases in New Jersey.
The duo is suspected of committing similar frauds in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, even though neither man is a real estate agent or broker.
Officials said that the two men would prey upon longtime home buyers who were falling behind on their mortgages and had reached out to Home Savers Consulting Corporation for help.
Celestine and Simon would entice them into a scam where they would transfer the deed to a straw buyer with good credit.
That straw buyer would then qualify for cash-out refinancing that the two suspects would then pocket, officials allege.
In some cases, Celestine and Simon would allegedly get multiple straw buyers to apply for multiple mortgages so they could get more bang for their bucks.
The two suspects would pocket all the proceeds, which, once the loans were approved, would be deposited into bank accounts under their control.
FBI investigators uncovered a number of bank accounts connected to the two men. One of the accounts, they claimed, was called “Keep What’s Yours, Inc.”
Lawyers with South Brooklyn Legal Services and the Legal Aid Society of New York have estimated that Home Savers bilked more than $5 million from their clients in New York City.
The two agencies helped alert FBI officials to the scam after their clients told them that the Home Savers Group were selling their homes right out from under them.
Officials said that at least one of the Brooklyn victims had brought their case to the Kings County District Attorney’s office, but the case was ultimately taken up by New Jersey federal authorities.
If convicted of the charges, the two men could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, federal officials said.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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