Four Capital Region residents and one downstate man were sentenced to prison Monday for their roles in a three-year multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme that targeted financially distressed homeowners, including some who were evicted from their homes.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday said the five defendants associated with Rivertown Financial Services, a now-defunct Albany firm, defrauded mortgage lending institutions and property owners from May 2005 through March 2008.
The defendants sentenced before Judge Stephen Herrick in Albany County Court on Monday included Kevin P. Wheatley, 39, of Waterford; Geoffrey Goldman, 32, of Albany; Jonathan Goldman, 29, of Newburgh; Jessica Peryea, 29, of Albany; and Jordan Laccetti, 31, of Saratoga Springs.
“Rivertown Financial Services preyed on homeowners who were in financial distress, offering what seemed to be a way out of the red and back into the black,” said Schneiderman in a release issued Tuesday. “In the end, Rivertown’s actions unfortunately led some of the unsuspecting individuals to be evicted from their own homes.”
The scheme was accomplished through the use of “straw” buyers, who provided inflated income and asset information to fraudulently obtain loans to buy properties in the Capital Region and Hudson Valley, as well as New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Court records state that Rivertown solicited homeowners who were in financial distress to sell their homes. The company, located at 1762 Central Ave., would then agree to lease the homes back to them and to apply their net equity as a down payment on their eventual repurchase of the homes. In many cases, however, the homes were never sold back, and some people were even evicted from their homes.
After straw buyers signed deeds that essentially transferred property titles to Rivertown holding companies, net proceeds from the loans were deposited into Rivertown’s bank accounts.
Meanwhile, proceeds from the scheme were used toward car rentals, wine and a Caribbean cruise. Geoffrey Goldman used the money to finance a wedding and honeymoon, Schneiderman said.
Each individual involved with the scheme received time behind bars and was ordered to pay fines and restitution.
Wheatley was sentenced to 31⁄2 to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of more than $5 million to his victims. The lawyer had pleaded guilty in July to one count of second-degree grand larceny, a class C felony, and first-degree scheme to defraud, a class E felony. When he pleaded guilty, he was disbarred.
Geoffrey Goldman, an owner of Rivertown Investments, was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay fines and restitution totaling $5.6 million. He pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud.
Jonathan Goldman, brother to Geoffrey, was an owner and officer of Rivertown and a straw buyer for about 16 transactions. He was also an owner with his brother and Wheatley of Griffon Title Agency, which operated out of the Rivertown suite of offices. He received 11⁄3 to 4 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine and restitution totaling $3.5 million after he pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree scheme to defraud.
Peryea, a licensed real estate broker and sales director for Rivertown, was also a straw buyer for at least five transactions in New York and Pennsylvania. She was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine and restitution totaling $3 million after pleading guilty to a count of third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony.
Laccetti, a Rivertown loan officer, ran a branch of Aapex Mortgage, which also operated out of the Rivertown office suites, with Wheatley and Geoffrey Goldman. He was sentenced to one year in jail and ordered to pay a fine and restitution totaling $908,000. He pleaded guilty to a count of first-degree falsifying business records, a class E felony, after admitting that he completed an application for a loan through Aapex Mortgage that contained inflated income and asset information.
According to a listing on the Better Business Bureau’s website, Rivertown Financial was started on Jan. 1, 2002, and was not BBB accredited. On the site, it is described as a company offering financial and real estate services and “a mortgage default company specializing in helping foreclosure clients keep their home.”
Rivertown conducted 105 fraudulent property transactions, at a total value of $38 million. About a dozen people were able to get back into their homes, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
The state Department of Financial Services assisted with the investigation.