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What you need to know for 11/18/2017

AG: Fake architect worked on Saratoga County projects

AG: Fake architect worked on Saratoga County projects

'Operation Vandelay Industries' targets man with last name Newman
AG: Fake architect worked on Saratoga County projects
Paul J. Newman, 49.

A Troy man who worked on three large Saratoga County residential projects as an architect wasn't a real architect and is now facing dozens of charges, the state Attorney General's Office said Thursday.

Paul J. Newman, 49, faces charges in three counties in all, accused of drafting architectural renderings without a license for more than 100 commercial properties and affixing fraudulent stamps to thousands of pages of building plans and inspections.

He is accused of working as an architect without a license since at least 2010. Among the projects he worked on, according to the state attorney general, are The Lofts in Malta, The Vistas in Clifton Park and the Ballston Senior Living Project in Ballston.

For his work, he fraudulently collected nearly $200,000 in payments for work since at least 2010, the office said.

"By allegedly falsifying building plans, code compliance inspections, and field reports, the defendant jeopardized the safety of those who resided in and frequented the buildings he was contracted to work on," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. "Deceptive actions like these erode public trust -- and my office will not tolerate them."

Dubbed by the Attorney General's Office "Operation Vandelay Industries" for the fake company cited by Seinfeld character George Costanza in a classic episode of the sitcom, the investigation concluded Newman used fake credentials to operate a one-employee company he called Cohesion Studios.

Investigators determined he took the license number of a registered architect he found on the internet and created his own registered architect stamp. He also took the professional engineer stamp of a licensed engineer he once worked with and affixed it and a forged signature to the building plan and inspection pages, officials said.

He advertised himself as an architect on various social media outlets, then changed wording from "architecture" to "design" when he became aware of the original complaint, officials said.

Newman was arraigned in each of the three counties this week and ordered held.

In the Saratoga County projects, Newman worked as project architect for the construction of The Lofts in Malta from 2014 to 2016. The project included 214 apartments and Newman received $35,000 for his work, officials said.

He worked on the Ballston Senior Living Project between 2012 and 2013, receiving more than $8,000 as the multi-story senior living community architect.

In Clifton Park, he served from 2011 to 2014 as architect for the 25 townhouses constructed as The Vistas. He received more than $35,000 for his fraudulent work there.

Clifton Park spokesman Matthew Andrus issued a statement in response to Newman's arrest, indicating that The Vistas project "followed all the stipulations" of the town's Planning Department and checks by the town confirmed that to be the case.

"As with any construction project in Clifton Park, the town’s building and codes department conducted a comprehensive review throughout the building phase," the statement read. "If the project was not up to code, it would not have been approved."

It was not immediately clear Thursday what impact, if any, the allegations against Newman will have on the other projects he worked on.

Newman faces a total of 58 separate counts over the three counties, including counts of grand  larceny, forgery and scheme to defraud.

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