|TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a lawyer from Essex County was found guilty at trial today of conspiring with others to steal approximately $873,520 from a lender by using stolen identities to file fraudulent mortgage loan applications for two bogus real estate transactions, falsifying settlement statements and diverting loan proceeds.
Stephanie Hand, 52, of Livingston, N.J., was found guilty by an Essex County jury of second-degree charges of conspiracy, money laundering and theft by deception. The verdict followed a three-week trial before Superior Court Judge John I. Gizzo in Newark. The charges were contained in a Feb. 6, 2014 superseding indictment stemming from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, with assistance from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and U.S. Secret Service. Judge Gizzo scheduled sentencing for Hand for May 12.
Deputy Attorneys General Jillian Carpenter and Anthony Torntore tried the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, with assistance from Analyst Nathalie Kurzawa. Detective Roxanna Ordonez was the lead detective and Detective Mark Byrnes was the trial detective. The case was supervised by Lt. Vincent Gaeta, Sgt. James Scott, Deputy Bureau Chief Mark Kurzawa and Bureau Chief Michael Monahan.
“This attorney took an oath to uphold the law, but she stood that oath on its head by using her law license to conspire in a criminal scheme to steal more than $873,000 from a lender,” said Attorney General Porrino. “This verdict ensures that attorney Hand will pay for her corruption and greed.”
“This verdict is a testament to the hard work and expertise of our attorneys and investigators in handling a complex case of financial fraud,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “As long as con artists continue to target the big payoff promised by mortgage loans, we’ll continue to investigate and prosecute these cases aggressively.”
The state presented testimony and evidence at trial that Hand conspired with others, including Thomas D’Anna, 41, of Saddle Brook, N.J., in two fraudulent real estate sales between January 2009 and April 2009. The sales involved properties at 248 River Road in Garfield and 91 Isabella Avenue in Newark. In both sales, D’Anna, or a company he owned, sold the property, while no actual buyer existed. The defendants used identities stolen from residents of Puerto Rico to apply for loans for the purchases, submitting false bank statements and other false information to support the applications. The lender provided loans of $415,865 for the Garfield property, and $457,655 for the Newark property. Hand was the attorney and settlement agent for both closings.
Hand filed false HUD settlement statements for each closing indicating the buyers/borrowers made required payments and the loan proceeds were properly disbursed. In reality, prior mortgages on the properties were paid off, but the remaining proceeds from the sales were divided among D’Anna, Hand, and a third defendant, Julio Concepcion, 52, of Passaic, N.J. The properties were sold at inflated prices that far exceeded what D’Anna paid for them. Only a few monthly payments were made on each of the new mortgage loans. D’Anna pleaded guilty in January 2017 to a charge of second-degree conspiracy and faces a recommended sentence of five years in prison. Concepcion pleaded guilty in October 2015 to first- and second-degree conspiracy charges and faces a recommended sentence of 10 years in prison.
Deputy Attorney General Jillian Carpenter and former Deputy Attorney General Mary Erin McAnally presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau by Detective Roxanna Ordonez and Analysts Rita Gillis and Amy Patterson, under the supervision of retired Lt. James MacInnes, retired Lt. Harry Maronpot, Lt. David Nolan and Lt. Lisa Shea. Attorney General Porrino thanked Detective Anthony Fasolas of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and the U.S. Secret Service for their valuable assistance in the investigation.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. The second-degree money laundering charge carries an enhanced fine of up to $500,000, and an additional anti-money laundering profiteering penalty of up to $250,000.
Thomas R. Ashley, Esq., Newark, N.J.
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