19th May 2015

Syracuse appraiser avoids prison after plea in $1 million real estate fraud case

posted in Appraiser News |

Syracuse, NY — A Syracuse appraiser will be sentenced to 5 years’ probation after he admitted his role in a $1 million scheme to defraud families and banks during the Great Recession.

Steven Essig pleaded guilty to a felony today for participating in the scheme with Fabius real estate agent Theresa Sanders. They, along with others, would buy dilapidated homes from the government, inflate their worth and then entice inexperienced homebuyers to sign rent-to-own agreements, said the state Attorney General’s Office.

Based on the inflated home values, the ring secured refinanced mortgages from lenders, who wired money believing they were paying off old mortgages. Instead, the money went to accounts controlled by the ring.

Sanders, the ringleader, pleaded guilty in January and will be sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison. Because she has been in jail since 2013, she’s due to be released soon.

Essig helped the group by filing fake appraisals, the AG’s office said. He pleaded guilty today to a specific case involving 225 Hazelhurst Ave., in Syracuse. In that case, he claimed that the property had been sold for $84,000 in 2007. In reality, the house had been sold in 2005 for $37,800, the AG said.

That inflated value allowed the ring to obtain a $61,257 mortgage for their benefit.

Besides Sanders, three other players also pleaded guilty for their participation:

• Tracie Clark pleaded guilty to felony residential mortgage fraud in March 2014.

• Paul Sakowski pleaded guilty to felony scheme to defraud in October 2013.

• Lawyer Michelle Powers pleaded guilty to scheme to defraud in October 2013.

Syracuse.com wrote about allegations against the ring in 2009.



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