New York, NY - June 11, 2014 - Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment in Manhattan federal court charging KEITH ANTHONY, the former president and owner of a company that purported to provide financing for home purchases to people with poor credit, and a former employee of the company, ANTHONY PODIAS, for their alleged participation in a scheme that victimized more than 100 financially struggling people across the country. ANTHONY PODIAS was arrested earlier today and will be presented in Manhattan federal court this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. KEITH ANTHONY has not yet been apprehended. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.
According to the allegations contained in the Indictment unsealed today:
From at least November 2011 up to at least March 2013, the defendants perpetrated a scheme to defraud aspiring home owners who had poor credit and who therefore could not qualify for traditional mortgages. Through a company called CIG REALTY, which was located in Long Island, New York, the defendants promised to help financially struggling individuals purchase homes by providing private financing for the purchase in exchange for small deposits or down payments. The customers were then supposed to repay CIG REALTY until the customers’ credit had improved to the point where they could obtain mortgages from a bank. Despite the defendants’ claims, however, CIG REALTY did not purchase homes for customers and instead diverted most of the customers’ deposits into the personal accounts of KEITH ANTHONY. Through their scheme, CIG REALTY obtained at least approximately $800,000 from more than 100 potential home buyers throughout the United States.
When customers contacted CIG REALTY, they were told that they could either pick a specific house for purchase or have the company help them find one. Once a house was selected, CIG told customers that they needed to send a deposit and then CIG would purchase the house using money obtained from private investors. Once the house was purchased, the customer was to repay CIG at a 10 percent interest rate until their credit improved and they could obtain financing through a bank. In practice, however, after the customer sent his or her deposit, CIG either did not place a bid or placed a bid that was so low, it would not be accepted. In those instances where CIG’s bid was accepted, CIG would fail to follow through and the deal would fall apart. Customers seeking refunds were typically directed to different people at CIG, who gave different explanations for the delay, before CIG stopped calling them back. Of the more than $800,000 taken in from customers by CIG, only about $44,000 was paid out in refunds.
ANTHONY was the president and owner of CIG REALTY, which closed in late 2012. PODIAS was a supervisor. Both dealt directly with the customers, telling them where to send money, updating them on the progress of negotiations, and explaining why they could not get refunds. ANTHONY also diverted more than approximately $500,000 from CIG’s accounts into his personal accounts and into the accounts of another business that he controlled.
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ANTHONY, 46, of Elmont, New York, and PODIAS, 39, of Levittown, New York, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants would be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the FBI for its outstanding work in the investigation. Mr. Bharara also thanked the New York State Department of Financial Services for its assistance.
This matter is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Egan is charge of the case.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.