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Post date: January 31 2000

Spitzer Saves Seniors From Foreclosure And Eviction

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has permanently stopped foreclosure and eviction proceedings against senior citizens from Brooklyn and Westchester County who were victimized in a mortgage scam.

"I am very pleased that the court agreed to take action to prevent seniors from losing their homes because of this scam," Spitzer said. "By voiding the questionable real estate transactions and returning full home ownership to the elderly victims, the court has affirmed that these tactics were not only deplorable, but fraudulent."

Ruling on a lawsuit filed by Spitzer, Westchester Supreme Court Justice Orazio R. Bellantoni, barred Catherine Martino of Deer Park and her associate, Richard Wilson of Williston Park, from practicing in the real estate industry and declared null and void all deeds transferring title of the victims' homes, and all mortgages placed on the victims' homes.

Spitzer filed suit last year against Martino and Wilson, alleging that they had defrauded at least 13 people, mostly senior citizens from Brooklyn and Westchester, in a scam that included high-pressure, door-to-door solicitations and forged real estate documents. Through her companies, BBC Properties, Inc. and BBC Funding of Hauppauge, Martino contacted seniors and offered them low interest home equity loans. During the loan application process, Martino fraudulently obtained the deeds to the seniors' properties. She then took out mortgages using the seniors' homes as collateral, kept the proceeds for herself and defaulted on the loans. As a result, the seniors were threatened with foreclosure and eviction by the holders of the mortgages in question.

The court order obtained by Spitzer also:

  • Permanently bars Martino and Wilson from engaging in the sale or acquisition of real estate;
  • Permanently prevents Martino and Wilson from engaging in any business that deals with New York consumers until a $1,000,000 performance bond is filed with the Attorney General;
  • Orders Martino to pay $15,565 in restitution to consumers who have already filed complaints with the Attorney General's Office and to establish a fund for any future victims who come forward; and
  • Orders Martino to pay a total of $92,000 in civil penalties and costs.

Spitzer expressed his appreciation for the assistance of the New York State Banking Department. In addition to the Attorney General's lawsuit, Martino pled guilty to criminal charges including grand larceny and forgery in Kings, Suffolk and Westchester counties.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael A. Zeytoonian and Senior Investigator Cindy M. Trimble, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General in Charge Gary S. Brown of the Westchester Regional Office.