A.G. Schneiderman Announces Convictions In Syracuse Mortgage Fraud And Witness Tampering Cases
News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2017
New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
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A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES CONVICTIONS IN SYRACUSE MORTGAGE FRAUD AND WITNESS TAMPERING CASES
Alexander And Sima March Avoided Prosecution For 5 Years By Fleeing To Canada; Plead Guilty To Residential Mortgage Fraud Scheme; Alexander March Ordered To Pay Over $127K In Restitution
Alexander March, Aided By Attorney Jon Lefkowitz, Also Convicted Of Witness Tampering In Attempt To Evade Extradition
SYRACUSE - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the convictions of Alexander March on two indictments for his role in a residential mortgage fraud scheme and a conspiracy to tamper with witnesses who had testified against him. Today, in Onondaga County Court, before the Honorable Thomas J. Miller, Alexander March pleaded guilty to 16 felonies and 17 misdemeanors to satisfy both indictments and was ordered to pay $127,123.49 in restitution.
Alexander March, 34, of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty to six counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and six counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree for engaging in a scheme whereby he and his wife, Sima March, defrauded lending institutions by submitting refinance applications which contained false information, thereby fraudulently obtaining over $127,000 in mortgage funds. In addition, Alexander March pleaded guilty to four counts of Forgery in the Second Degree, 10 counts of Tampering with a Witness in the Fourth Degree, and seven counts of Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree for tampering with grand jury witnesses and forging judicial subpoenas in an attempt to evade extradition on the mortgage fraud case.
In addition to Alexander March’s guilty pleas, Sima March, 35, also of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty to one count of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree for her role in the mortgage fraud scheme. Brooklyn Attorney Jon A. Lefkowitz, 48, was convicted of Criminal Facilitation in the Fourth Degree for aiding Alexander March in tampering with witnesses.
"We have zero tolerance for mortgage fraud -- and witness tampering erodes the basic principles upon which our justice system was founded,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office will keep working to ensure that fraudsters, cheaters, and swindlers are brought to justice, no matter how hard they try to evade it.”
A joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Department of Financial Services revealed that between February 2006 and July 2010, Alexander March and his wife allegedly engaged in a residential mortgage fraud scheme involving multiple properties in Syracuse.
“The Department of Financial Services is committed to aggressively rooting out mortgage fraud that exploits and unfairly targets innocent New Yorkers,” said Maria T. Vullo, Superintendent of Financial Services. “DFS is pleased to work with the Attorney General’s office with this investigation and in helping to ultimately bring these defendants to justice.”
According to statements made by the prosecutor and court filings, Alexander March allegedly purchased numerous properties in Syracuse and then immediately conveyed title to his wife, Sima March. Sima March subsequently applied for refinancing on six of these properties. In refinancing the properties, the Marches allegedly falsely stated their assets and submitted forged documents. Relying on the statements in the loan applications, lending institutions gave the Marches over $127,000 in mortgage funds. The Marches then allegedly defaulted on the mortgages, forcing the banks to initiate foreclosure proceedings on the refinanced properties.
On May 16, 2011, an Onondaga County Grand Jury charged Alexander and Sima March with six counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a Class D felony, six counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a Class E felony, and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a Class E felony. After the indictment was filed, arrest warrants for Alexander and Sima March were issued. However, the Attorney General’s Office learned that the Marches had fled the United States together and entered Canada at the Champlain Border Crossing on May 13, 2011. Thereafter, the Attorney General’s Office initiated proceedings to extradite Alexander and Sima March from Canada and return them to Onondaga County for prosecution.
After the commencement of extradition proceedings, Alexander March, together with attorney Jon Lefkowitz, engaged in a conspiracy to tamper with grand jury witnesses who had testified against the Marches. In an attempt to undermine the credibility of witnesses who had testified related to the mortgage fraud investigation, Alexander March and Lefkowitz demanded that the witnesses sign affidavits and answer questionnaires that would discredit their prior sworn testimony. In furtherance of their conspiracy, Alexander March impersonated various individuals, including attorneys, and sent out forged “judicial subpoenas” that appeared to have been authorized by a New York State Supreme Court Judge.
On November 4, 2015, an Onondaga County Grand Jury charged Alexander March with four counts of Forgery in the Second Degree, a Class D felony, ten counts of Tampering with a Witness in the Fourth Degree, a Class A misdemeanor, seven counts of Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree, a Class A misdemeanor, and one count of Conspiracy in the Sixth Degree, a class B misdemeanor. Lefkowitz, who was arrested on November 5, 2015, was charged in the same indictment with four counts of Forgery in the Second Degree, ten counts of Tampering with a Witness in the Fourth Degree, two counts of Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree and one count of Conspiracy in the Sixth Degree.
After years of extradition proceedings, the Marches surrendered to New York State authorities on September 20, 2016 at the Canadian border.
On May 11, 2016, Lefkowitz pleaded guilty before the Honorable Thomas J. Miller to an amended charge of Criminal Facilitation in the Fourth Degree, a Class A misdemeanor. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 12, 2017.
Alexander and Sima March are scheduled to be sentenced on May 5, 2017. In exchange for his guilty pleas, Judge Miller, over the objection of the Attorney General’s Office, promised Alexander March a sentence of no worse than six months incarceration and five years’ probation. Miller also ordered Alexander March to pay $127,123.49 to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation for monetary losses they suffered as a result of the foreclosures. The Attorney General’s Office recommended a state prison sentence of two to six years for Alexander March. Sima March will be sentenced to a three-year conditional discharge.
The Attorney General thanked the New York State Department of Financial Services for their valuable assistance in this investigation. The Attorney General also thanked the United States Department of Justice for their assistance in apprehending the defendants.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Tarkowski of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Acting Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton.
The case was investigated by Attorney General Investigators Samuel Scotellaro and David Buske, led by Deputy Chief Investigator Tony Karam. Investigator Scott Petucci also assisted in this investigation. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.