Operation Vandelay Industries: A.G. Schneiderman Announces Felony Guilty Pleas Of Fake Architect In Three Counties
News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2017
New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
Albany Press Office / 518-776-2427
OPERATION VANDELAY INDUSTRIES: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES FELONY GUILTY PLEAS OF FAKE ARCHITECT IN THREE COUNTIES
Paul J. Newman Will Pay Over $115,000 In Restitution And Be Sentenced To 2 1/3 To 7 Years In State Prison For Posing As An Architect In Albany, Rensselaer, And Saratoga Counties
Defendant Pleads Guilty To Defrauding Clients By Drafting Architectural Renderings For Over 100 Commercial And Residential Properties Throughout The Capital Region
Schneiderman: The New York State Law Is Clear – No License, No Work For You
NEW YORK–Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that Paul J. Newman, President of Cohesion Studios, Inc., entered guilty pleas in Albany, Rensselaer, and Saratoga Counties for defrauding construction companies, business owners, and municipalities throughout the Capital Region by pretending to be a licensed and registered architect.
As a result of the Attorney General’s investigation, “Operation Vandelay Industries,” Newman was arrested and arraigned on three indictments charging him with 58 felonies related to his unauthorized practice of architecture, forgery, and submission of documents to various municipalities. This week, Newman entered guilty pleas in each jurisdiction for a total of six felonies, including Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class D felony; Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D felony; Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class E felony; and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony. Newman is expected to be sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in State Prison and enter into confessions of judgment in favor of his victims, totaling more than $115,000.
“Throughout the course of his fraudulent career, the defendant repeatedly demonstrated a disregard for the public safety of New Yorkers and a determination to cheat the system,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “The state law is clear – no license, no architectural work for you. No one is above that standard.”
“It is imperative, as a critical matter of public safety, that professional services in New York be provided by licensed and competent professionals,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “We are pleased with our continuing work with Attorney General Schneiderman and his team of professionals in this prosecution, which helps our mission of protecting the public against unlicensed and incompetent practice.”
The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that Newman drafted architectural renderings for over 100 properties in Albany, Rensselaer, and Saratoga Counties. Newman submitted these architectural renderings, as well as foundation inspections, field reports, energy compliance certificates, and engineer letters to various towns and cities—falsely certifying on the documents that he was a registered and licensed architect and affixing a forged New York State Registered Architect Stamp or Professional Engineer Stamp.
According to statements by the prosecutors and admissions made by Newman as part of his guilty pleas, since at least 2010, Newman presented himself as an architect to multiple municipalities in the Capital Region. Newman advertised his architectural services on various social media outlets until he became aware that a complaint had been filed with the New York State Education Department (“NYSED”), Office of the Professions. Soon after, Newman removed any reference to “architecture” in his ads and replaced it with “design.”
In June 2015, investigators from NYSED, Office of the Professions received a complaint alleging that Newman was practicing architecture without a license. In May 2016, following the NYSED investigation, the matter was referred to the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau.
Newman, as the sole employee of Cohesion Studios, Inc. (“Cohesion”), a Rensselaer-based architectural design company, was contracted to create architectural renderings and provide additional architectural services for the following projects:
- The Pastures Project, Town of North Greenbush, Rensselaer, New York
- Between 2010 and 2015, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of more than 70 townhouses, receiving in excess of $50,000 for his services.
- The Livingston Project, City and County of Albany, New York
- Between 2012 and 2014, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of a multi-story senior living community, receiving in excess of $40,000.
- The Lofts Project, Town of Malta, Saratoga, New York
- Between 2014 and 2016, Newman was the Project Architect for the construction of a 214-unit multifamily apartment community, receiving in excess of $35,000.
- The Vistas Project, Town of Clifton Park, Saratoga, New York
- Between 2011 and 2014, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of more than 25 townhouses, receiving in excess of $35,000.
- The Hannoush Jewelers Project, Town of Colonie, Albany, New York
- Between 2011 and 2012, Newman was hired as the architect on a renovation project for a jewelry store, receiving in excess of $20,000.
- The Ballston Senior Living Project, Town of Ballston, Saratoga, New York
- Between 2012 and 2013, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of a multi-story senior living community, receiving in excess of $8,000.
Newman took the license number of a registered architect that he had found on the internet and created a fictitious Registered Architect Stamp using that number and his own name. Newman then affixed this fraudulent stamp to various inspection letters submitted to municipalities across the state. Newman also took the Professional Engineer Stamp of a licensed engineer that he worked with on one or more projects and fraudulently affixed a copy of the stamp, with a forged signature, to over 1,000 pages of building plans for the projects listed above. Finally, Newman affixed fraudulent stamps and used the title “architect” on energy compliance certificates, foundation inspections, field reports, and AIA certificates.
Today, Newman entered pleas of guilty to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, in Saratoga County Court before the Honorable James A. Murphy, III.
Yesterday, Newman pleaded guilty to Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree in Albany County Court before the Honorable William A. Carter.
On June 12, 2017, Newman plead guilty to Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony, and Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class E felony, in Rensselaer County Court before the Honorable Debra J. Young.
Attorney General Schneiderman thanks the New York State Education Department, Office of Professions for their valuable assistance on this investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Philip V. Apruzzese of the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton, and is part of the Criminal Justice Division, under the overall supervision of Chief Deputy Attorney General Jason Brown.
The OAG investigation was conducted by Investigator Mark J. Terra, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Division is led by Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella.