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Post date: April 20 2017

Operation Vandelay Industries: A.G. Schneiderman Announces Indictments In Three Counties, Charging Alleged Fake Architect With 58 Counts Of Larceny, Forgery, Fraud, And Unlicensed Practice Of Architecture

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2017

New York City Press Office / 212-416-8060
Albany Press Office / 518-776-2427
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OPERATION VANDELAY INDUSTRIES: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES INDICTMENTS IN THREE COUNTIES, CHARGING ALLEGED FAKE ARCHITECT WITH 58 COUNTS OF LARCENY, FORGERY, FRAUD, AND UNLICENSED PRACTICE OF ARCHITECTURE

Paul J. Newman Allegedly Collected Nearly $200,000 For Rendering Fraudulent Architecture And Design Services Since 2010

Newman Drafted Architectural Renderings For Over 100 Commercial And Residential Properties In Albany, Rensselaer, And Saratoga Counties And Allegedly Affixed Fraudulent Stamps To Over 1,000 Building Plans And Inspections

Schneiderman: My Office Will Not Tolerate Misconduct That Jeopardizes New Yorkers’ Safety And Erodes Public Trust

NEW YORK STATE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the unsealing of three indictments charging Paul J. Newman, President of Cohesion Studios, Inc., with defrauding construction companies, business owners, and municipalities throughout the Capital Region by pretending to be a licensed and registered architect. 

The Attorney General’s investigation, “Operation Vandelay Industries,” revealed that Newman allegedly drafted architectural renderings for over 100 properties in Albany, Rensselaer, and Saratoga Counties. Newman allegedly 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.

“As we allege, for over seven years the defendant has pretended to be a Registered Architect, deceiving hundreds of New Yorkers – including families and senior citizens — with the sole goal of enriching himself,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “By allegedly falsifying building plans, code compliance inspections, and field reports, the defendant jeopardized the safety of those who resided in and frequented the buildings he was contracted to work on. Deceptive actions like these erode public trust  and my office will not tolerate them.”

“The State Education Department's Office of the Professions investigates and prosecutes professional misconduct in more than 50 licensed professions to help protect New Yorkers,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “We are grateful for our continuing partnership with Attorney General Schneiderman and his team of professionals as we work together to ensure the safety of the public is protected against the dangers of unlicensed practice.”

According to statements by the prosecutor at arraignment, since at least 2010, Newman has been presenting himself as an architect to multiple municipalities in the Capital Region.  Newman allegedly 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.

According to statements made by the prosecutor at arraignment, 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

According to prosecutors, Newman allegedly took the license number of a registered architect that he 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 allegedly 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 aboveFinally, Newman allegedly affixed fraudulent stamps and used the title “architect” on energy compliance certificates, foundation inspections, field reports, and AIA certificates.

In Saratoga County, Newman is charged with one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony; thirteen counts of Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony; one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony; three counts of Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class E felony; and thirteen counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony.  Newman, 49, was arraigned on April 17, 2017 in Saratoga County Court before the Honorable James A. Murphy, III.  The defendant was remanded on the 31-count indictment.

In Rensselaer County, Newman is charged with one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony; nine counts of Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony; one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony; one count of Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class E felony; and nine counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony.  Newman, was also arraigned on April 17, 2017 in Rensselaer County Court before the Honorable Debra J. Young.  The defendant was remanded on this 21-count indictment, pending a written bail application.  

In Albany County, Newman is charged with two counts of Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony; one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony; one count of Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class E felony; and two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony.  Newman was arraigned on April 19, 2017, in Albany County Court before the Honorable William A. Carter.  The defendant was remanded on this six-count indictment, pending a written bail application.  

If convicted of the highest count charged, Newman faces up to 5 to 15 years in prison.

The charges against the defendant are allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  

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 Bureau is led by Acting Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton, and under the overall supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice 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.