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Operation Vandelay Industries: A.G. Schneiderman Announces State Prison Sentence For Fake Architect

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

OPERATION VANDELAY INDUSTRIES: A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES STATE PRISON SENTENCE FOR FAKE ARCHITECT

Paul J. Newman Will Serve 2 1/3 To 7 Years In State Prison For Posing As An Architect In AlbanyRensselaer, And Saratoga Counties; Ordered To Pay Over $115,000 To Victims

Defendant Defrauded Clients By Drafting Counterfeit Architectural Renderings For Over 100 Commercial And Residential Properties Throughout The Capital Region 

Schneiderman: Those Who Wish To Take Advantage Of New Yorkers Should Take Note – No License, No Work For You

NEW YORK–Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that Paul J. Newman, President of Cohesion Studios, Inc., will serve 2 1/3 to 7 years in state prison on six felony convictions in Albany, Rensselaer, and Saratoga Counties, where Newman—posing as a licensed and registered architect—defrauded construction companies, business owners, and municipalities throughout the Capital Region.  Today’s sentencing took place in Saratoga County Court; Newman will be sentenced to concurrent prison sentences in Albany and Rensselaer County Courts later this week and next week.

“Deceptively posing as a licensed and registered architect has real consequences – including prison time,” said Attorney General SchneidermanThose who wish to game the system and take advantage of New Yorkers should take note: no license, no work for you. My office will continue to uphold this standard.” 

As a result of the Attorney General’s investigation “Operation Vandelay Industries,” in April 2017 Newman was arrested on three indictments charging him with 58 felonies related to his unauthorized practice of architecture, forgery, and submission of documents to various municipalities. In June 2017, Newman entered guilty pleas in each jurisdiction to a total of six felony counts, 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. In addition to being sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison, Newman entered into confessions of judgment in favor of his victims, and has been ordered to pay them over $115,000.

“The State Education Department remains committed to ensuring the public’s safety,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “We look forward to continuing our work with Attorney General Schneiderman to protect New Yorkers from the very real dangers associated with the unlicensed practice of a profession.”

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.

The Attorney General’s investigation also uncovered that Newman 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 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. 

Newman’s convictions cover additional crimes that Operation Vandelay Industries identified related to Newman’s illegal practice of architecture between January 1, 2010 and January 31, 2017, for which he could have been charged in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington Counties.

Today, Newman was sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison on his plea of guilty to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and a concurrent 1 1/3 to 4 years in State Prison on his plea of guilty to Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, in Saratoga County Court before the Honorable James A. Murphy, III.  

On September 7, 2017, Newman will be sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison on his plea of guilty to Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony, and a concurrent term of imprisonment of 1 1/3 to 4 years on his plea of guilty to Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree in Albany County Court before the Honorable William A. Carter.

Finally, on September 12, 2017, Newman will be sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison on his plea of guilty to Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony, and a concurrent 1 1/3 to 4 years in State Prison on his plea of guilty to Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class E felony, in Rensselaer County Court before the Honorable Debra J. Young.

All of Newman’s sentences will run concurrent to each other, resulting in a total state prison sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years.

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 Deputy Bureau Chief Joseph G. D’Arrigo, 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.