Disbarred Lawyer Made $1 Million By Conning Distressed Homeowners In Bath Beach & Gravesend, Says DA

Source: Nodar Kherkheulidze via Wikimedia Commons
Source: Nodar Kherkheulidze via Wikimedia Commons

A disbarred lawyer has been indicted for allegedly stealing over $1 million from an investor, potential home buyers, and a title insurance company in various scams connected with two distressed properties in the wider Bensonhurst area, announced Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today.

Domenick Crispino, 52, of Staten Island, was arraigned Wednesday in a Brooklyn Supreme Court and charged with second-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, practicing law without a license and other charges, according to prosecutors.

“This defendant allegedly concocted elaborate schemes to defraud in which he stole money from acquaintances and strangers, falsely claimed to be an attorney when it suited his schemes and filed numerous forged documents with public agencies,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. “We’ve put an end to these fraudulent acts and will now fully prosecute him for committing such fraud.”

According to the indictment, between February 15, 2011 and June 29 of this year, the bogus lawyer allegedly engaged in several schemes to enrich himself from two private homes that were subject to foreclosure actions: 35 Bay 7th Street in Bath Beach and 1848 West 7th Street in Gravesend.

This was not the conman’s first run-in with the law. Crispino was disbarred in 1999 amid allegations that he and a partner stole over $2 million from 14 clients — including a single mother who subsequently lost her home and was forced to go on welfare — whom he represented in personal injury lawsuits, reported the New York Times. He was later convicted on grand larceny charges.

Despite that, Crispino has continued to represent himself as an attorney and offered to help the owner of the Bay 7th Street property keep her house after failing to make mortgage payments.

The homeowner, who knew the defendant through her late brother, wanted her elderly father to remain in the family home. According to the indictment, in June 2011, Crispino advised Bruce Abdenour, a friend of the homeowner who was assisting with loan payments, to assume ownership of the property and write checks to Meritus Group, a company Crispino owned, so they can be held in escrow while the defendant negotiated the mortgage with the banks, which would later allow Abdenour to sell the house.

Through April 2013, Abdenour issued checks totaling $597,750 to Meritus and Crispino, who allegedly used these funds by writing checks to himself, cash withdrawals, debit card purchases, according to the indictment. After the elderly resident of the home passed away, Abdenour asked Crispino for proof that he was holding onto the payments, and the conman responded with a phony Merrill Lynch escrow agreement, according to the DA.

In April 2014, Crispino sent a contract of sale to the lawyer of two sisters interested in buying the Bay 7th Street property and collected a 10 percent down payment totaling $86,800, the investigation found. In December 2014, Abdenour was informed during the closing that the mortgage would have to be paid from the proceeds of the sale, not from the now-empty escrow account, and the deal was cancelled. Neither he nor the potential buyers got their money back, so Abdenour reported Crispino to the District Attorney’s Office. The property was foreclosed on and sold in an auction in January 2015 with a mortgage surplus of about $410,000.

In June 29, Crispino unsuccessfully tried to file a claim for the surplus on behalf of Abdenour’s company, according to the indictment. 

In 2011, according to the indictment, Crispino also initiated business dealings relating to the West 7th Street property, which was the subject of a foreclosure action. In February, he filed a deed, allegedly bearing the owner’s forged signature, with the city’s Department of Finance, purporting that Meritus Group bought the house for $10. In June 2012, he signed a contract of sale on the property, accepting a 10 percent down payment of $47,500. Crispino allegedly spent all that money and stopped returning calls from the potential buyers’ lawyer.

Last year, Crispino filed an allegedly bogus satisfaction of mortgage with the City Register, falsely claiming the mortgage on the property had been paid. A month later, he signed a contract of sale with another buyer for the same West 7th Street home, collected $97,936 in checks from the buyer’s lawyer at the closing, according to the investigation.

There was a lien, as well as Environmental Control Board violations on the property that needed to be paid before the sale could be finalized. The buyer paid $152,850 to Liberty Land Abstract, the title insurance company, which held it in escrow, plus $112,000 to the law firm representing the lien holder. After the lien was cleared and the violations paid, Liberty issued Meritus Group – the purported owner of the property – two checks for a total of $151,540.27, the investigation found.

In total, Crispino allegedly stole from Abdenour, from the three potential buyers and from Liberty a total of $981,436.27 and spent all the money on himself, according to prosecutors. He also caused a potential buyer to pay $112,000 to clear the lien, for a total alleged larceny of $1,094,417.27.

Crispino is being held on $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash bail. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count.


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