Tag Archives: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Councilman Ruben Wills arrested on corruption charges


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Updated 2:25 p.m. 

Councilman Ruben Wills was arrested Wednesday after a corruption investigation discovered he allegedly stole public campaign funds and state grant money.

The Queens politician, who represents the 28th District, which includes Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale and South Ozone Park, was indicted on charges of grand larceny, scheme to defraud, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing, according to the indictment.

Jelani Mills, a relative who works for Wills, and allegedly helped him redirect some of the cash, was also indicted Wednesday on charges of grand larceny and falsifying business records.

Wills is accused of stealing from both the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.

He is charged with redirecting $11,500 in matching funds he received from the CFB during his 2009 City Council campaign–with the help of Mills–to New York 4 Life, a nonprofit Wills started, and using the money for personal purchases, according to court documents. Wills allegedly bought a $750 Louis Vuitton handbag at Macy’s, among other items. 

The councilman had been under investigation by the attorney general for $33,000 in state funds provided through a grant that was unaccounted for after it was given to New York 4 Life, according to published reports and the attorney general’s office.

Those funds were earmarked by former state Sen. Shirley Huntley while Wills was serving as her chief of staff.

New York 4 Life signed a contract with OCFS to receive that money, promising to conduct four public service projects, officials said, but the nonprofit allegedly only came through on one program that cost about $14,000. Wills is accused of pocketing the remaining $19,000 and using it for political and personal expenses, including purchases at Nordstrom’s and Century 21.

Huntley was arrested in a unrelated case in August 2012 and later pleaded guilty for covering up money funneled through a nonprofit she helped establish. It was revealed last May that Huntley had secretly recorded the conversations of seven elected officials, including Wills, while she was still in office at the request of federal prosecutors.

“The City Council takes these troubling allegations from the New York State Attorney General very seriously and will be reviewing them thoroughly, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “New Yorkers expect and deserve a government that is ethical and responsible and that is the standard we’re seeking to uphold.”

Wills, who was first elected to the Council in a 2010 special election, has been prohibited from doling out member items, or city funds, to his district, the Queens delegation chair and City Council speaker’s office will now designate them for him, reports and a source said.

He has also agreed to give up his chairmanship of the Council’s subcommittee on drug abuse, according to published reports.

Wills, who did not enter a plea and was released without bail, said Wednesday he had no plans to resign, reports said.

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Pol asks AG to investigate Sandy contractor fraud


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


Sandy brought a wave of fraudulent fixes to south Queens, and one elected official wants them wiped out.

Following the superstorm, many affected residents fell victim to fraudulent contractors who “promised to rebuild their homes, but have either left before completing the job or disappeared with [their] deposit without performing the necessary repairs,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder.

Goldfeder wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, requesting he “immediately investigate” and hold all out-of-state and local fraudulent contractors accountable.

“Residents who have spent their hard-earned money and savings to rebuild deserve to have the work done as promoted by their contractor,” Goldfeder said in his letter.

He said this is a “community-wide concern” in Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel and Rockaway and many are “still struggling to finish repairs left from the storm damage.”

This October, Schneiderman prosecuted a Long Island based organization which “used deceptive practices in an attempt to obtain business from victims” of Sandy.

G.C. Environmental, Inc. of Bay Shore was fined $40,000 after mailing more than 2,000 letters resembling State Department of Environmental Conservation notices of violation to property owners who had suffered petroleum spills as a result of the storm, warning victims of an impending fine if they did not seek repairs.

Additionally, in July, Schneiderman filed lawsuits against four service stations in Kings, Nassau and Suffolk County Supreme Courts for gas price gouging following the storm. The attorney general’s office reached settlements with 25 stations, and additional investigations are pending.
Schneiderman’s office did not return a request for comment regarding Goldfeder’s letter.

“It is of paramount importance that we continue to help homeowners and revive our communities,” Goldfeder said.

 

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Three volunteer EMTs charged with stealing from Corona nonprofit


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

AmbulanceInMotionHC0507

Three volunteer EMTs have been arrested after allegedly stealing more than $325,000 from a not-for-profit volunteer ambulance group, according to the attorney general.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Friday, September 20 that Daniel Dominguez, 37, Daryl Adeva, 31, and David Moretti, 41, were arrested for stealing from bank accounts of the Corona Community Volunteer Ambulance Corps (CCAC).

“These emergency medical technicians, who were entrusted with providing medical services and transportation for New York residents, instead took advantage of their positions and used a not-for-profit ambulance corps as their own personal piggy bank,” said Schneiderman. “My office will continue to weed out theft and fraud in charitable organizations and prosecute criminals who take advantage of the public’s trust.”

The arrests took place after the Attorney General’s Charities Bureau received a complaint from CCAC board members about “possible missing and misappropriated funds from CCAC bank accounts.”

According to a felony complaint, the investigation found that while Dominguez served as a board member and treasurer of CCAC, he stole more than $300,000 from the nonprofit’s bank accounts by transferring funds directly to his personal accounts. He then allegedly used the money to go on trips to Disney World and Niagara Falls, and purchased luxury car service trips and expensive meals.

In a second felony complaint, Dominguez allegedly helped Adeva, another CCAC board member, make an unauthorized transfer of $8,960 to his own account. The Attorney General also charged Moretti, who served as a board member and president of CCAC, in a third felony complaint for stealing more than $11,000 from the nonprofit between September 2008 and May 2011.

“Moretti received wire transfers, cash withdrawals and unauthorized credit card purchases,” said the complaint. “These purchases included overseas money transfer and personal car payments, all made without the permission of the CCAC board members.”

All three volunteer EMTs were arrested and arraigned on September 20 on grand larceny charges.

If convicted, Dominguez, who was charged with grand larceny in the second degree, faces up to five to 15 years in prison. Moretti and Adeva were both charged with grand larceny in the third degree and each face up to two and one-third to seven years in prison.

Fresh Meadows woman arrested for Sandy scam


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office

A Fresh Meadows woman claiming to be a Sandy victim was arrested for allegedly scamming more than $87,000 in city and federal relief, the state attorney general said.

Caterina Curatolo stayed at hotels on the city’s dime for close to nine months after she claimed she was evacuated and rendered homeless by the October superstorm, according to authorities and a criminal complaint.

She racked up a hotel bill of more than $83,000, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, and received nearly $3,600 on top of that from the city and American Red Cross to spend on food.

The attorney general’s office said she spent some of the money at electronic, shoe and dress stores.

“I am in desperate need for you all to pray for me and for all the victims of hurricane super sandy [sic], and please pray pray pray for me and us all,” Curatolo wrote on her Facebook page in June.

Schneiderman said Curatolo filed fraudulent claims, blaming Sandy for pre-dated or nonexistent damages to her house and car.

An investigation by his office found roof damages to her home were there since 2011, when she filed a similar claim to FEMA after Hurricane Irene.

Neighbors told The Courier they believed structural damage to her home took place long before the superstorm.

Curatolo’s car also showed no signs of water damage, Schneiderman said, though she allegedly told a car insurance representative her Jeep Grand Cherokee “was full of water,” according to a criminal complaint.

“The whole ceiling and everything was all wet and coming down well,” she allegedly said, “and the car is moldy and mildew-y [sic] now and the car won’t start.”

Neighbors said 159th Street, where Curatolo lives, saw little to no flooding during Sandy.

“There were some branches down. There was rain, but cars were not flooded,” said Abderraham Kamal.

Curatolo’s home is more than a mile from the nearest flood zone and was not located in an evacuation area, officials said.

Neighbor and friend Claudia, who did not want to give her last name, said Curatolo was battling health and family problems.

The 48 year old — who described herself on a social media sites as a reverend, actor, director and producer — also spent years taking care of her ailing mother, the neighbor said.

“I feel very bad for her,” Claudia said. “She needed help, but I guess she took it from the wrong place.”

Curatolo faces multiple charges including grand larceny, insurance fraud and falsifying business records and could serve up to seven years in prison if convicted.

“My office will do everything in our power to crack down on anyone who uses a national emergency like Sandy for personal gain,” Schneiderman said. “Today’s arrest shows that scammers who trade on tragedy will be exposed and punished.”

 

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Whitestone woman pleads guilty in prostitution ring bust


| mchan@queenscourier.com


A Whitestone woman who headed a large-scale prostitution and drug ring has pleaded guilty to felony enterprise corruption charges, officials said.

Jay King, 53, was sentenced to three to nine years in state prison for her role in a money laundering operation that spanned the tri-state area, said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. She illegally sold sex, crack, cocaine and Viagra, authorities said.

“Today’s guilty plea and sentence are part of our ongoing effort to ensure that those who participate in lucrative prostitution-based money laundering and drug dealing are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Schneiderman said.

King, who was released on $1 million bail, will also have to pay $100,000 in fines.

A New Jersey woman who led a separate prostitution and drug ring also pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption charges, the attorney general said.

No Mi Kwon, 49, will be sentenced to three to nine years and have to pay $268,000.

The two generated millions of dollars selling sex and drugs, officials said.

Both pleas are the result of a 16-month joint agency investigation last November that led to the 180-count indictment of a Manhattan-based advertising corporation called Somad Enterprises, Inc.

Nineteen people, including 11 from Queens, were also indicted then.

 

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Attorney general investigating Sandy charity money


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


Sandy relief money is reportedly being kept under lock and key.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released a preliminary report on Wednesday, July 17 detailing how charities have spent more than half a billion dollars of Sandy donations. At least $238 million of the more than $575 million had not been spent as of April of this year, according to the report.

“All one needs to do is look around Breezy Point to realize what a travesty [this] is,” said Arthur Lighthall, president of the Breezy Point Cooperative.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich echoed Lighthall, saying “sitting on this money while so many people are still in need is an insult.”

The report also asks whether some of the funds reportedly spent on Sandy were actually used for non-storm-related purposes.

“We have a responsibility to the people who donated their hard-earned money to help our community rebuild to make sure that the contributions they made were used as advertised,” Schneiderman said.

The Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, which regulates all state charities, reviewed the Sandy contributions and found that 58 percent of donations had gone to storm relief efforts; 17 organizations reported potentially using funds for non-Sandy purposes such as preventing future disasters; and responding organizations granted half of the $336 million they had received to other organizations.

“This funding is urgently needed and we cannot accept that charitable donations are not being spent as intended,” Ulrich said.

Schneiderman’s Charities Bureau is heightening its review of Sandy fundraising and seeking more detailed answers from the responding charities, including a clearer account of how money has been spent and plans for remaining funds.

“My constituents are not assisted by monies collected for victims of Sandy that are not distributed,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo. “These funds are useless unless given to those who [are] truly in need.”

 

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Queens nonprofit executive turns himself in for allegedly pocketing $85K


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


The executive of a Queens nonprofit group has turned himself into the authorities.

Van Holmes, the president of the Young Leaders Institute Inc., allegedly pocketed more than $85,000 by creating false records and forged documents which he filed through state and city agencies, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The investigation, conducted by Schneiderman, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and the Department of Investigation, is looking into former State Senator Shirley Huntley’s possible involvement with the funds.

The criminal complaint alleges that from 2007 to 2010, Holmes obtained three member-item grants sponsored by Huntley. Sally Butler, Huntley’s lawyer, said the former pol’s only involvement was contributing money in support of Holmes’ youth program as well as other community groups.

In one incident, Holmes allegedly created false invoices and payment records to make it seem he had taken 50 youths on trips to a retreat center. But no such trips occurred, and Holmes instead took the funds for himself.

“Van Holmes pocketed tens of thousands of state and city taxpayer dollars meant to help low-income students and their families,” Schneiderman said. “The men and women elected to public office and put in charge of public service organizations have a special responsibility to protect the public interest.”

DiNapoli said Holmes allegedly used the stolen funds to pay for clothing, car repairs and theater tickets.

“It’s shameful,” he added.

Holmes is charged with grand larceny, forgery, falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing. If convicted, he could face to 15 years in prison.

 

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Husband and wife developers plead guilty to illegally selling Elmhurst condos


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Two notorious Queens developers pleaded guilty last week to flouting a court order and illegally selling condo units, the attorney general said.

Tommy and Alice Huang were permanently barred from selling co-ops and condos in the state after they cheated Flushing home buyers in 1999.

But on June 19, the Huangs admitted to fraudulently selling 33 units in Elmhurst at the Broadway Tower Condominium.

“This egregious and unscrupulous greed on the part of the Huangs and their blatant disregard for the law and the safety of others must stop,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The controversial builders have been a “scourge” in the borough for more than 20 years, lawmakers said. Their “misconduct” in Queens includes illegal and unsafe construction, environmental crimes and building code violations, Schneiderman said.

Tommy Huang was sentenced to five years’ probation in 1999 for damaging the landmarked interior of RKO Keith’s Theater in Flushing.

He was also denied a variance by Community Board 11 last November to complete the construction of four single-family homes in Bayside.

“Frankly, today’s announcement has been a long time coming and is long overdue,” said State Senator Tony Avella, who called Huang the “poster child” for unscrupulous developers.

Tommy Huang, 59, and Alice Huang, 60, pleaded guilty to securities fraud felonies. The pair must return $4.8 million in illegal profits and penalties to the state and surrender their holdings at the Broadway Tower Condominium, the attorney general said.

They can face up to four years in prison if the debts are not repaid, officials said.

Tommy Huang will be barred from New York construction and real estate industries for at least five years. Both husband and wife remain permanently banned from selling securities in the state.

Their son, Henry Huang, is also prohibited. Schneiderman said he helped his parents circumvent their court order and then covered up their crimes by filing false documents with authorities.

Tommy Huang, who was denied a variance to complete construction on these Bayside homes last year, pleaded guilty to felony charges. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Partly cloudy with a chance of rain. High of 70. Breezy. Winds from the North at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Friday night: Partly cloudy with a chance of rain in the evening, then clear. Low of 61. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Disco Inferno III

Back once again, the music/dance extravaganza Disco Inferno at Resorts World Casino NYC on Friday, June 14 will feature Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, Rochelle Fleming of First Choice, Double Exposure, Carol Williams, Disco Unlimited, DJ Jenny Costa, Percussionist Peter Gozzi and host Al Magliano. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Mayor blasts DOJ’s recommendation for NYPD monitor ahead of stop-and-frisk decision

The U.S. Justice Department has tread carefully into the debate over the NYPD’s stop, question and frisk policy, telling a federal judge that it strongly endorses an independent monitor to oversee changes should she decide civil rights violations have occurred.  Read more: CBS New York/AP

NYCHA budget cuts could lead to 500 jobs lost, section 8 rent hikes

The federal sequester’s impact could soon be causing big headaches for New Yorkers who live in public housing. Read more: NY1

City Council considers bill punishing buyers of counterfeit goods
It’s one of the worst kept secrets in New York City. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Schneiderman, mourning dad push for cellphone theft prevention tech

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Thursday put a human face on the scourge of smartphone thefts to pressure cellphone makers to improve anti-theft technologies. Read more: New York Daily News

NFL to limit bags brought into stadiums 

Bring yourself to the game. Leave the cooler and backpack at home. Read more: NBC New York

Newtown shooting: 6 months later

Six months after the Newtown school shooting, the tragedy will be marked with a moment of silence, the reading of thousands of names of gun violence victims and calls around the country to pass legislation expanding background checks for gun purchases. Read more: AP

Attorney general sues gas stations for Sandy price gouging


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Long lines at the pump were not the only fuel-related pains felt after Sandy.

Rapidly increasing fuel prices further victimized storm survivors. Now the state is getting back at the gas gougers.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed lawsuits against four New York gas stations and has reached settlements with 25 others for violating the gas price gouging statue immediately after the storm.

“Six months ago, as New Yorkers were sitting in lines waiting for hours to buy critical supplies of gasoline, some shady business owners were trying to make a fast buck at their expense,” Schneiderman said on Thursday, May 2.

“Today, we are sending a powerful message that ripping off New Yorkers during a time of crisis is against the law and we will do everything in our power to hold them accountable.”

The attorney general said his office received hundreds of complaints regarding post-Sandy gas price gouging and price jumps that took place up to several times a day.

An investigation into those complaints found dozens of area stations in violation of New York State’s Price Gouging Law. The statute prohibits vendors, retailers and suppliers from charging prices that reflect a “gross disparity” between prices immediately before and after a natural disaster or similar event that cannot be attributed to other factors outside of the seller’s controls.

The 25 gas stations that settled will pay a total of $167,850.

One of those stations, a Mobil at 40-40 Crescent Street in Long Island City, increased its retail markup on regular gasoline from $1.03 a gallon before Sandy to $2.08 immediately after the storm, according to the attorney general. Drivers paid $4.89 a gallon to fill up their tanks post-storm at the station.

Only one New York City gas station, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, along with three in Long Island, is named in Schneiderman’s lawsuit. Investigations are pending against dozens of other stations.

 

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John Liu staffer among three arrested for lunch kickback scheme


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


A staffer for Comptroller John Liu was arrested in an alleged kickback scheme, reportedly pocketing over $50,000.

Veda Jamoona and two other co-conspirators were arrested on Monday, February 25 for allegedly stealing funds from a senior citizen’s lunch program, run by the nonprofit United Hindu Cultural Council (UHCC).

“By stealing from the senior center lunch program, the defendants put personal greed ahead of the basic needs of New York seniors,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

According to the indictment, Jamoona, 28, and her mother, Chan Jamoona, 66, both former UHCC executive directors, perpetrated a long-running scheme in which the owner of Sonny’s Roti Shop in Ozone Park, Steven Rajkumar, submitted falsely inflated invoices for lunches served to the seniors. The three then shared the profits.

“These defendants systematically chiseled the city’s taxpayers and shortchanged the seniors they were supposed to serve,” said Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn.

The trio is charged with various counts, including a felony indictment for the Jamoona and her mother. If convicted, they all could receive 5 to 15 years in prison.

Jamoona started working for the comptroller in January of last year as a public affairs associate. After her arrest, she was immediately suspended without pay, according to a spokesperson for Liu.

 

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Huntley co-defendants plead guilty, agree to return nearly $30G


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


A week after their former boss, State Senator Shirley Huntley, pleaded guilty to embezzlement cover-up and falsifying evidence, three co-defendants have followed suit.

Huntley pleaded guilty on Wednesday, February 13 after nearly $30,000 in taxpayer dollars went missing; her co-conspirators, Patricia Savage, Lynn Smith and David Gantt, entered their pleas a week later.

Savage and Smith confirmed their roles in an illegal member item theft scheme and a cover-up involving a sham nonprofit group, Parent Workshop, in which they claimed to use funds to hold workshops and conduct outreach to parents about the public school system. Instead, the pair pocketed the money, and there were no workshops. Gantt pleaded guilty to falsifying records claiming that he was paid for conducting these workshops, when he never did so, according to the attorney general’s office.

“There are no excuses for public officials and their associates who game the system to line their pockets, and then engage in a brazen cover up when their crimes are exposed,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman also said that state taxpayers will be fully reimbursed for the stolen money.

Savage and Smith agreed to pay the state of New York the exact amount of money taken. Gantt was not charged with taking any of the funds.

“There is no place in public service for those who enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers,” said Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. “These individuals defrauded the public.”

Savage and Smith are scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, March 27 and Gantt on Friday, March 29 in Nassau County Supreme Court. If convicted, they will maintain a felony charge on their records and serve five years of probation.

 

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Wills investigated for missing $33,000 grant


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Councilmember Ruben Wills

A Queens councilmember is taking heat for failing to account for thousands of taxpayers’ dollars given to his non-profit organization.

Councilmember Ruben Wills is under investigation from State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after he failed to account for a $33,000 grant for his nonprofit, New York 4 Life. He is also being reviewed by the city council.

“In light of troubling reports and court records evidencing Councilmember Wills’ lack of cooperation with a state investigation, including his assertion of his Fifth Amendment rights, we have referred this matter to the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee for a formal review,” said Council representative Jamie McShane.

McShane added that Wills was removed from the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team and that all decisions about funding allocations for his district will be determined by Speaker Christine Quinn’s office.

Although New York 4 Life does not have a web page, the councilmember’s web site explains that the nonprofit is an organization “which has helped single mothers champion critical issues such as civic literacy and financial empowerment.”

The grant in question was reportedly approved from State Senator Shirley Huntley to New York 4 Life in 2008 for a single mothers’ breakfast, single fathers’ luncheon, a “children and youth obesity campaign,” and an “adopt a commercial strip” program, according to court filings.

However, after the money was paid by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) in September of 2010, neither Wills nor the organization responded with documents showing how the money was spent.

It is also unclear as to whether the events actually occurred.

The court papers also said the OCFS sent a letter to request the accounting of the grant or a refund in April, 2011, but the nonprofit didn’t respond, at which time OCFS contacted the Attorney General’s office.

Schneiderman’s office issued a subpoena in February of this year, but received no report of the money.

While meeting with lawyers from the AG’s office, Wills walked out during questioning, pleading the Fifth Amendment.

Published reports claim that Schneiderman has filed a motion to force New York 4 Life to open its books. Reports also claim that no tax returns were ever filed for New York 4 Life, which was initially registered to Wills’ residence, but was later changed to his 2009 campaign office.

Calls to Wills’ office for comment were not returned as of press time.

Wills was elected to office in November of 2010 by winning a Special Election, after the passing of Councilmember Thomas White Jr.

 

New foreclosure help


| aaltman@queenscourier.com


New legislation by Senator Malcolm A. Smith may increase settlements for victims of foreclosure abuse.

“Home purchasing is the largest single investment that individuals make in their lifetime,” said Smith. “Banks committed crimes against homeowners and restitution needs to be fair. I am introducing this legislation that I believe will bring parity to my constituents in the city and state of New York. I applaud the efforts of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to bring the banks to task for their erroneous dealings with home buyers.”

A settlement for $136 million was reached between the state and five of the nation’s most prominent mortgage service companies over perceived foreclosure abuse. According to a spokesperson from Smith’s office, this agreement includes relief for victims of wrongful foreclosure conduct and loan modifications, including “principal reductions for homeowners and funds that can be used to cornerstone foreclosure legal assistance and housing counseling programs.”

Under the attorney general’s proposed agreement, homeowners are expected to garner between $1,500 to $2,000 in retributions. Smith alleges that these amounts pale in comparison to the true monetary compensation homeowners should be given, calling them “unfair” and “insulting.”

According to Smith’s office, the proposed legislation could earn homeowners “the full amount of the down payment paid or 20 percent of the original appraised value of the qualifying residential real property.” If the eligible homeowner no longer lives in the house that was the subject of a foreclosure, they may qualify for the full amount of a down payment on new residential property.

“[Schneiderman’s effort] is the launching pad for my legislation which provides for increased financial payments to victims of the foreclosure crisis,” said Smith.