Indian-American from Queens, NY, sentenced in home-buying fraud

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An Indian-American real estate agent from the Queens borough in New York City, was sentenced Aug. 29, for defrauding home-buyers.

An online poster for reporting financial fraud brought out by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. (Photo: https://www.justice.gov/usao-edny)

Queens Acting District Attorney John M. Ryan announced Aug. 30, that a former licensed real estate salesperson, Reshmi Maharaj, 53, living in Richmond Hill, Queens, has been sentenced to up to 6 years in prison for stealing nearly $600,000 in payments from prospective homeowners for the purported “short sale” of several Queens and Brooklyn properties in 2015.

According to Ryan, Maharaj duped the victims into believing that they were making payments to either secure their dream home or purchase a property as an investment opportunity. Instead, she pocketed their money and spent it on personal items, the press release from the DA’s office said.

Following a four-week bench trial presided over by Queens Supreme Court Justice Daniel Lewis, Maharaj was convicted on August 12, 2019 of second-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud and second- and third degree grand larceny.

Justice Lewis sentenced Maharaj Aug. 29, to 2 to 6 years in prison.

According to testimony at the trial, beginning in December 2014, Maharaj accepted a number of deposits, totaling $55,500, from a prospective buyer for the purchase of a home on Lefferts Boulevard in Richmond Hill, Queens.

In April 2015, a second prospective buyer gave Maharaj four checks, totaling $34,500, for a home she presented as a “short sale” on Sutter Avenue in South Ozone Park, Queens. This same buyer then paid Maharaj an additional lump sum of $130,000 in order to secure the purchase of the property.

Maharaj repeated this scam several more times, collecting deposits, totaling $176,200, for a home on 122 Street in Jamaica and for nd “short-sale” home purchases on Murdock Avenue in Queens Village and on Avenue K in Brooklyn, as well as for closing costs, the press release said.

In 2016, Maharaj again pocketed a total of $199,000 from a third prospective buyer, who was interested in buying a property on 115 Street in Richmond Hill.

Despite having paid large sums of money to Maharaj, according to trial testimony, the victims were never allowed to move into the homes.

Instead, Maharaj spent the $594,700 in funds she had received on such things as trips to a local casino and for travel-related vacation expenses (including airfare, hotels and entertainment), as well as making sizeable cash withdrawals while in Trinidad and Tobago and for other personal expenses.

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