The ringleader behind a large real estate scheme that bilked millions of dollars from lenders pleaded guilty Wednesday in Nassau County court in New York to attempted grand larceny and fraud charges.

Sam Hilany, a.k.a, Nahum Hilany, 35, faces up to six years in prison and will have to pay restitution for the money he stole in illicit loans, according to Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon. Hilany’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 19.

Hilany was the mastermind behind a large identity theft and mortgage fraud scheme that was uncovered by the county’s Criminal Frauds Bureau, according to Dillon. The scheme included real estate investors, an attorney, a title officer and an appraiser, he said, and enabled Hilany to steal $3,136,800.

“This elaborate identity theft and mortgage fraud scheme involved stolen identities, paid ‘straw borrowers,’ falsified employment, income and asset information, and false property appraisals,” Dillon said.

“In one incident, by erecting a street level facade at the site of a structure that had been destroyed by fire, the defendants were able to obtain a $324,000 mortgage on a building that was merely a burnt out shell,” he added.

According to Dillon, Hilany was both the purchaser and seller of most of the properties in the scheme, and he was the principal beneficiary of the proceeds from these transactions. Also, the companies in whose names the properties were bought and sold were corporate names used by Hilany.

“It was Hilany who found the properties, did the contracts, arranged for the falsified appraisals, and set up the closing dates,” Dillon said.

The DA’s office officially charged Hilany in June 2004, but Hilany had already fled the jurisdiction, Dillon said. “We then notified the International Alert System that Hilany was a wanted fugitive.”

On Oct. 19, 2004, Homeland Security notified the DA’s office that Hilany was listed as a passenger on a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Mexico City, Mexico, Dillon said. Authorities coordinated an expulsion effort to get Hilany back into the U.S., but Hilany ended up on a flight back to Frankfurt.

Hilany was taken into custody by the German Border Police upon exiting the Frankfurt plane, Dillon said, and was taken back to Nassau County to face charges on Jan. 28, 2005.

“In addition to Hilany’s guilty plea, he has waived his right to appeal and is required to make full restitution in the amount of $3,136,800,” said Dillon.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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