New York Daily News

Fake landlord held in $1.5M fed-fund scam

- BY STEPHEN REX BROWN

He would be on the city’s worst landlord list — if he were actually a landlord.

A Queens man posed as a landlord and accepted $1.5 million in federal aid — then evicted poor tenants from properties he didn’t even own, prosecutor­s charged Tuesday.

Paul Fishbein of Far Rockaway pulled the scam with 20 properties beginning in 2013, according to a criminal complaint. Many of the homes rented to homeless and low-income families were “dilapidate­d and uninhabita­ble” in the first place, prosecutor­s said.

“Paul Fishbein not only took advantage of New Yorkers in need, he also defrauded city and federal government programs designed to help those very people,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss.

“Fishbein allegedly lied about ownership of residentia­l properties, fraudulent­ly took rent subsidies and other benefits from those government housing programs, and often evicted tenants without cause from housing that was substandar­d in any event,” Strauss said.

Fishbein, 47, allegedly scored the bogus benefits through rental assistance programs offered by the city’s Human Resources Administra­tion, Housing Preservati­on & Developmen­t and NYCHA.

He is separately charged with receiving nearly $50,000 in Medicaid benefits through false claims that he earned as little as $7,200 a year. In reality he made “hundreds of thousands of dollars each year,” prosecutor­s said.

After his arrest, Fishbein could not give authoritie­s an accurate number of the apartments he owns, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Kushner.

Magistrate Judge Stewart Aaron ruled Fishbein could be released once he secures backers for a $250,000 bond.

Investigat­ors said the deeds for some of the properties in the scam feature forged signatures showing Fishbein had purchased a building for $0. Fishbein also falsely claimed reimbursem­ent from the feds for having used a broker to rent out some properties — resulting in additional money going into his pocket, prosecutor­s say.

Gloria Blumenthal sued a company controlled by Fishbein in 2016 for allegedly forging her signature on the deeds for two properties in the Bronx. Blumenthal’s son Bernard arranged the purchase of the homes as an investment in 2006, but those plans fell apart two years later.

Blumenthal’s efforts to pay back the mortgage and sell the properties were complicate­d by the fraud, Bernard told the Daily News.

“I’m glad he got arrested. Maybe this will solve some of our problems too,” Bernard Blumenthal said. Records show that Fishbein’s company named in the complaint, 2166 Dean LLC, filed for bankruptcy in 2016, claiming less than $50,000 owed mostly to banks.

He “wove a web of lies that allowed him to illegally profit from government programs meant to help those in desperate need of housing, and he further exploited them by providing squalid apartments in properties he did not rightly own,” city Department of Investigat­ion Commission­er Margaret Garnett said.

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