A Queens man allegedly ripped off more than $1 million from housing-assistance programs by posing as the landlord of dilapidated Bronx buildings he didn’t actually own — but still rented out to poor families, federal authorities charged Tuesday.
The suspect, 47-year-old Paul Fishbein, of Far Rockaway, was charged with theft of government funds, mail fraud and wire fraud and faces decades in prison for the scheme, which federal prosecutors alleged he had been carrying out since 2013.
As part of the ruse, Fishbein allegedly found buildings in the Bronx and elsewhere that were recently sold, then forged deeds to show the building were turned over from the buyers to an LLC he controlled, prosecutors charged in Manhattan federal court.
Fishbein then presented himself as the owner of the buildings to several city agencies — including NYCHA, Housing Preservation and Development and the Human Resources Administration — and collected rent money fronted by them in affordable-housing deals, according to the complaint.
In some instances, he also allegedly collected fees paid for by the HRA that he claimed would be paid to brokers who rented the apartments for him, the complaint states.
His tenants included homeless and poor families who needed government assistance to pay rent, feds charged.
Fishbein allegedly often evicted them shortly after they were placed in the buildings, which were dilapidated and, in some cases, in foreclosure, according the court docs.
He ultimately bilked some $1.5 million in funds in the years-long scheme, including $270,000 in federal funds, federal authorities allege.
“As alleged, 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,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
“Now Paul Fishbein is in custody and facing serious federal charges for his alleged fraud and exploitation,” she added.
He’s expected to be presented in Manhattan federal court later Tuesday.