New Jersey Real Estate Investor Admits to $54.7M Mortgage Fraud

On June 17, 2024, in Trenton, New Jersey, a man from the state pleaded guilty to participating in a vast, multi-year scheme to deceitfully secure over $54.7 million in loans and fraudulently acquire multifamily and commercial properties. The individual in question, identified as Aron Puretz, aged 53, collaborated with others between 2016 and 2022 to dupe lenders into granting multifamily and commercial mortgage loans. Puretz, an employee of Apex Equity Group, a real estate investment and advisory firm, and a co-owner of Maple Lawn in Eureka, Illinois, and Big Country Chateau in Little Rock, Arkansas, both multifamily properties, and Troy Technology Park in Troy, Michigan, a commercial property, engaged in the elaborate plan.

During the acquisition of Maple Lawn in February 2017 for $4.1 million, Puretz and his associates from Apex Equity Group fabricated documents to present a lender and Freddie Mac with a purchase and sale contract for $5.8 million, alongside other falsified documentation. Additionally, a title and settlement company in Lakewood, New Jersey, executed two closings on Feb. 17, 2017, one for the actual $4.1 million sales price and another for the fictitious $5.8 million sales price submitted to the lender. The scheme also involved the creation of a non-profit entity, JPC Charities, to secure tax-exempt status for the properties owned by Puretz and his co-conspirators, coupled with false statements to the city of Eureka, Illinois, to obtain a property tax exemption.

In July 2019, Puretz and his collaborators acquired Big Country Chateau, using the identity of an associate instead of Puretz’s own due to anticipation of disapproval by the lender and Freddie Mac. Puretz concealed his ownership and association with the property management company from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal and state entities. Furthermore, the purchase of Troy Technology Park in September 2020 for $42.7 million involved the submission of fraudulent documents, including a purchase and sale contract for $70 million, a forged letter of intent to purchase the property for $68 million from another party, and a short-term $30 million loan to create the illusion of having sufficient funds for the transaction.

Puretz admitted guilt to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and is set to receive sentencing on Oct. 30, 2024, facing a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The judicial decision on the sentence will be based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory considerations. The disclosure of Puretz’s plea was made by U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, Inspector General Brian M. Tomney of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), and Postal Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) Criminal Investigations Group, with FHFA-OIG and USPIS handling the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Martha Nye for the District of New Jersey and Trial Attorney Siji Moore of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are responsible for prosecuting the case.

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