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Friday, April 6, 2012

Lawyer Involved in Mortgage Fraud Among 8 Disbarred by Brooklyn Court

Lawyer Involved in Mortgage Fraud Among 8 Disbarred by Brooklyn Court
The New York Law Journal by Andrew Keshner  -  April 6, 2012

An attorney who pleaded guilty for his role in a multi-million dollar mortgage scheme and another who took a settlement check meant for his client were among eight lawyers disbarred on April 3 by a Brooklyn appellate court.  Akintayo Abimbola Ayorinde of Brooklyn submitted his resignation and was disbarred by the Appellate Division, Second Department, after having pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud in connection to his role in a two-year mortgage fraud ring that racked up more than $10 million in fraudulently obtained loans.  Ayorinde was one of three attorneys indicted in the ring, which charged 10 people overall (NYLJ, April 7, 2010). He was a real estate investor who purchased and sold properties using straw corporations and straw buyers. He sometimes represented the straw buyers and corporations in transactions for some of the properties. Among other things, Ayorinde also paid other ring members to falsify information while he prepared false checks meant to show down payments had been paid when they had not.  Ayorinde pleaded guilty in April 2010 before Eastern District Judge Leo Glasser and has not yet been sentenced. Second Department Justices Reinaldo Rivera, Peter Skelos, Mark Dillon, Daniel Angiolillo and Anita Florio sat on the panel in Matter of Ayorinde, 2009-09884.

'Lack of Remorse'

The court also disbarred Mark T. Costantino for depositing a $30,000 settlement check and using the money for his own benefit.  Costantino represented Skender Gashi and his company, Drini, which owned a restaurant located in a Manhattan Holiday Inn. In a 2007 suit against the hotel Costantino's clients agreed to settle for $30,000.  Costantino told opposing counsel to have the check issued to his name only. He later refused to return the proceeds to Gashi, despite his client's demands.  Costantino, who is based in Manhattan and represented himself, argued the grievance committee's charges should have been dismissed because no criminal charges were filed against him in the incident. He also argued he was allowed to keep the money to satisfy Gashi's debt to him for legal fees for unrelated matters.  The panel in Matter of Costantino, 2010-02898, wrote that Costantino "utterly fails to appreciate the wrongful and deceitful nature of his conduct. As an attorney, the respondent was fully aware of the legal avenues available to him with regard to any alleged claim for unpaid fees, but he consciously chose none of them and, instead, resorted to self-help and trickery against his client."  The panel later added that Costantino still has not paid back Gashi because he "adamantly contends, to this day, that he was and is within his rights to retain the settlement proceeds."  Costantino previously was suspended for five years for conduct including writing checks with insufficient funds, neglect of client matters and giving a fake contact information to a client incarcerated on pending criminal charges. After his 1990 reinstatement, he was admonished for neglectin 2006.  Justices Rivera, Skelos, Dillon, Angiolillo and Leonard Austin decided Costantino.

Felony Convictions

Ethan J. Serlin of Serlin & Serlin in Westbury was disbarred following his October 2011 guilty plea on two counts of second-degree grand larceny and conspiracy in the fourth degree. Serlin, representing himself, opposed the grievance committee's motion to have him disbarred, calling it "premature" because he plans to withdraw his guilty plea. Nevertheless, the panel held that Serlin was automatically disbarred because of his felony convictions, pursuant to Judiciary Law §90(4).  Justices Rivera, Skelos, Dillon, Angiolillo and Jeffrey Cohen heard Matter of Serlin, 2011-09822.  Mildred C. Didio of Tarrytown was also automatically disbarred for felony convictions.  In October 2011, a Westchester Supreme Court jury convicted her of four counts of second-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud and fourth-degree conspiracy.  She was one of four attorneys charged in a scheme defrauding four families and two mortgage lenders out of $1.4 million (NYLJ, Aug. 26, 2009).  Justices William Mastro, Rivera, Skelos, Dillon and John Leventhal heard Matter of Didio, 2011-11248.  Meanwhile, in Matter of Wiener, 2011-07490, the panel disbarred Lewis R. Wiener based on his 2010 disbarment in California. Justices Mastro, Rivera, Skelos, Dillon and Sandra Sgroi sat on the panel for Weiner.

Resignations Accepted

Brian M. Rattner of Rattner & Associates in Spring Valley offered his resignation. He was the focus of a pending investigation by the Grievance Committee for the Ninth Judicial District, which was looking into claims that including writing checks from his attorney escrow account with insufficient funds, along with writing checks from the account made payable to cash.  Justices Mastro, Rivera, Skelos, Dillon and Ruth Balkin sat on the panel in Matter of Rattner, 2011-11836.  Constant Jean-Baptiste Jr. of Brooklyn resigned after receiving a one-year suspension in 2006.Jean-Baptiste was the subject of investigations by several grievance committees on claims he practiced law while suspended.  Justices Mastro, Rivera, Skelos, Dillon and Austin sat on the panel for Matter of Jean-Baptiste, 2004-11154.  The panel also disbarred Jason Goldfarb for his role relaying confidential information from two Ropes & Gray attorneys to securities trader Zvi Goffer in an insider trading scheme (NYLJ, April 4).  Andrew Keshner can be contacted at


Anonymous said...

You know, many of the financial problems in this country can be traced back to involved lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Where can we file a complaint about a lawyer we know who has committed mortgage fraud?

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