Capital Region Legal News

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Types of Real Estate Fraud

What are the various types of real estate fraud and whom do they target?

Real estate scams are all too common, ranging from small irregularities to many-layered fraud. Sometimes real estate attorneys find that their clients have been unwittingly taken advantage of; other times they discover that their clients are actively entangled in a scheme that involves a whole cast of players that may include bankers, investors,  title companies,  and even other attorneys.

Who do real estate fraud schemes target?

Real estate fraud can lead to individuals or families losing their homes and/or losing their ability to negotiate a mortgage on another property. As is typical in a great many types of crime, the most vulnerable are the most frequently targeted. In real estate scams, the targeted victims fall into three primary categories:

  • The elderly
  • Homeowners already in foreclosure
  • Low income individuals

What are some of the varieties of real estate fraud?

There are a great many varieties of real estate fraud, so home buyers, home sellers, and realtors all need to be aware of some of the risks they may face. These include:

  • Rescue from foreclosure
  • Mortgage elimination
  • Home improvement fraud
  • Equity skimming
  • Illegal
  • Equity fraud
  • Fraudulent loan origination
  • Land Fraud
  • Rental Fraud
  • Straw-Man Scheme
  • Counseling Agencies
  • Predatory Lending
  • Aggressive Sales

Even the most common of these fraudulent methods may be unknown to the average home buyer or seller. This is why it is important for those who are buying or selling property to engage the services of a skilled real estate attorney before signing any documents. If you have been taken advantage by a real estate scam artist, or would like to take precautions against such an occurrence, please contact the knowledgeable attorneys at Ianniello Anderson serving clients in the Albany, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Troy, and the entire Northeastern NY areas at (518) 350.7755.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Teenage Sexting: Serious or Silly?

Are existing laws putting the futures of our adolescents at risk?

Teenage sexting, that is, texting sexual content in words, images, and videos, is getting youngsters into trouble all over the country because our laws have not caught up with our technology.  Less than a year ago, two 16-year-olds, high school sweethearts, sent one another nude selfies. Neither coerced, nor abused, the other. Nonetheless, in the eyes of the law in North Carolina, where this took place, they had possessed and distributed child pornography.

If not for a huge public outcry, these two minors, each accused of "exploiting a minor," a felony, might have ended up incarcerated for years and spent decades on the sex offender registry -- all for sharing what they believed to be private pictures of themselves. Fortunately, they were allowed to plea bargain down to misdemeanors and each was sentenced to a year's probation.

Recently, on Long Island, 20 students were suspended for sexting when a video of a sexual encounter between two minors was circulated among the student population. Legally, this is distribution of child pornography. While the Superintendent of Smithtown Central School District wrote a letter to parents stating "[this is] a very serious legal matter that the district will not take lightly," many parents are fighting back, saying their children have no way of protecting themselves from messages being texted to them.

Obviously, the felony laws regarding child pornography were written to prevent predatory behavior, not teenage indiscretions, but until the laws are updated, prosecutors have to walk a fine line. No one wants to ruin the futures of youngsters who are immature and exercising bad judgment. On the other hand, the boundaries can be blurry. There are certainly circumstances under which sexting can become a serious crime -- for example when an adult is involved, when force or harassment is present, or when pictures are posted on public websites.

William Fitzpatrick, president of the National District Attorneys Association, has recommended that prosecutors tread lightly when dealing with adolescent misbehavior, and has called for new legislation targeting this problem, since most, if not all, the laws governing pornography were written prior to the development of the internet.

About 20 states have already adopted new laws addressing juvenile sexting which include misdemeanor charges, and punishments including community service, counseling and criminal records that may be expunged. Even in states that haven't enacted legislation, some judges have come up with inventive punishments, including restricting the cell phone and internet use of the youngsters involved. In most cases, such measures seem much more sensible and productive than publicly branding teenagers as sex offenders, labels that could follow them throughout their lives.

If you or your child is facing a legal problem, please contact the skilled attorneys at Ianniello Anderson, serving clients in the Albany, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Troy, and the entire Northeastern NY areas, at 518-350-7755.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Housing Crisis Isn't Over for Everyone

What parts of the country are still in financial crisis and what can be done to assist them?


Although the financial crisis of the Great Recession has abated in much of the country and several cities, like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, are experiencing record-high real-estate prices, parts of the housing market are not only not recovering, they are actually getting worse.

What parts of the country are affected?


In many areas, including upstate New York, as well as parts of the South and rural Wisconsin, Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina, far too many people are still struggling to keep afloat. As a matter of fact, approximately 7.5 million people still owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth on the open market. This means that they cannot afford to invest in large items like cars or their children's educations, and they may be facing imminent foreclosure.

What are some of the problems caused by foreclosure?


Foreclosures create more and more "zombie" homes -- empty, abandoned and often in dangerous disrepair. Zombie homes drive down over all property values since they make certain neighborhoods appear undesirable. In addition, abandoned foreclosed homes result in more apartment dwellers, driving up the price of rentals and leaving some unlucky residents homeless or dependent on family or friends. 

In counties in which the real estate market is in the most trouble, other facts that adversely affect quality of life tend to prevail as well. Economic instability puts people out of work, keeps students from concentrating on their studies or pursuing higher education, prevents families from keeping up with other bills and home repairs, and increases crime rates.

What are some ways of resolving the crisis?

Some of the programs used to keep neighborhoods financially stable during the Great Recession should continue to be workable now. Neighborhood stabilization and foreclosure prevention efforts, previously used by The Federal Housing Finance Agency and The Federal Housing Administration, could be re-implemented. The Home Affordable Modification Program and the Home Affordable Refinance Program could also be extended past their current expiration dates (the end of 2016). Movements are also afoot to require banks to maintain properties that have been foreclosed so that the surrounding communities don't deteriorate.

When real estate issues of any kind interfere with your home ownership of your quality of life, contact Ianniello Anderson at 518.350.7755, where we are dedicated to serving clients in the Albany, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Troy and the entire Northeastern NY areas.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Car Accident Changes the Lives of All Involved, Driver and Victims Alike

What are the effects of drunk-driving accidents on the parties involved?

A Halloween night car accident at Skidmore College resulted in the death of one student and the severe injuries of two others. The students were all pedestrians. The driver, Thomas Gorman, who worked at the college from 1990-2006, has stated that Skidmore's streets are known to be poorly lit and dangerous to walk on, and that he's sorry for the damage he caused, but "it wasn't intentional."

Nonetheless, at the time of the accident, Gorman failed a field sobriety test and had an open alcoholic beverage container in his car. He is now charged with felony vehicular assault and driving while intoxicated. Since one student was killed and two others were hospitalized in critical condition at Albany Medical Center, it is possible that the charges against the defendant may be upgraded. Adding to the gravity of the situation is that Gorman was previously convicted of Driving While Impaired in 2013.

According to District Attorney of Saratoga County, Karen Heggen, "The defendant who is charged made a choice that made all the difference in the lives of these three individuals -- and that's tragic." It could be argued that the driver's poor choice affected many more than three lives adversely, including, of course, his own.

Ripples of shock and misery during the candlelight vigil, memorial services, ongoing hospital visits, and counseling sessions for affected students spread throughout the community. All of the individuals whose lives have been forever changed by this tragedy, including the driver, recognize the senselessness of the event and how easily it could have been prevented.

 If you, or someone close to you, has been in an accident in which charges of driving while intoxicated have been brought, contact the knowledgeable attorneys at Ianniello Anderson serving clients in the Albany, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Troy, and the entire Northeastern NY areas at (518) 350.7755.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Former Blank Panther Faces Heroin Charge

Is entrapment a legal defense in a criminal case?



A former Black Panther and convicted felon is on trial in Albany County Court on charges of selling heroin. Robert Vickers, of Ballston Spa, is accused of selling the heroin to an undercover cop on numerous occasions between September 2013 and January 2014. His lawyer contends the retired Saratoga County worker was a victim of entrapment.

The police set Vickers up, contends his lawyer, because he is a suspect in the murder of two NYPD police officers in 1972. Apparently, NYPD detectives have recently been in the Capital Region trying to build a case against Vickers.

Vicker’s lawyer claims police arranged to have two female informants who knew Vickers reach out to him to get him to try to make incriminating statements about the police killings. The women even used heroin with Vickers (who is also an addict). After that attempt failed to get Vickers to admit to the murders, the Albany police sent informants to buy dope from Vickers.

The suspect was arrested by police in the heroin bust and interrogated in a videotaped interview, but the interview centered on the 1972 killings, not the drug arrest, even though there was no evidence to charge him with the murders of Officers Rocco Laurie and Gregory Foster.

The men were ambushed while on foot patrol on the lower east side in Manhattan (and the murders were subsequently made into a TV movie). The Black Liberation Army, a radical militant group, claimed responsibility for the murders.

Vickers recently told reporters he was not part of that group, but that he was affiliated with the Black Panthers. He denied any role in the murders. However, in 1973, Vickers was sentenced to 8 to 10 years for weapons possession and assault in connection with a shooting in Newark, NJ. He later relocated to Saratoga Springs and raised a family.

It has been reported that he was convicted last year for third degree sale of a controlled substance, and now faces six new counts of third-degree drug sale in this case. He could face up to 30 years in prison. The District Attorney’s office argued the entrapment allegations have no merit.

We serve clients in the Albany, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Troy and entire Northeastern, NY areas. If you have been charged with a crime, contact us today at (518) 350.7755.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Homebuyer Beware: A Primer on Home Inspections

Is a home inspection necessary when buying a home?

 

Homebuyers often focus on location and aesthetics, but the structural condition as well as that of the heating, cooling, and electrical systems are equally important. And there are five key home inspection issues in a residential real estate transaction.

1. The first is the timing of the inspection – that is, should it be performed before a contract is signed. But a homebuyer usually has less leverage to modify the deal if defects are found subsequent to a contract being signed.

2. When choosing a home inspector he or she must be licensed to perform such an inspection for compensation except for registered architects and licensed professional engineers (though the license must be for a business entity.

3. Home inspection are generally standardized where a home inspector observes and provides a written report of the systems and structural components of a residential building.

4. Home inspections do not include inspections for radon and pests (and a separate termite inspection is always a good idea).

5. The buyer does not have to be present, but the seller should be available to answer questions as well as to prepare the house for the inspection.

Moreover, after an inspection has been performed, a real estate agent has a duty to the buyer to disclose all facts materially affecting the value or desirability of property. If the deal falls apart because of a negative report on a home inspection the same real estate broker is rehired to relist the property. The onus will be on the broker to discuss the negative features of the property with all future prospective buyers. If a broker fails to do so, he or she could face a legal action.

In the end, a home inspection could make or break a deal and a homebuyer should not enter into a contract of sale without the assistance and advice of an attorney. We serve clients in the Albany, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Troy and entire Northeastern, NY areas. Contact us today at (518) 350.7755.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

New York Real Estate Market Gaining Momentum

In the wake of the lingering housing market downturn, there are bright spots on the horizon. The real estate market in gaining momentum in New York.

Rising Home Sales and Prices

The numbers for the summer season show an uptick in closed home sales (up 4.3 percent), sales prices (up 7.4 percent) as well as pending sales (up 10.8 percent) according to the New York State Association of  REALTORS®. Moreover, by the end of the third quarter, home sales across the state were up by more than 6 percent compared to the same time period in 2014.

A closer look at the sales figures in August 2015 shows sales of 12,044 compared to the total of 11,543 in August 2014. The year to date (as of August 31) sales total of 72,534 was  6.6-percent above the same period last year. The median sales price August 2015 was $252,500, compared to the August 2014 median of $235,000. The year-to-date median sales price of $231,500 represents a 2.9-percent increase compared to the first eight months of 2014.

In short, at the end of the summer season, New York’s housing market continued to grow at a “strong pace,” according to the Association CEO, Duncan R. McKenzie. Finally, housing inventories also fell by the end of the sales season.

Why This Matters

With home sales and housing prices on the rise, this is the time to consider getting back into the real estate market. The prospect of rising mortgage rates before the year’s end also makes this the time for buyers to capitalize on the lower rates.

If you are considering buying or selling a home, now is the time to do so. Real estate transactions are complicated and time-consuming, requiring help from experts. Having a lawyer represent you is the best way to ensure that your interests are protected.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Attorney Acquitted on Charges He Coached Witnesses To Lie

Does being on trial yourself disqualify you from being a good attorney, or make you a better one?

A well-known criminal defense attorney, Beau Brindley, who was accused of coaching witnesses to perjure themselves and obstructing justice by filing misleading court documents, has been found not guilty by the federal judge trying the case. After a 2-week bench trial, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber also found Brindley's law partner not guilty of all counts.

In this closely watched court case, the verdict came as a surprise, since the great majority of criminal defendants who are tried in this federal court either plead guilty or are convicted at trial. Brindley himself declared his victory "a testament to criminal defendants...that you can fight the case... and, if you do, justice will be served." He also asserted that his case "validates aggressive defense" and that going through the process of being a defendant has given him a "clearer perspective on what criminal defendants go through."

The trial came a year after the FBI raided Brindley's law office. During the raid, they carted away email records, computer drives and handwritten notes. The most incriminating pieces of evidence found were the lengthy question-and- answer "scripts" for Brindley's clients which contained a great many falsehoods. The attorney allegedly had his clients memorize such scripts before giving trial testimony. In the end, however, the judge found that prosecutors failed to prove that Brindley knew his clients were lying when he put them on the stand. He agreed with Brindley's attorneys that it is common practice to provide clients with "exhaustive preparation."

The judge further noted that the testimony of Brindley's former clients, most of whom are currently serving lengthy prison sentences, had records of lying "at least once under oath." In addition, some clients were offered tremendous breaks in their sentences in exchange for testifying against Brindley.

In spite of the not guilty verdict, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chmelar, the prosecutor said, in his closing remarks that Brindley's behavior showed "a startling disregard for the law."


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Defining Sexual Assault When Alcohol is Involved

What constitutes sexual assault when one or both parties are intoxicated?

There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the definition of sexual assault and since nearly 25 percent of undergraduate women report having been sexually assaulted, it is clearly time to clarify. First of all, consensual sex means that consent has been given freely, without any threat of force or intimidation, and consent must be actively given. The absence of "no" does not mean "yes."  It is important that both parties in a sexual encounter are aware that, under New York State law, a person cannot consent to sexual activity if that person is under the age of 17, is developmentally disabled, or is mentally or physically incapacitated due to intake of alcohol or drugs.

The following list, put together by Cornell University, is a good starting point for understanding the responsibility one has when engaging in sexual contact:

  • All sexual contact requires consent

If a person is intoxicated to the point that he or she cannot consent due to incapacity, it is assumed that legal consent has not been given.

  • There are a number of ways to withhold consent

If a person says he or she doesn't want to have sex, just want to cuddle or go to sleep, further sexual contact with that person can be interpreted as assault. Similarly, body language, such as turning away or pushing the other person away is considered a barrier to consensual sex.

  • Never presume consent

It is always best to communicate fully with a potential sexual partner and to determine verbally what each person is expecting from the encounter. Be aware that the complainant will usually  have the advantage over the initiator of supposedly unwanted or ambiguous sexual contact. Be cautious about overstepping boundaries.

  • Consenting to one activity does not mean consent for all activities

Never presume that acquiescence to one stage of contact implies approval of all further sexual activity. If a person agrees to sexual touching, it does not mean the individual is agreeing to intercourse.

  • Inability to consent due to intoxication means "NO"

If you have been charged with sexual assault on a college campus or elsewhere in the eastern upstate New York region, you would be wise to contact one of our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Ianniello Anderson. We can be reached at 518.350.7755.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Starter Country Homes Instead of City Apartments

Why are many people beginning their home ownership with houses in the country?

A great many would-be apartment dwellers are deciding to begin their home ownership with a house in the country, often in upstate New York.  As city apartment prices skyrocket, the roomy dwellings in the country look more and more appealing. Buyers have discovered that while they are lucky to find a studio apartment in Brooklyn for $350,000, for the same money they can purchase a 3-bedroom house on several acres in the Catskills. They may even find one in that price range with a pond or creek in the backyard. In many cases, a house in upstate New York, Connecticut or the Jersey Shore is purchased as a summer home and investment, with the idea of renting it out for part of the year.

Even the wealthy are seeking homes and property upstate or in other relatively rural areas, having found that they can buy magnificent homes in such areas for the amount that would purchase ordinary apartments with much less living space in New York City. Country homes draw buyers with the promise of a more relaxed lifestyle. Families with children are particularly excited by the idea that, by moving farther from the city, they can provide their kids with lots of room to run and play and experience the natural world.

Real estate companies upstate are experiencing an influx of customers who have decided to buy their "second homes first," some of whom may be renting temporarily in order to scope out the area. In more countrified areas, renters find several advantages. Not only does their money goes a lot further, but less cash is required upfront. They also feel much less pressure to rush into a purchase. Even as prices rise in more rural counties, prices of homes are significantly cheaper than properties in the city.

There are, inevitably, possible downsides to living in the country. For those who have lived in city apartments, the absence of a superintendent tasked with clearing the snow and other maintenance chores may be hard to adjust to. Former city dwellers may also be shocked by the presence of wild creatures on their properties. Encounters with deer, raccoons and even bears take some getting used to. Nonetheless, for a great many home buyers, the advantages of getting more for less and investing in a future of increased ease for their families outweigh the drawbacks of life in the country.

If you are thinking of making a real estate purchase in the upstate New York area and would like to consult with the experienced real estate attorneys of Ianniello Anderson, please contact our  at 518.350.7755.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Architect's Plans to Build His Own Home Meet with Tremendous Local Opposition

Who wins when a homeowner's building plans conflict with the neighborhood's sense of self?

A recent case involving a local architect who wanted to build a house of his own design on his property in Rowayton, Connecticut demonstrates how real estate decisions cannot only be problematic, but can result in lawsuits or even arrests.

 Two years ago, Bruce Beinfield bought property in a coastal section of Norwalk, Connecticut on which he planned to build a home for himself that, with its water views through floor-to-ceiling windows would provide what he termed "a ship-like experience." Far from expecting anyone to object to his architectural plans, he hoped his new house would become a beloved structure.  Nonetheless, in spite of other projects in the area that had helped him achieve renown, his new project was met with tremendous opposition in the community.

Vocal residents complained that Beinfield's plans would produce an "imposing," "monstrous" structure in the land around Farm Creek, land they had been struggling to preserve, and would destroy the environment.  Strangely, the community had been up in arms a few years before when Norwalk Land Trust owned 16 acres surrounding Farm Creek. At that time, the locals felt strongly that they didn't want a trust to own the property, worrying that vacant land would attract "vandals and undesirables."

Perhaps Beinfield's first mistake after purchasing the land was to send out an email with the subject line "...Farm Creek will be destroyed." Although most of his neighbors had opposed the existence of undeveloped property nearby, they definitely objected to a statement declaring environmental destruction. The mayor and other city officials were overwhelmed with emails protesting Beinfield's plan. Astonished by the  intensity of the backlash, Beinfeld withdrew his application before it was assessed by  the zoning  commission. In spite of its withdrawal, the local community continued to be in turmoil with some citizens demanding that the land be preserved and others arguing for a smaller house to be built closer to the road.  Placards displaying both sides of the controversy appeared in the region.

Finally succumbing to public pressure, Beinfield made arrangements to sell his property back to the land trust and have it designated "Beinfield Preserve."  Unfortunately, even this decision didn't bring resolution since he and his immediate neighbors, the McHughs, were in dispute. He claimed that they were required to remove a fence, driveway and lawn area that were on his property. During an episode that Beinfield calls "the most humiliating experience in my life, by far,” he was arrested for taking a pickaxe to the neighbor's lawn.

Eventually, after continuing protests from neighbors that the preserve would bring strangers to the area, the land trust, fearing lawsuits, backed out of the deal and Beinfield was back where he started.  He decided at this point that a compromise was long overdue and has now submitted new plans, this time for a house similar to the first one he envisioned but set as far back to the road as possible which will obscure fewer views.

This case demonstrates how complicated seemingly simple real estate issues can become.  If you require skilled legal services regarding residential or commercial real estate, or  zoning, land and municipal laws, please contact one of our highly experienced attorneys at Ianniello Anderson.  Serving clients throughout upper New York State, we can be reached at 518.350.7755.


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