CLIFTON, N.J. -- A Clifton attorney was sentenced to four years in state prison Friday for conspiring to steal just over $800,000 from lenders by using stolen or bogus IDs to file fraudulent mortgage loan applications.
Michael Palmer, 57, admitted in March that he falsified settlement statements and diverted loan proceeds, among other crimes.
A state judge in Union County who sentenced him to prison also required Palmer to pay full restitution for any losses not previously recovered by the victim lenders.
Palmer, who formerly had a law office on Hoover Avenue in Passaic, also must forfeit his license to practice law in New Jersey, state Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino noted.
Palmer admitted that he defrauded lenders in connection with two mortgage loans: one for $319,113 for a residential property on Paulison Avenue in Passaic and the other for $481,903 for a residential property on Fulton Street in Elizabeth.
Palmer "conspired with other defendants in the two fraudulent real estate sales that induced the lenders to make the loans," Porrino said. "In each case, there was a property seller who was a co-conspirator, while no actual buyer existed.
"For the Passaic property, the purported buyer was a man who lives in Puerto Rico and whose identity was stolen," the attorney general said. "For the Elizabeth property, the buyer also is believed to be a man living outside of the U.S. whose identity was stolen.
"The defendants provided false information and documents with the loan applications, including employment records, bank statements and tax documents."
As the closing attorney and settlement agent for both closings, Palmer "filed false settlement statements and forms indicating that he had established the identity of the parties, that the buyers/borrowers made required payments, and that the loan proceeds were properly disbursed," Porrino said.
"In reality, the transactions were fraudulent and loan proceeds were improperly diverted for the benefit of the defendants," he said. "Only minimal payments were made on each of the loans.
“Attorneys who are involved in real estate transactions are supposed to help prevent mortgage fraud,” the attorney general said. “But rather than fulfilling his oath as an attorney to uphold the law, Palmer used his license to steal."
The investigation was conducted by Detective Roxanna Ordonez, retired Lt. James MacInnes, Deputy Attorneys General Carpenter and Torntore, former Deputy Attorneys General Mary McAnally and Marysol Rosero, and Analysts Rita Gillis and Amy Patterson.
Palmer was indicted in 2014 in one of the cases with Julio Concepcion, 51, of Passaic, who was the property owner and seller in the sham transaction. Concepcion pleaded guilty in October 2015 to second-degree conspiracy and faces a five-year prison sentence.
He also pleaded guilty that same month in Essex County to first-degree conspiracy in connection with another mortgage fraud indictment obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice. That conviction carries 10 years.
Palmer was indicted in the second case with Ivan Angeles, 41, of Garfield, who admitted conpiring as a loan officer for the victim lender and was sentenced in June to three years in state prison.
Deputy Attorneys General Jillian Carpenter and Anthony Torntore took the guilty plea from Palmer and handled the sentencing for the state Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
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