Ten people including two at large have been charged in a mortgage fraud scheme that included racketeering, theft, tampering with records and money laundering across Essex County, authorities said.
Between 2016 and 2019, the individuals recruited unsuspecting buyers for investment properties in Newark, East Orange, and Irvington, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II said Friday.
With little to no down payment and questionable financial stability, the buyers were led to entrust the entire mortgage application process to Darnell Alford, of Toms River, and Travis Glover, of Jackson -- who were at large as of Friday afternoon, Stephens said.
Buyers were not aware that a significant portion of the money they were borrowing, anywhere between $50,000 and $106,000, was being paid to Alford, Glover, and Johnson, Stephens said.
In some cases, the buyers never saw the home they were purchasing in person, Stephens said.
"The buyers were allegedly promised that their homes would be filled with tenants," Stephens said, "that the properties would be managed by Alford and his associate, Christina Barnett, of the Bronx, NY, and that the buyers would receive monthly income from the property."
"In some cases, the victims were young professionals who were told their student loans would be paid off as part of the transaction."
The scheme included the abuse of the New York City Special One Time Assistance Program (SOTA), a program which prepaid landlords one year of rent to relocate families from homeless shelters in New York City, Stephens added.
Those charged were:
- Darnell Alford, 42, of Toms River
- Travis Glover, 57, of Jackson
- Albert Johnson, 54, of Hillside
- Christina Barnett, 37, of the Bronx, NY
- Lashawn Glover, 50, of Jackson
- Vera Johnson, 74, of Hillside
- Sean Huey, 42, of Piscataway
- Donnette Ford, 51, of Piscataway
- Cherryl Sharp, 62, of Clarksburg
- Jalisa Clark, 31, of Irvington
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Alfred and Glover, authorities said.
The individuals were doing business under the name of Alford & Associates, Integrity First Construction and Property Management, Barnette Consulting Group, and 83 & Company.
Alford, Glover, Johnson, and Barnett conspired to facilitate the purchase of seven homes and obtained more than $1.8 million by deceiving mortgage lenders, the acting prosecutor said.
They manipulated applications and temporarily gifted monies to unsuspecting buyers to obtain loans from the mortgage company, Stephens said.
After closing, Barnett, who was presented as the “property manager,” failed to manage the properties, Stephens said. The homes were in various states of disrepair, and all seven have since fallen into foreclosure, he said.
"Most disturbing is that the tenants, which were supposed to be income generating to the buyer, were often (low-income) clients" of the New York City Special One Time Assistance Program (SOTA), Stephen said.
Defendants collected a year of prepaid rent from the city's SOTA program, Stephens said, "and allegedly absconded with those funds."
The defendants ultimately abandoned the tenants and left the new unsuspecting owner with an unmaintained building, he said.
Prosecutor Stephens credited Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Caroline Oliveira and Essex County Detective Lloyd Martin with the investigation which led to the indictment of the 10 individuals.
Anyone with information about the case is urged to contact the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit at 973-688-3041. Calls will be kept confidential.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.