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Ridgefield Park Man Admits $495,000 'Shotgun' Real Estate Scheme

Martin Luther King Jr. federal courthouse, Newark
Martin Luther King Jr. federal courthouse, Newark Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT

RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J. – A Ridgefield Park man admitted in federal court in Newark on Monday that he used bogus information and simultaneous loan applications at various banks to fraudulently obtain home equity lines of credit -- a practice known as “shotgunning.”

A U.S. District Court judge set an Oct. 10 sentencing date after Rafael Popoteur, 65, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud between 2012 and 2014, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said.

Popoteur said he conspired with Simon Curanaj and “to fraudulently obtain multiple home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) from banks on a residential property in New Jersey,” Fitzpatrick said.

“To get the banks to extend lines of credit they would not have otherwise approved, Popoteur, Curanaj, and others transferred ownership of a Ridgefield Park property to Popoteur, who also lived at the property,” the U.S. attorney said.

The conspirators “then applied for three HELOCs from multiple banks using the Ridgefield Park property as collateral,” Fitzpatrick said. “They hid from the lenders the fact that the property was either already subject to senior liens that had not yet been recorded, or that the same property was offered as collateral for a line of credit from another lender.

“The applications also falsely inflated Popoteur’s income,” he added. “The equity in the property was far less than the amount of the HELOC loans Popoteur and others applied for.

“The victim banks eventually issued loans to Popoteur in excess of $495,000. After the victim banks deposited money into Popoteur’s bank accounts, Popoteur disbursed portions of it to Curanaj and others. In 2014, Popoteur defaulted on all three HELOC loans.”

The charges against Curanaj are still pending, Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the U.S. Federal Finance Housing Agency Office of Inspector General and FBI special agents with making the case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Criminal Division in Newark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory of the FHFA Office of the Inspector General.

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