An attorney has been sentenced to eight years in state prison Friday on charges that she stole $873,520 from a lender by using stolen identities to file fraudulent mortgage applications.
Stephanie Hand, 52, of Livingston, was sentenced by Superior Court Judge John Gizzo in Newark after a jury found her guilty in March of second-degree charges of conspiracy, money laundering and theft by deception. The jury trial before Gizzo lasted three weeks.
The prosecution presented testimony and evidence that Hand conspired with others, including Thomas D’Anna, 41, of Saddle Brook, in two fraudulent real estate sales between January and April 2009. The sales involved properties on River Road in Garfield and Isabella Avenue in Newark.
In both sales, D’Anna, or a company he owned, sold the properties at inflated prices to nonexistent buyers, authorities said. The defendants used identities stolen from residents of Puerto Rico to apply for loans for the purchases, submitting false bank statements and other false information to support the applications. The lender issued loans of $415,865 for the Garfield property, and $457,655 for the Newark property. Hand was the attorney and settlement agent for both closings, authorities said.
Hand filed phony HUD settlement statements for each closing, indicating that loan proceeds were properly distributed, authorities said. Proceeds from the sales, after prior mortgages were paid off, were divided among Hand, D’Anna and a third defendant, Julio Concepcion, 52, of Passaic, according to prosecutors. The properties were sold at prices that far exceeded what D’Anna paid for them.
D’Anna pleaded guilty in January 2017 to a charge of second-degree conspiracy. Concepcion pleaded guilty in October 2015 to first- and second-degree conspiracy charges. Those defendants are awaiting sentencing.
The charges against Hand in a February 2014 superseding indictment stemmed from an investigation by the state Division of Criminal Justice, along with the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and U.S. Secret Service. Deputy Attorneys General Jillian Carpenter and Anthony Torntore tried the case and handled the sentencing hearing.
“When lawyers like Hand or other licensed professionals betray the trust placed in them and use their licenses to steal, the cost can be extremely high, as this case demonstrates,” Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a statement. “With this sentence, we send a message that a thief in a business suit belongs in prison just like any other thief. This was a challenging case that was handled with great skill by our trial team.”
Hand’s attorney, Thomas Ashley of Newark, did not return a call seeking comment about the case.
Hand, who was admitted to practice in 2000, is currently serving a temporary suspension, imposed on July 6 and effective until further notice of the court. She received an admonition in September 2010 for failing to act diligently in her capacity as an attorney and another admonition in January 2015 for lack of diligence and failure to communicate with a client about the status of his case, according to the Office of Attorney Ethics.