An Indian-origin woman in the US has been sentenced up to six years in prison for stealing nearly USD 600,000 in payments from prospective home buyers and using that money on vacations, gambling and other personal expenses.
Reshmi Maharaj, 53, a Queens resident in New York was convicted last month on charges of larceny and scheme to defraud. She has been sentenced to two to six years in prison.
According to the testimony, Maharaj accepted a number of deposits, totalling USD 55,500, from a prospective buyer for the purchase of a home in Queens city.
In April 2015, a second prospective buyer gave Maharaj four checks, totalling USD 34,500, for a home she presented as a "short sale" in the same New York neighbourhood.
This same buyer then paid Maharaj an additional lump sum of USD 130,000 in order to secure the purchase of the property.
Maharaj repeated this scam several more times, collecting deposits, totalling USD 176,200, for another home and for "short-sale" home purchases in Queens.
In 2016, Maharaj again pocketed a total of USD 199,000 from a third prospective buyer, who was interested in buying a property in the area.
Despite having paid large sums of money to Maharaj, according to trial testimony, the victims were never allowed to move into the homes.
Instead, Maharaj spent the USD 594,700 in funds she had received trips to a local casino and for travel-related vacation expenses (including airfare, hotels and entertainment), as well as making sizeable cash withdrawals while in Trinidad and Tobago and for other personal expenses.
Queens Acting District Attorney John Ryan said Maharaj duped the victims into believing that they were making payments to either secure their dream home or purchase a property as an investment opportunity.
"Instead, the defendant selfishly pocketed their hard-earned money and spent the ill-gotten funds on personal items," Ryan said.
The sentence given to Maharaj brings much-needed justice to these buyers who were robbed of their chance to fulfil their American Dream, he said.
"The defendant will now spend a significant amount of time in prison for operating this cold-hearted scam," he said.