Thursday, Jul 24, 2014
Campus Habitat Owner Accused of Mortgage Fraud
JACKSON COUNTY -- A Carbondale landlord with a history of problems now faces federal fraud charges.
Campus Habitat used to be a home away from home for many SIU students. However, its properties were under scrutiny by 2011. The apartments were falling into disrepair, and the company was fighting with the city over code violations.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors charged the owner and an employee with bank and wire fraud. They allegedly came up with a scheme to make a deteriorating property look full of happy tenants.
You can view the 9-page federal indictment here.
The last residents of Campus Habitat Apartments often felt like they were trapped in a nightmare.
"The notice that they didn't pay the bills and that kind of things," said tenant Yun Zhang in an October 2011 interview. " It just makes us feel unsafe and unhappy."
The problems began popping up not long after City Manager Kevin Baity moved to Carbondale in 2006.
"We were making our inspections and finding there were several violations," said Baity.
The living conditions at the apartment building on Graham and Wall Streets took a turn for the worse after the May 8th storms. By 2011, some buildings were uninhabitable. The owners were also uncooperative.
"Basically wouldn't even come to town," said Baity. "Wouldn't acknowledge our inspection notices, would not even show up for inspections, refuse to answer phone calls."
Creditors soon stepped in and handed over the property to new managers.
More than two years later, a grand jury has indicted Campus Habitat owner Maximus Yaney and an employee, Jamie Bray, for bank and wire fraud.
Court documents accuse Yaney of buying buildings in June 2007 using the company name H.G. Capital. The cost then was $2.7 million.
In November 2007, he tried to sell those same buildings for $9.7 million to Titan Student Communities, another company he owned. Titan later became Campus Habitat.
Prosecutors say to trick banks into approving the loan, Yaney and Bray lied about how much money the property made. They even put furniture in empty rooms and hired people to pretend to be renters.
Once the $8.4 million loan went through, they wired the funds to another account. The money was used to pay expenses and buy more real estate.
Baity will be watching the case. While he believes the city is always willing to work with landlords, it's crucial that apartments be safe and follow codes.
"If they're just here to sign leases, make money and run, that's not good property management," said Baity. "And we really don't want those in town."
Yaney is set to appear in federal court in Benton later this month. If he's convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison for each of the two counts. Prosecutors are also trying to get back more than $6 million.
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