A Brooklyn man admitted in federal court Tuesday that he and a partner made about $1 million by scamming Bergenfield, Paterson and Elizabeth homeowners in a foreclosure scheme.
Garth Celestine, 44, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role as the co-owner of Home Savers Consulting Corp., a now-defunct company based in Brooklyn and Long Island, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark said.
“At a time when so many have been hurt by the housing market, Celestine made a million dollars through the exploitation of hope,” said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. “Homeowners should beware of the existence of foreclosure rescue scams, and the con artists who would perpetrate them should know we are taking aggressive steps to protect homeowners and the housing market.”
Celestine admitted that he and business partner Phil Simon told homeowners facing foreclosure in 2005 that they could improve their credit and keep their homes by allowing third-party buyers to take over title for six months to a year. Clients were told that the new buyers would be able to obtain credit at more favorable rates, and would then relinquish ownership back to the homeowners.
Simon has not pleaded guilty, and a criminal complaint against him is still pending, said Rebekah Carmichael, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. An investigation into the scheme continues, Carmichael said.
Celestine faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for July 12.