Town of Monroe judge arrested

| 08 Jun 2017 | 05:25

The FBI arrested Town of Monroe Justice Lurlyn Winchester at her home in Rockland County Wednesday morning, charging her with allegedly making false statements and falsifying records as part of a mortgage fraud scheme.
To be a Monroe Town Justice, one must be a resident of the Town of Monroe. But according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York, Winchester, 58, never moved to Monroe but allegedly made false statements in connection with a loan application to purchase a residence in Monroe.
She is also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly provided law enforcement officers who questioned her about her mortgage loan with false documents, including fabricated rent payment receipts.
“We should expect and demand integrity in our government,” Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement. “This Office is committed to pursuing corruption in all forms and in all three branches of government, including the judiciary. I thank our partners at the FBI for their work in exposing this fraud and holding accountable our public officials.”
Winchester was released on bail, according to published reports. Her attorney was unavailable for comment.
The allegationsWinchester, a practicing lawyer in Rockland County, and her husband have owned a house in New City since 1997, and continue to own the home, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In 2013, she was nominated to be the Democratic candidate for Town of Monroe Justice, at which time she provided an address in Monroe as her residence and later registered to vote in Monroe.
That November, she was elected as one of the two Town of Monroe Justices.
Federal prosecutors say that the next year in October 2014, Winchester sent a letter to Hudson United Mortgage, a New City mortgage broker, indicating that she had been elected Monroe Town Justice was relocating to Monroe as required by the town. Later in December, Winchester and her husband submitted an application to Hudson United for a residential loan to be used to purchase a condominium in Monroe, which would be their primary residence.
Winchester also told Hudson United that she and her husband were going to rent out their New City home to a tenant, according to prosecutors. In a February 2015 letter to Hudson United, Winchester said the New City home was her “current primary residence,” but that she and her husband “already had a prospective tenant” who was “anxiously awaiting to take occupancy of the residence.”
Federal prosecutors say this was not the case. Winchester never leased the New City Home and never intended to, but instead fabricated a lease and caused checks to be issued and deposited to make it falsely appear that a tenant had paid rent and a security deposit. The condo in Monroe has not been the primary residence of Winchester and her husband, and they never intended it to be.
Winchester allegedly falsified documents to Plaza Home Mortgage Inc., the ultimate loan issuer, after learning they were going to decline her loan due to insufficient income. She said that she and her would be receiving $4,500 a month in rental income from New City home.
Prosecutors say Winchester provided a copy of a lease agreement, signed by herself, her husband, and a tenant, as well as a copy of two $4,500 checks for the security deposit and one month’s rent, made out to the Winchester and drawn on the tenant’s bank account. She also provided documents reflecting that the checks were deposited into her bank account, and eventually received the loan in April.
However, a tenant never signed a lease or moved into Winchester’s New City home, according to prosecutors. Winchester herself provided the $9,000 that covered the two $4,500 checks purportedly provided by a tenant.
According to Orange County property records, both Winchester and her husband did purchase a condominium in the Hidden Creek complex of Monroe for $313,148 on March 2, 2015.
‘Obstruction of justice’In addition, interviews with neighbors, cellphone records and credit card records indicate that Winchester did not move to Monroe, prosecutors say. In a statement to agents, Winchester herself allegedly admitted that: she resided at the New City home, she had informed Hudson United that she would be renting the New City home, she submitted rental checks and other documents relating to renting the New City home, and the tenant never moved into the New City home.
With respect to the obstruction charge, during an interview with members of the FBI Task Force, Winchester allegedly provided them with purported receipts for rent payments she claimed were from the tenant of the New City home. The tenant, unidentified by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, allegedly indicated that he did not know anything about the receipts and never gave Winchester those cash payments.
The charge of making false statements to a mortgage lending business, carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The charge of falsifying records in a federal investigation, with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of a federal department or agency, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The politicsWinchester defeated Audra Schwartz  — a United Monroe candidate who was primarily supported by town residents  — to be elected Town of Monroe Justice in November 2013, receiving support from the Village of Kiryas Joel.
Monroe Town Supervisor Harley Doles said Wednesday that he was “shocked” by the news, and that both Winchester and Monroe Town Justice Steven Milligram “serve the Town of Monroe with great pride.” She is the first African-American to be elected town justice in Orange County and president of the Black Bar Association of Rockland County.
Doles said he wasn’t 100 percent positive, but he believes Winchester’s salary is $38,000 and is a part-time position.
According to United Monroe Chairwoman Emily Convers, United Monroe was aware of Lurlyn Winchester’s alleged fraudulent claim of residency in Monroe in 2013 and on several occasions, confronted Town Supervisor Doles, Councilmen Burke and McQuade with this fact during public comment at Town Board meetings, also bringing the matter up to law enforcement.
“We are glad that this serious matter was investigated and that Ms. Winchester has been arraigned,” Convers continued in her statement. “United Monroe has been shining a light on corruption in Monroe since our inception in 2013. It’s a comfort to know that the authorities are watching, and working diligently to relieve the suffering and corruption to which the citizens of Monroe have been subjected. We are saddened that Ms. Winchester has allegedly committed fraud on various levels, and we hope that she stands as an example to others who get swept up in the power, financial gain, and prestige of holding elected office. We look forward to more such arrests in Monroe.”
Winchester is up for reelection in November.