July 7, 2021 By Ryan Songalia
A disgraced Queens lawyer has been charged with bilking nearly 20 would-be home buyers out of more than $1 million in down payments.
Freddie Berg, of the Berg Law Firm LLC., was arraigned Tuesday in Queens Criminal Court on charges that include grand larceny in the second degree, conspiracy in the fourth degree and two counts of scheme to defraud in the first degree.
The 61-year-old, whose law license has been suspended since December 2019, faces 5 to 15 years in prison if convicted.
According to the charges, 18 people were swindled out of a total of $1.3 million between September 2016 and December 2018. Berg, whose office was on Sutphin Boulevard, allegedly took their down payments and never returned them when the deals failed to close. In some cases, Berg was involved in selling the homes.
“This defendant is accused of turning the American Dream of home ownership into a nightmare for 18 people,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. “Despite repeated demands for the return of their money, the vast majority of the victims were never refunded their down payments and were never able to close on the homes they sought to buy.”
In one incident, a woman reached an agreement with Berg to buy two houses on 12th Avenue in Flushing in 2016. She paid $400,000 in three separate checks as a down payment to Berg, but the deal was never completed and none of her money was returned.
The woman’s checks were all deposited into the Citibank account of the Berg Law Firm, with $337,500 of it being withdrawn or wired to a set of car dealerships and a travel agency.
In numerous cases, money that was deposited into the Berg Law Firm account was wired out to various other banks.
A similar incident took place in February 2018, where the victim paid $50,000 in down payments to Berg, who claimed to represent the seller of a house on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. While waiting for the deal to close, the victim learned that the property had been sold to someone else. He did not receive a refund.
Only one victim received any money back, being refunded just $4,950 of a $205,000 down payment for a home on Madison Street in Brooklyn.
Berg is due back in court on Aug. 11.
The Queens District Attorney’s Office asked anyone who believes they were victimized in a similar scheme to call 718-286-6560.