Syracuse couple on the run for five years arrested in mortgage fraud case
September 21, 2016
As published on Syracuse.com on September 21, 2016.
A Syracuse couple who fled to Canada after their indictment in a mortgage fraud scheme five years ago surrendered Tuesday and are facing multiple charges.
Alexander March, 34, and his wife, Sima March, 35, surrendered to New York authorities at the Canadian border following years of extradition proceedings and were arraigned in Onondaga County Court, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday.
The couple faces charges of third-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud in connection with an alleged residential mortgage fraud scheme involving multiple properties in Syracuse.
Alexander March also was arraigned on a second indictment charging him with second-degree forgery, fourth-degree tampering with a witness, among other charges, for allegedly conspiring with his former attorney, Jon A. Lefkowitz, to tamper with witnesses who testified against the Marches before a grand jury, Schneiderman said.
“We have zero tolerance for mortgage fraud, and witness tampering erodes the basic principles upon which our justice system was founded,” Schneiderman said in a statement Wednesday.
According to prosecutors, an investigation by the attorney general’s office and the state Department of Financial Services revealed that the couple engaged in a residential mortgage fraud scheme involving multiple Syracuse properties between February 2006 and July 2010.
Alexander March purchased the properties and then immediately conveyed title to his wife, prosecutors said. They said Sima March then applied for refinancing on six of the properties. In refinancing the properties, the Marches falsely stated their assets and submitted forged documents, prosecutors said.
Lending institutions relying on the statements made in the loan applications gave the Marches more than $240,000 in mortgage funds, the attorney general’s office said. The Marches then allegedly defaulted on the mortgages, forcing the banks to initiate foreclosure proceedings on the refinanced properties.
On May 16, 2011, an Onondaga County grand jury charged the Marches with six felony counts of third-degree grand larceny, six felony counts of first-degree falsifying business records and one felony count of first-degree scheme to defraud.
However, before they could be arrested, the Marches fled the United States and entered Canada at the Champlain border crossing on May 13, 2011, prosecutors said. The attorney general’s office then initiated proceedings to extradite the Marches from Canada.
According to prosecutors, Alexander March, together with Lefkowitz, a Brooklyn attorney, demanded that witnesses who had testified against the Marches sign affidavits and answer questionnaires that would discredit their prior sworn testimony.
Alexander March and Lefkowitz are accused of impersonating various individuals, including attorneys, and sending forged “judicial subpoenas” that appeared to have been authorized by a state Supreme Court judge.
Alexander March was indicted in November 2015 on charges of forgery, tampering with a witness, criminal impersonation and conspiracy. Lefkowitz was charged with forgery, tampering with a witness, criminal impersonation and conspiracy.
The Marches were arraigned Tuesday before Onondaga County Court Judge Thomas Miller.
Alexander March was released on $50,000 bond bail on the mortgage fraud indictment and $200,000 cash bail on the witness tampering indictment. Sima March was released on $50,000 bond bail.
Both were required to surrender their passports, and Alexander March was also required to wear an ankle bracelet to monitor his whereabouts.
The couple is due back in court Oct. 14.