Businessman Gets 16 Year Prison Sentence for Bogus Real Estate Investments

Allison Tussey —  November 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

Mohammed Rafikian, aka Mo Kian, 54, Queens, New York, has been re-sentenced to a term of 16 to 50 years in prison after being tried again and re-convicted of holding himself out as an attorney and a registered investment advisor and then stealing $5 million from seven individuals through fraudulent real estate and capital investment transactions.

Rafikian was the chairman and chief executive officer of First Investors Capital Corporation, Astoria, Queens.  He also occasionally worked as a paralegal for the law firm of Marcus & Associates, which maintained an office as a subtenant at Rafikian’s Astoria office.  It was the named partner of this law firm whose identity that Rafikian assumed.

Rafikian was convicted in August 2014, of one count of first-degree grand larceny, seven counts of second-degree grand larceny, six counts of second-degree criminal impersonation, three counts of first-degree scheme to defraud and three counts of practicing law without a license following a two-month jury trial before Queens Supreme Court Justice Daniel Lewis, who re-sentenced the defendant to 16 2/3 to 50 years in prison.

According to trial testimony, Rafikian held himself out as an attorney and between March 2000 and December 2005 practiced law at 34-13 Broadway in Astoria. The defendant unlawfully stole approximately $5 million from seven individuals. The victims included a cardiologist, a dentist, a bar manager, a retired disabled elevator mechanic, a NYCHA inspector, a painting contractor and a family friend.

The defendant took more than $900,000 from another individual for the purchase of a building in Astoria.  But Rafikian did not purchase the building nor did he return the money upon request. Also sold a laundromat on behalf of the individual for $75,000 but only turned over $12,000 to him.

In another instance testified to at trial, an individual gave the defendant approximately $816,000 for the purchase of a house and a bar.  These purchases, however, never took place and the defendant failed to return the money when the funds were demanded by the client.

Rafikian also took $3.2 million from an individual and promised to invest the funds at a promised rate of return of 26 percent.  The defendant provided no statements to the individual nor did he return the money when asked. The defendant, however, did send the client two checks, which totaled $150,000 and were returned for insufficient funds.

Rafikian was originally convicted at trial in August 2007 on similar charges and sentenced to up to fifty years in prison. Rafikian, who represented himself at trial, appealed his conviction on the basis that he proceeded without counsel.  In September 2012, the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department, determined that Rafikian’s waiver of counsel could not be deemed knowing and voluntary.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced the sentence.

The investigation was conducted by now retired NYPD Detective Daniel Lewis, formerly of the 114th Precinct Detective Squad, and now retired Detective Lynn O’Garrow, formerly of the Special Frauds Squad, under the supervision of Lieutenant Kenneth Ling, Squad Commander, and the overall supervision of Chief of Detectives George F. Brown.

Senior Assistant District Attorney Neil F. Gitin and Assistant District Attorney Lisa Cubair, of the District Attorney’s Narcotics Investigations Bureau, prosecuted the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Wilbert J. LeMelle, Bureau Chief, Karen J. Friedman, Deputy Bureau Chief, and Philip D. Anderson and Julie S. Trivedi, Supervisors, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Linda M. Cantoni.

District Attorney Brown said, “The defendant convinced seven individuals into believing that he was a lawyer and investment advisor. He conned them out of amounts ranging from $63,000 to $3.2 million. Evidence presented at trial showed that the defendant engaged in extremely risky day trading of stocks and ran up negative balances of $5 million. In an effort to cover his losses, the defendant misrepresented himself as an attorney by taking over the law practice of a lawyer who had become ill.”

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Allison Tussey

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