Two New Jersey men who duped real estate investors by producing fake deeds to sell properties they didn’t own were recently sentenced after previously pleading guilty in the scheme, according to the state Attorney General.
Richard Toelk Jr., 54, of Atlantic City, and his business partner, attorney Keith Smith, 60, of Egg Harbor Township, produced at least 20 fraudulent deeds for Atlantic City properties and filed them with the county clerk’s office in 2018 and 2019, prosecutors said.
Most of the properties were owned by the Atlantic City municipal government and some were privately owned, officials said.
The properties were not for sale and the pair lacked the authority and legal titles to sell the sites, prosecutors said.
The phony deeds claimed transfers of ownership from the rightful owners to companies owned by the defendants, in some cases for just a dollar each, officials said.
One of the properties, owned by the city and located along the boardwalk, is worth more than $1 million, authorities said.
Toelk kept some of the properties for himself, according to investigators, and marketed others to investors in New York City and Philadelphia.
In all, victims paid the fraudsters around $580,000 before the scheme was discovered, authorities said.
After trying unsuccessfully to withdraw his guilty plea, Toelk, who is also known by the alias Richard Donato, was sentenced May 8 to three years in prison on a theft by deception charge, the attorney general’s office said.
Smith was sentenced May 15 to a five-year term of probation for his plea to a conspiracy charge, officials said. They were also ordered to pay restitution totaling around $580,000.
“Buyers placed their trust in these two defendants and handed over large sums of money to them, after being deceived by this elaborate fraud, complete with convincing-looking fake documents,” Attorney General Matthew Platkin said in a statement about the sentencing. “But they were betrayed and taken advantage of. Through the work of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, this scheme unraveled. And through these plea agreements, the victims now have an opportunity to recover their losses.”
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