NEW YORK — A phony architect who worked on more than 100 properties in upstate New York, including a senior living community and townhouses, was arrested this week in a years-long scheme, authorities said.
It was dubbed “Operation Vandelay Industries” in a reference to “Seinfield,” blending the phony import-export business George Costanza makes up with his self-proclaimed desire to have been an architect. The defendant’s surname won’t be lost on Seinfeld fans, either.
Still, investigators said what Paul J. Newman is accused of doing is no laughing matter.
He “jeopardized the safety of those who resided in and frequented the buildings he was contracted to work on,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement Thursday.
“Deceptive actions like these erode public trust — and my office will not tolerate them.”
Newman is accused of creating Cohesion Studios, Inc. He was listed as its only employee. The company made nearly $200,000 over seven years from the fraudulent work, which included foundation inspections and field reports, prosecutors said.
It is alleged that Newman found a registered architect’s license number on the internet, took it for himself and created a fake Registered Architect Stamp. He also allegedly took the Professional Engineer Stamp of a licensed engineer he had worked with and stamped a copy of it, along with a forged signature, on more than 1,000 pages of building plans, prosecutors said.
Newman’s alleged scheme began to unravel in 2015 when a complaint was filed against him, with the complainant suspicious that he was practicing without a license. He’d been advertising his services on social media accounts, but soon after the complaint was filed, all references to “architecture” in his ads were replaced with “design,” prosecutors said.
Investigators found that in almost a decade, Newman was contracted to create architectural renderings and provide “architectural services” on these projects, according to prosecutors:
- The Pastures Project, Town of North Greenbush, Rensselaer, New York
- Between 2010 and 2015, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of more than 70 townhouses, receiving in excess of $50,000 for his services
- The Livingston Project, City and County of Albany, New York
- Between 2012 and 2014, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of a multi-story senior living community, receiving in excess of $40,000
- The Lofts Project, Town of Malta, Saratoga, New York
- Between 2014 and 2016, Newman was the Project Architect for the construction of a 214-unit multifamily apartment community, receiving in excess of $35,000
- The Vistas Project, Town of Clifton Park, Saratoga, New York
- Between 2011 and 2014, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of more than 25 townhouses, receiving in excess of $35,000
- The Hannoush Jewelers Project, Town of Colonie, Albany, New York
- Between 2011 and 2012, Newman was hired as the architect on a renovation project for a jewelry store, receiving in excess of $20,000
- The Ballston Senior Living Project, Town of Ballston, Saratoga, New York
- Between 2012 and 2013, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of a multi-story senior living community, receiving in excess of $8,000
The charges leveled against Newman span three counties – Saratoga, Rensselaer and Albany – and include grand larceny, forgery, scheme to fraud, unauthorized practice of a profession, offering a false instrument for filing.
If convicted on the highest count, Newman faces a maximum of 5 to 15 years in prison.