The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey on June 30, 2005 · L3
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The Record from Hackensack, New Jersey · L3

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Hackensack, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Thursday, June 30, 2005
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L3
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THURSDAY, JUNE 30, 2005 2P THE RECORD L-3 North Jersey Woman arrested in $30M scheme By AMY KLEIN STAFF WRITER A woman accused of orchestrating a $30 million mortgage scam involving nine homes in Bergen County was arrested in a pre-dawn standoff Wednesday that ended when police and federal agents knocked down the door of her Montclair home. Brenda Rickard, 52, later behaved oddly in court, prompting her lawyer to request a psychological evaluation. Federal authorities said Rickard masterminded a scheme to falsify loan applications and closing papers to secure mortgages for homes in Saddle River, Cresskill and Alpine that at times were more than double the purchase price of the home. She and at least seven others then pocketed the difference - about $10 million, they said. In one instance a Chestnut Ridge Road home in Saddle River that sold for $1.78 million was listed in mortgage papers filed Lived large' on ill-gotten loans, authorities say with Lehman Bros. Bank as selling for $4.4 million. The bank issued a $2.86 million mortgage for the home in August 2002. The scheme involved every step of the real estate process, beginning with a ring of "straw buyers" who posed as restaurant owners and other self-employed professionals who were interested in buying a home, authorities said. Once a price was negotiated, Rickard collaborated with several other mortgage brokers, a tax accountant and a lawyer to falsify the paperwork, according to a federal indictment. After the mortgage was approved, Rickard took over the monthly payments, authorities said. Ultimately, the mortgage payments were "unsustainable," they said. Several others have been indicted in the scheme, including two Teaneck residents: Jamila Davis, who allegedly recruited the straw buyers, and Arisma Theodore, who, authorities said, posed as an accountant vouching for the buyers' financial standing. Lawyer Daniel Ellis and several of the straw buyers have pleaded guilty to bank fraud. The group was "living large," said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. Federal authorities have seized a Mercedes-Benz and a Range Rover believed to have been bought with the proceeds. Rickard was charged with six counts of bank fraud and conspiracy and could face 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted. Her day began before sunrise Wednes day, when police and federal agents brought an arrest warrant to Rickard's Oxford Street home. Rickard, who was at home with her 12-year-old son, refused to answer the door, and the officers saw through a window that she was carrying a kitchen knife, Drewniak said. Using a battering ram, they broke down the door and arrested Rickard, he said. "They were concerned for the safety of the defendant and the 12-year-old boy in the house," Drewniak said. Later in the afternoon, Rickard appeared in Newark before U.S. Magistrate Mark Falk in blue velour pants and green flip-flops. Speaking with her fist in front of her mouth, she refused a lawyer, claiming that she was a victim of identity theft and that she had been arrested in retaliation for filing lawsuits in Washington, D.C., against law enforcement authorities. Rickard, who claimed her name is :Brenda :Rickard, is a follower of Judge: David-Wynn: Miller, who gives seminars around the country and advocates speaking in the "true language," which features odd punctuation and syntax. "I have no problem with the complaint against me as long as it's in the truthful language," Rickard told the judge. Public defender Wanda Akin requested a psychological exam for Rickard, who takes medication. "She's unable at this time, in my estimation, to appreciate the significance of the charges against her," Akin said. Falk ordered Rickard held without bail until a detention hearing next Wednesday. Davis, 27, and Theodore, 37, both of Teaneck, are scheduled to be arraigned next Thursday. E-mail: kleinanorthjersey.com KEVIN R. WEXLERSPECIAL TO THE RECORD "Acceptance," by Catherine Marte, left, and Rosnely Mendoza, was made in Hollywood High, a program using digital moviemaking equipment. Reel-life creativity Youths sample filmmaking through PCCC program By SAMANTHA HENRY SPECIAL TO THE RECORD PATERSON - Passaic County Community College already provided computer training to inner-city residents. Then the college's Community Technology Center created Hollywood High, a program to teach local teens how to use digital moviemaking equipment. This week, Hollywood High's first eight -week course came to an end with a screening of films on topics ranging from gang initiation rites to the lives of football stars. The 12 students, all members of the Father English community center's after-school program, were excited to see their works on the screen. "I turned red, I was nervous," said Wesley Lugardo, 16. The John F. Kennedy High School sophomore came up with his own story idea, wrote a script, then illustrated it using still photographs he found on the Internet. Using moviemaking software to splice the images, Lugardo added voice-over narration, special effects and music. The lV2-minute piece was based Empra McDade, center, was awarded for his film. Instructors Gregg Fes-ta, left, Rob Zupko and Migdalia Gomez delivered McDade's certificate. on the time he was beaten up and robbed by a local gang. It was a story Lugardo had told many times, but had never tried illustrating. "A movie tells the actual feeling I went through, so they feel how I felt when they did it to me," he said. "If I just tell it to someone, they might not get the feeling." Learning to use digital technology to tell stories is just one skill that Miryam "Gaby" Rinkerman, director of the technology center, hopes students will take away. She said the center's mission is to make sure inner-city residents, from teachers to seniors, have the same access to technology and training as those in wealthier neighborhoods. She said that access to computers is half the battle - they need to be used for more than playing video games. "Even in the places where they had the technology, people didn't know how to use it meaningfully," Rinkerman said of her visits to other community centers. "It's not just access to the technology; it's what you do with it once you have it." Hollywood High organizers made sure students received industry-style recognition. After Tuesday's screening, each student got special award and copies of their videos on DVD. Lugardo, whose award was for "best autobiographical subject," beamed. "I never got an award for anything before," he said. "Getting the award, it's like when you take a final shot in a basketball game, and the time is running out. It feels like that." E-mail: henrysnorthjersey.com 60 patients evacuated in Paramus hospital fire PARAMUS - Nearly 60 patients and several staff members were evacuated from Bergen Regional Medical Center after a maintenance worker removing tiles with a heat gun accidentally ignited a fire, authorities said. One worker was treated for minor burns and another was to be admitted overnight for injuries sustained in the fire, said Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Sheehan. About 10 staffers were treated at the hospital for mild to moderate smoke inhalation, he added. Police Chief Fred Corrubia said a worker on the ground level of Build ing 14, the westernmost in the complex, was removing tiles with a heat gun when the glue ignited shortly before noon Wednesday. Hospital staff had extinguished the blaze by the time firefighters arrived a short time later, said Sheehan. Because of the smoke, however, firefighters evacuated the patients, with the help of staff members. Patients and staff were allowed to return by about 2 p.m., Corrubia said. Sheehan said the building sustained only minor damage. Adrienne Lu Suspended brothers reinstated Girlfriend's death taken into account for absence By PAUL H. JOHNSON STAFF WRITER NORTH BERGEN - Two brothers who were suspended by the North Bergen Public Works Department for failing to report their whereabouts had their suspensions lifted Wednesday, according to the men's father. Richard Velazquez, 21, and his twin brother, Edward, were suspended from their jobs after failing to call in when they didn't appear for work after Richard's girlfriend was killed in a car accident. The pair were docked a day's pay on June 21 and suspended for five days. Letters of suspension cited the brothers for excessive absenteeism, failure to report to work on Tuesday and failure to notify a supervisor. Edward Velazquez Sr. said his sons met with DPW officials on Tuesday and the decision was handed down Wednesday. The men will be paid retroactively for the days they were suspended, and the infraction was removed from their employment records. Richard Velazquez's girlfriend, Rebeka Verea, 18, of Cliffside Park, died June 20 when the Mercedes-Benz she was riding in crashed into the rear of a turning tractor-trailer on West Side Avenue in North Bergen shortly before 11:30 p.m. Verea had recently graduated from Cliffside Park High School. The driver of the vehicle, Alexis Torres, 19, of Fair Lawn, was seriously injured. The brothers stayed with the family all night and fell asleep the morning of June 21, failing to call their superiors to say they would not show up at work. Edward Velazquez Sr. said the DPW treated his family fairly well after he called The Record last week to protest the suspensions. "They did a good job," he said, adding that DPW Deputy Director Timothy Grossi was sympathetic to his sons' plight several days later. Richard Velazquez said he could not speak about his case. Grossi could not be reached for comment. No sign of fire found in crash of small plane By RICHARD C0WEN STAFF WRITER Investigators have found no evidence of fire aboard the small plane that crashed last week on Hamburg Mountain in Sussex County, killing the pilot. The absence of fire is just one of many observations made by crash investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board as they combed through the wreckage of the Cessna 182P during the weekend. The plane crashed in a remote area of Hardyston on the morning of June 19 - prompting search and rescue teams to mount a five-day hunt for the pilot, Roland Melanson, 58, of Wantage. The NTSB said it will release a preliminary report Friday, containing some details of the crash but not the cause. The investigation into the cause could take six months to a year, officials said. NTSB investigator Luke Schiada said the plane was in several pieces when it was found last Thursday around 5 p.m. The pilot was found nearby, he said. The plane was removed over the weekend and talc-en to a laboratory in Delaware. Investigators will examine the engine and control panel to determine if a mechanical malfunction caused the crash, which happened a few minutes after Melanson took off from nearby Sussex County Airport June 19 around 7:30 a.m. Melanson filed a flight plan, saying he was flying to Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, Conn., and then back to Sussex the same day. "We're not drawing any conclusions just yet," Schiada said.

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