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Buffalo Grove couple named in mortgage-fraud indictments
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 6/23/2009 2:24 PM | Updated: 6/23/2009 6:55 PM

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A Buffalo Grove couple was prominently named at the head of a series of mortgage-fraud indictments announced Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Richard Lisnek, 56, and his wife, Judy Kien, 50, of Buffalo Grove were charged with fraudulently flipping homes on Chicago's South Side and elsewhere.

The 22-count indictment, including charges of mail and wire fraud, alleged that Lisnek and Kien would front money for "nominee buyers" of distressed properties saying they would not have to pay any of their own money. The indictment alleges they would then either turn the buildings around with surface improvements, making them what Lisnek reportedly called "camera ready" or "picture ready," for two or three times the purchase price - sometimes with the help of Barrington Hills appraiser James Heiland, also named in the indictment - or simply let the payments lapse. That resulted in what the attorney general's office said was $5.8 million in losses to victimized lenders. Lisnek and Kien allegedly used their firms K&L Real Estate and D&J Properties II, with offices in Buffalo Grove and Arlington Heights.

The case seeks the return of the lost money, and the defendants face sentences of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for each count of mail and wire fraud involving a financial institution.

The indictment, which cited 15 individuals and 19 overall defendants, was one of five lumped together at a news conference Tuesday with agents from the FBI and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General in Chicago. Fitzgerald acknowledged the cases were vastly different, but united by a single overarching subject.

"If we don't police mortgage fraud, we're putting financial institutions in jeopardy and we're putting a hole in the credit market," Fitzgerald said. "There's certainly a wave of mortgage fraud we're trying to crack down on."

A number of other suburban residents were named in the indictments.

Lilya and Viktor Domnenko of Wheaton were charged with falsely obtaining a loan enabling Lilya to buy a house at 919 Arbor Lane built by Viktor's Creative Builders construction company, then selling it to an individual using a stolen identity as a "nominee buyer." The indictment sought the return of $3.4 million.

Nancy S. Praseuth of Huntley and Margarita Garcia of Elk Grove Village were charged with either recruiting others or serving as nominee buyers lending their names to loans to purchase condos at the Millennium Centre luxury high rise in downtown Chicago. Ahmad Karkuly of Palatine was charged with facilitating the fraudulent loans at Countrywide Home Loans. That case sought the return of $17.2 million.

The Domnenkos and Karkuly were free on bond. Lisnek, Kien, Praseuth and Garcia were to be arraigned at a later date.

Overall, the five cases included 41 defendants and $48 million in alleged fraudulent mortgage loans; all charges are felonies. HUD special agent Barry McLaughlin said Illinois ranks third among states in mortgage fraud, behind Rhode Island and Florida.