Pittsburgh real estate brokers face more federal charges

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A Squirrel Hill landlord and his former business partner face new criminal charges, and the attorney and appraiser with whom they worked are now charged for the first time, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Dov Ratchkauskas, 46, of Squirrel Hill, and George Kubini, 48, of Verona, who were originally indicted in 2011 for wire fraud conspiracy, now face bank fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Mr. Kubini also faces tax charges.

Newly charged are real estate attorney Arthur Smith, 63, of Point Breeze, whose office is Downtown, and property appraiser Sandra Svaranovic, 52, of Bethel Park.

According to a superseding indictment, from 2005 through 2008, Mr. Kubini and Mr. Ratchkauskas sold property using "fraudulent means" and signed "fraudulent settlement statements." The two also "falsely represented to the purchasers of the properties that they would make improvements to the properties," according to the indictment.

Mr. Kubini in 2007 and 2008 failed to report some of his income to the IRS, according to the indictment.

Mr. Smith submitted statements to lenders that overstated the properties' prices, falsely indicated that borrowers had made down payments and omitted payments made to borrowers or purchasers, prosecutors allege. He is also accused in the indictment of moving money out of an escrow account meant for property transactions into his personal bank accounts.

The indictment also said Mr. Smith failed to submit required forms to the IRS disclosing payments to Mr. Kubini and Mr. Ratchkauskas, and didn't file federal tax returns for himself in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Ms. Svaranovic "overstated the true values of the properties serving as collateral for the loans," according to the indictment. She faces fraud charges.

Federal prosecutors want from Mr. Kubini and Mr. Ratchkauskas $1 million that they claim represents the proceeds of the violations.

The accused and their attorneys could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Ratchkauskas runs Realty Choice Investments, which purchased and sold more than 200 properties since 2011, selling largely to Israeli investors and sometimes getting double or triple the purchase price in a matter of days or weeks. Mr. Ratchkauskas' other firm, PGH Capital Management, typically administers the properties.

neigh_city - businessnews

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord.


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