After media coverage and action by local officials, 20 Chinese families in Brooklyn temporarily avoided losing their homes this week to alleged housing fraud.
The families claimed they paid developer Xihui “Steven” Wu more than $4 million, but he vanished without giving them ownership of their units. They told Documented that since 2012, Wu had told them he had secured the rights to sell individual apartment units at 345 Ovington Avenue as condos. But according to court documents, Wu never obtained the rights from New York State to sell any of the individual apartments.
The victims trusted Wu because he had lived in the neighborhood for years and “was known as a rich developer,” they said.
They paid Wu deposit money, ranging from $100,000 to over $460,000 in cash or by checks as Wu requested, and signed informal agreements he provided.
Wu’s promise of permanent residences turned out to be a hoax: In 2018, the families received a blizzard of complaint files regarding the commercial foreclosure of their building from Maxim Credit Group, a New York real estate lending group. Wu borrowed $6 million from MCG to develop 345 Ovington Avenue and stopped paying the mortgage in 2017.
It’s unclear if Wu is in the U.S. or not: Victims said they lost contact with Wu around 2019.
Even though a New York Supreme Court judge granted each of the family’s judgments against Wu, another judge had granted an order allowing the foreclosure sale to move forward, according to Edward Cuccia, the lawyer representing the families.
The eviction has been successfully stalled: To prevent losing the homes they paid for, the families joined elected officials in a press conference last week, calling for the city and state to assist them and stop the foreclosure of 345 Ovington Avenue.
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and City Council member Justin Brannan vowed to stall the eviction.
The actions worked.
Cuccia told Documented this week that the foreclosure auction of 345 Ovington will be stayed for “at least a few weeks.”
“As of now the stay is temporary, but the families are hopeful that a resolution can be reached so that the families can avoid eviction and the total loss of their life savings,” he said.