The Real Deal New York

Philippine bank seeks to halt sale of Murray Hill condo allegedly bought with stolen funds

An ex-Metropolitan Bank employee allegedly embezzled money from the bank
By Kathryn Brenzel | October 23, 2017 03:50PM

A Philippine bank claims a former employee stole $17.5 million by arranging fake loans, part of which was used to buy a condo at 225 East 34th Street.

Metropolitan Bank, the country’s second-largest bank, filed a lawsuit on Monday against Ma. Victoria Lopez, former head of the bank’s corporate service management division, for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars through bogus loans. The loans were assigned to a customer’s account, but Lopez allegedly diverted the money to her husband, Lorenzo Villegas Lopez, and their daughter, Lorraine Maria Lannon, both of whom are named in the lawsuit.

Representatives for the bank weren’t immediately available to comment.

In 2013, father and daughter bought #6I at 225 East 34th Street for $1.5 million, property records show. The two-bedroom apartment is one of 191 units in the Murray Hill condo building. The bank maintains that Lopez’s income was “clearly insufficient to buy New York property by legitimate means.”

The alleged scheme began to unravel this past summer. Ma. Victoria Lopez was arrested in July on charges of theft and falsifying commercial documents. Shortly after her arrest, in August, the deed for the Murray Hill condo was transferred to Lannon. A month later, she listed the Murray Hill condo for $1.7 million, and the property is now in-contract.

Triplemint, the brokerage handling the listing, declined to comment.

Tom Mullaney, an attorney for Lannon, said that the lawsuit is “devoid of any hint” that his client was involved in any wrongdoing against the bank. She merely accepted a gift from her parents, he said.

“As far as she knew, her parents had businesses in the Philippines and didn’t have any reason to believe that any gift from her parents was untoward,” he said. “She’s an innocent bystander.”

Metropolitan claims the Lopez family is selling off all assets purchased with stolen funds — including the Murray Hill property and others in the U.S. — in order to keep them “from the reach of judgment creditors and authorities.”

The bank is seeking the imposition of a constructive trust to prevent the condo unit from being sold. This is Metropolitan’s second attempt to sue the Lopez family in the U.S. A federal court dismissed a similar complaint on Friday, finding that it didn’t have proper jurisdiction over the case.