Prominent property lawyer hit with ban for false filings

Harold Gruber barred from representing condominium and co-op developments, says AG

From left: Eric Schneiderman And 161 East 110th Street
From left: Eric Schneiderman And 161 East 110th Street

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that real estate lawyer Harold Gruber is permanently banned from representing condo or co-op developments after an investigation found that he submitted at least nine false filings connected to the Mirada condo in Harlem.

The 60-year-old Brooklyn lawyer was one of the city’s most prolific condo and coop lawyers, writing hundreds of offering plans over the years. But Schneiderman filed suit against the attorney and developers of The 161 East 110th Street property amid allegations that lead developer Joseph Scarpinito failed to fix more than $3 million in construction defects and presented his own mother as the actual developer of the project.

Gruber was accused of submitting illegally notarized documents with the Mirada offering plan and released the down payments from the condo buyers so that Scarpinito and co-developer Shiraz Sanjana could spend the fund, in violation of Gruber’s legal responsibilities as an escrow agent.

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There’s no place in New York for attorneys who commit fraud,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “It’s our job to protect homebuyers, and that means stopping real estate developers — and anyone else — from committing fraud while taking part in real estate transactions.”

Gruber agreed to pay $60,000 in fines, according to the AG’s office. He was on vacation and not immediately available for comment, according to his office. Attorney Alan Sclar, who represents Gruber, was not immediately available for comment.

In February the developers reached a deal with Schneiderman to deposit $200,000 into an escrow account and make repairs to stop flooding and other problems at the condo. The investigation started in 2011 after unit owners at the building filed a $3 million suit over construction defects.

“We’re working on a resolution at this point,” said attorney Marc Isaac, representing Sanjana.