Rockland County “fraudster” banned from real estate

Russell Mainardi agrees to $400K in penalties, restitution for misusing co-op funds

Letitia James with 18-36 Columbus Avenue
Letitia James with 18-36 Columbus Avenue (Getty, Loopnet)

A property manager in Rockland County agreed to banishment from the real estate business in New York for milking an affordable co-op for personal benefit and nearly driving it to financial ruin.

James announced the agreement Wednesday following a two-year investigation of the manager, Russell Mainardi. The probe found he had illegally misused funds at 18-36 Columbus Avenue in Spring Valley, putting it on the verge of foreclosure.

Mainardi installed his girlfriend as property manager, double-billed the co-op for their services, stuck it with high-interest and took other actions which left its finances in such dire shape that residents nearly lost their homes. James’ office worked with other agencies and nonprofits to stabilize the property.

Mainardi and his collaborators agreed to pay $148,000 in restitution and $250,000 in penalties and to vacate nearly $700,000 in liens he had improperly placed against the property. Also, Mainardi’s girlfriend has to resign as property manager.

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“Mainardi and his associates scammed their way into managing this affordable building and put residents on the brink of losing their homes because of their fraud and deception,” James said in a press release.

In 2014, Mainardi persuaded the former board president of the Spring Valley Housing Development Fund, which operated the building, to hire him to help the co-op with finances, but charged inflated rates. To get the gig, Mainardi misrepresented his experience and hid his felony conviction for mortgage fraud and tax evasion, officials said.

In addition to giving his girlfriend a no-show job, Mainardi overbilled the co-op for management tasks and gave the board president a salary as building superintendent, sparing him from common charges in violation of co-op board rules.

The Spring Valley fund soon faced foreclosure after defaulting on high-interest loans brokered by Mainardi. The AG’s office helped avert disaster by recruiting the Rockland Housing Action Coalition to elect a new board and having the RHAC become the new property manager, allowing the 54 shareholders to remain in their homes.

The AG’s investigation started in the fall of 2018 after a resident filed a complaint.