Paul Bass, New Haven Independent

A young entrepreneur who struck it rich in New Haven real estate in his early 20s only to land in federal investigators’ crosshairs admitted to a judge that he broke the law—as Part II of a massive mortgage fraud case begins to take center stage.

Menachem Joseph “Yossi” Levitin made the guilty plea Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport. He copped to committing mail fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud.

He faces up to 30 years in jail and $20 million in fines for helping arrange to bilk lenders out of $10 million while leaving a trail of rundown New Haven properties.

As part of Thursday’s plea deal, Levitin will give up ownership in 19 properties and forfeit about $160,000.

The feds arrested him in 2010. They seized 51 of his properties—properties he and allies bought with the proceeds from alleged mortgage scams on 40 other properties perpetrated between October 2006 and November 2008.

However, since then Levitin has remained in business as the feds have continued building a case against his alleged co-conspirators, two of whom were subsequently indicted last October. Read about that—and the impact the scams had on neighborhoods like Newhallville and Fair Haven—in this story. (Levitin is pictured above in 2008 before the fall, when he encountered an upset neighborhood organizer on Batter Terrace.)

“Yossi has learned a very valuable lesson,” his attorney, Willie Dow, told the Independent Friday. “He has accepted full responsibility for anything he’s done that’s wrong. And he’s learned the age-old lesson that pursuit of money is the root of all evil. He has reaffirmed the value system in which he was raised.”

A New Haven Realtor, Charles Lesser, also pleaded guilty to the same charges in the case Thursday. Lesser, who’s 30, acted as a broker in “at least 20 fraudulent transactions” connected to at least $2.8 million in lender losses, according to the government.

Read more here

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