The Brooklyn real estate developer allegedly disappeared with more than $4 million in his clients’ money, putting a group of 20 Asian immigrant families at risk of being kicked out of their homes, The Post has learned.
According to the lawsuits filed by the families and their attorney, the families entrusted real estate developer Xi Hui “Stephen” Wu with deposits ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars each to purchase apartments in their Bay Ridge apartment building, located at 345 Ovington Ave.
But Wu allegedly disappeared without giving residents ownership of their apartments — because, as it turns out, he didn’t actually have permission from New York State to sell apartments in the building, as the families claim.
“It’s definitely devastating for us,” said Chin How “Ray” Tan, who told The Post he paid Wu $187,000 for the apartment that his 88-year-old father and 80-year-old mother have been living in since 2015.
“It will be terrible,” Tang, 47, said of his parents being forced to move. “[They] should have been here for, hopefully, another 30 years.”
– Where are they going to stay? Tan asked. It was supposed to be the apartment they lived in when they retired.
In addition to the cash for the apartment—half the total cost of the apartment Wu was selling—Tang said the family also paid $7,000, which the developer said was a commission on the apartment.
Edward Cuccia, an attorney representing the families, told The Post that Wu allegedly “launched a massive scam in which he defrauded more than 20 immigrant families of not only their savings, but their hopes and dreams of owning a home.”
“Now these families are facing eviction and total loss,” Cuccia said. “This is the most egregious case of real estate fraud I have ever seen in over 30 years of law practice.”
Wu began attracting buyers in 2012, collecting amounts ranging from tens of thousands to more than $500,000 from each family as collateral on their homes and promising to give them title to the apartments, the lawsuits allege.
According to Cuccia, he embezzled various percentages of residents’ deposits and even took the full value of the house from several families.
The lawsuit alleges that Wu never transferred ownership to the tenants who moved into the building in the meantime because the state would not allow him to sell apartments in the building.
Instead, he cut payments on a $6 million loan he took to build apartments and fled with the deposits, Cuccia claims.
In May, residents secured a judgment against Wu for the money they paid him.
But their future is still uncertain as lender Maxim Credit Group, LLC foreclosed on the building, leaving residents open to future eviction, Cuccia said.
The building will be put up for auction on July 28, after which the new owner can initiate an eviction case against the tenants, the lawyer explained.
“We didn’t bring this on ourselves,” Tan told The Post. “The developer, Steve Wu, should be held accountable.”
Tang said he hoped they could come up with something so that residents could continue to live in the building.
Ka Cheng “Chris” Chan said her mother, Cheng Peng Chu, 60, paid Wu $200,000 – her savings – for the apartment she moved into in 2014.
“She’s very angry,” Chan said of her mom, who works as a waitress in a restaurant and immigrated to the US about 10 years ago. “We all know [Wu] Next door. How could he do this to us?”
“We feel like he really betrayed us. He just left the project,” said Chan, who until recently lived in an apartment with her mother.
On Wednesday, residents will meet with local politicians to try to gain attention and build support for their situation in hopes of stopping their potential eviction.
Lawyers for Maxim Credit Group, Wu, and lawyers for Wu did not respond to requests for comment.
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