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Mortgage Fraud Prosecutors Pounce on a Small Bank

Finally a bank has been indicted for mortgage fraud. But why is it a tiny bank in New York’s Chinatown?
Mortgage Fraud Prosecutors Pounce on a Small Bank
Photograph by Robert K. Chin

One of the few things not in dispute in the criminal case against Abacus Federal Savings Bank is that it began with a mortgage closing on Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, for a two-family home in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. Abacus is a small bank, catering mostly to Chinese immigrants. The closing was at 10 a.m. at the bank’s headquarters, a brown-brick building on the Bowery in New York’s Chinatown between a noodle shop and an herbal medicine emporium. Sitting around the table in an undecorated conference room were the seller, the buyers, their attorneys, the real estate broker, and the title closer. Vera Sung, Abacus’s lawyer, was in and out of the meeting.

Sung, 46, is a daughter of the bank’s founder—her younger sister Jill is Abacus’s chief executive officer. Vera is also a onetime prosecutor in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, and that morning she recalls hearing something that made her pause: The borrowers were asking about extra checks they had earlier made out to the loan officer, Qibin “Ken” Yu. Sung didn’t know what those checks were. “I thought this was very strange, so I stopped the closing,” Sung says. She spoke to Yu in her office, then called Jill, and they canceled the loan. The following Monday, Yu was fired. The bank’s executives won’t speculate what the checks were for, but in other fraud cases individual loan officers have been convicted of asking for kickbacks or payments for falsifying paperwork. Yu’s lawyer declined to comment.