The man who was in charge of cleaning up Ebola in New York City is also a con artist who was once fined $12.5 million for fraudulent mortgage modifications.
Buzzfeed published a long-form piece Monday, which claims that Sal Pane, who was chosen by New York City to clean Dr. Craig Spencer’s apartment, is the same Sal Pane who was once investigated and subsequently sued by the New York Attorney General’s office for charging significant up-front fees for mortgage modifications and falsely advertising a success rate of between 90% and 100%.
Spencer was New York City’s first Ebola patient.
In 2009, HousingWire covered then-NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation of AmeriMod Modification Agency, which was owned by Pane.
“This economic climate has bred an environment in which scam artists and opportunists are able to prey on vulnerable consumers on the brink of losing their most valuable possession -- their home,” Cuomo said at the time.
“Companies that charge homeowners up front fees for loan modification services, put homeowners into contracts that don’t disclose cancellation rights, or lure consumers with misleading claims violate not only our trust but the law."
According to Buzzfeed’s article, Pane and AmeriMod advertised that their success rate was between 90% and 100%, but their actual success rate was about 43%.
From the Buzzfeed article:
They devoted much of their advertising budget to Spanish-speaking customers, then provided loan contracts that were only in English. And they took in up-front fees, then ducked their customers once those fees were collected.
Buzzfeed reports that while the case against Pane worked its way through the legal system, he was sent to jail for nine months for “false personation, driving while impaired, and felony aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle.”
After his release, Pane attempted to defend himself against the mortgage modification fraud charges. He was unsuccessful in that attempt and was ordered to pay $5.26 million in restitution to the nearly 3,000 customers he defrauded and an additional $7.25 million in civil penalties.
The tale of how he became the man in charge of cleaning up Ebola in New York City is tangled, dense and downright distressing. You should really go read the entire Buzzfeed article, but the short version is that Pane convinced a woman to sell her dead brother’s biohazard cleanup truck to Pane.
Pane then claimed the dead man’s years cleaning up anthrax sites and other danger zones as his own — despite the fact that the dead man’s family, friends, and former co-workers said they had never known him to work with Pane.
Pane even claimed that his “company,” Bio-Recovery, had certifications from the Environmental Protection and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Buzzfeed reports that it could not find any evidence of either certification, and that the company’s state permit to haul medical waste expired before Pane was associated with the company.’
Despite all of those circumstances, Pane and Bio-Recovery was still chosen by New York City to clean up Spencer’s apartment and the bowling alley he visited before he began showing symptoms of Ebola.
You really owe it to yourself to read the whole piece on Pane. It’s without a doubt one of the craziest things you’ll read today.