A Niagara Falls man who sold houses he doesn't own via the Internet pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny Thursday in Niagara County Court.
Joseph S. Furan, 40, of Lockport Road, admitted to third-degree grand larceny and could be sentenced to as long as seven years in prison when he returns to the courtroom of Judge Matthew J. Murphy III on April 30.
Assistant Attorney General Michael McCabe said in court that Furan sold two Niagara Falls houses to a British investor through the Internet in February 2007. The Englishman paid $19,000 for a house on Linwood Avenue and $32,000 for one on 18th Street.
Furan said in court he once held title to the Linwood Avenue home -- his wife formerly lived there -- but lost it in a foreclosure action. He never owned the 18th Street house, he admitted.
Furan said he has repaid the Englishman $12,000, but McCabe said the Englishman wants full restitution from Furan.
Murphy said, "I don't think he has the means to do it."
Defense attorney Robert Viola asked for a delay in sentencing so Furan would have a better chance to round up more money, but Murphy refused.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued a statement saying, "This con artist masqueraded as a legitimate real estate entrepreneur who lured victims into costly scams by selling properties he did not even own."
Furan had been called to account two years ago by State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dillon, who ordered him to stop selling real estate online, unless he posted a $100,000 bond, after Furan was sued by the attorney general's office after a complaint from Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown's Anti-Flipping Task Force.
Last year, Furan served 30 days in jail for contempt of court for violating that order.
Furan at first listed houses on eBay and later switched to the craigslist site, prosecutors have said. He has an expired real estate license.