lefferts.jpgA real estate developer with close religious and social ties to the Lubavitcher Hasidim community managed to swindle 40 families out of their homes in what the Daily News describes as one of the biggest scams of the recent housing crisis.

Eliyahu Ezagui sold pre-construction homes to 40 different families in Crown Heights, and years after the buildings were in place and the families moved in, he took out mortgages on the condos and left the country. Both the names of the buildings and the addresses on Lefferts and East New York Ave. had religious significance, which apparently lulled the home buyers into a sense of trust and solidarity with Ezagui.

One husband and father of six said, "We trusted him, we thought we knew him, he told us he had the blessing of the grand rabbi. We had contracts, so we gave him the money." But they never got the deeds, which is how Ezagui could take out $15 million in mortgages on the homes.

Mortgage payments weren't made, so now the families face eviction from the banks Ezagui borrowed from. And Ezagui, who fled to Israel, is shedding crocodile tears over the mess he's created for people who trusted him. "I was stuck and it hurts and I feel sorry for those people."