Operation Vandelay Industries

Fake architect faces jail time after practicing without a license

Architecture East Newsletter
Fake architect faces jail time after practicing without a license. (Courtesy New York State Office of the Attorney General)

In an investigation dubbed “Operation Vandelay Industries,” Paul Newman, from Troy, New York, has been arrested for practicing architecture without a license with his firm “Cohesion Studios.” Newman, 49, faces up to 15 years in prison.

The New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office referenced Seinfeld in the operation name—a nod to George Costanza’s falsely proclaimed occupation as an architect.* Newman also shares his name with another character on the comedy, however, the joking stops there. Unlike Costanza, Newman will be facing the consequences of illegally signing off plans on more than 100 projects.

“I’m indicting alleged fake architect Paul Newman on 58 counts as a result of our ‘Operation Vandelay Industries,'” Schneiderman said in a tweet linked to a video from the 1992 episode of Seinfeld he was referencing.

Newman is facing charges in three counties and has been accused of defrauding construction firms, businesses, and municipalities over the course of seven years. The projects he illegally worked on, pretending to be registered and licensed, were mostly housing, ranging from townhouses to senior living communities.

Schneiderman’s two-year investigation found that Newman had been practicing illegally since 2010. In the process, Newman had been paid almost $200,000 for his fraudulent services. ($200,000 over seven years: testament that crime does not pay, in this case at least.) The Attorney General Office’s review of the Livingston Project—a 50-unit senior housing complex—turned up instances where Newman had forged certification stamps used for permit applications when he approved that the building had been constructed according to his plans.



Even though Newman was breaking the law, Robert Magee, Albany’s director of building and regulatory compliance, said the Livingston Project was “all done up to code.” “Our inspectors had eyes on the project as it was happening,” he told the Daily Gazette. “We didn’t find a reason to revoke the certificate of occupancy we had issued.”

“For over seven years the defendant has pretended to be a registered architect, deceiving hundreds of New Yorkers—including families and senior citizens—with the sole goal of enriching himself,” Schneiderman, meanwhile, said in a statement. “By allegedly falsifying building plans, code compliance inspections, and field reports, the defendant jeopardized the safety of those who resided in and frequented the buildings he was contracted to work on.”

As Nicholas Korody of Archinect notes: In just Rensselaer County, Newman, 49, faces the following charges: Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, nine counts of Forgery in the Second Degree, one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, three counts of Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, and thirteen counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. All are felonies.

*For the Seinfeld aficionado’s out there, you are not mistaken: Vandelay Industries is not George Constanza’s company when he is an architect. Art Vandelay is, in fact, that firm. Vandelay Industries, however, is the company Costanza uses to sell latex.

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