Vandelay Industries

“Operation Vandelay Industries” fake architect faces jail time after pleading guilty to charges

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

Dubbed a “fake architect,” Paul Newman, from Troy, New York has pleaded guilty to his crime of fraudulently claiming to be an architect on more than 100 properties.

Paul J. Newman, 49, president (and sole employee) of architecture firm Cohesion Studios was arrested in late April this year. The story caused a stir when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office dubbed the investigation “Operation Vandelay Industries,” a nod to the fake company George Costanza invents on Seinfeld to collect unemployment benefits.

During his career, Newman was paid in excess of $180,000 for his services. This included drafting architectural renderings and signing off projects for more than 100 properties in Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady counties. Some projects were even sizeable housing complexes. In addition to this, Newman submitted foundation inspections, field reports, energy compliance certificates, AIA documents, and engineer letters to a number of municipal agencies. As he did this, he falsely certified that he was a registered and licensed architect.

Newman, in his trial, admitted defrauding construction firms, businesses, and local government agencies across the three aforementioned counties of more than $115,000. In total, he pleaded guilty to six felony charges and faces between two and seven years in jail.

Newman submitted these architectural renderings, as well as foundation inspections, field reports, energy compliance certificates, and engineer letters to various towns and cities—falsely certifying on the documents that he was a registered and licensed architect and affixing a forged New York State Registered Architect Stamp or Professional Engineer Stamp.

“Throughout the course of his fraudulent career, the defendant repeatedly demonstrated a disregard for the public safety of New Yorkers and a determination to cheat the system,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “The state law is clear—no license, no architectural work for you. No one is above that standard.”



According to prosecutors, Newman procured the license number of a registered architect online and used this to create a fake Registered Architect Stamp that displayed the real architect’s number but Newman’s name. He then applied this stamp to his work (documents and letters) which he gave to state and city authorities.

Newman then advertised his supposed architectural services on social media. After a complaint to the New York State Education Department, he removed any reference to “architecture” in his ads and replaced it with “design.”

A statement from Schneiderman’s office details the felonies of which he pleaded guilty to:

Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, in Saratoga County Court before the Honorable James A. Murphy, III.

Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree in Albany County Court before the Honorable William A. Carter.

Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D Felony, and Unauthorized Practice of a Profession, a class E felony, in Rensselaer County Court before the Honorable Debra J. Young.

A list of the projects he fraudulently worked on was also listed:

  • The Pastures Project, Town of North Greenbush, Rensselaer, New York
  • Between 2010 and 2015, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of more than 70 townhouses, receiving in excess of $50,000 for his services.
  • The Livingston Project, City and County of Albany, New York
  • Between 2012 and 2014, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of a multi-story senior living community, receiving in excess of $40,000.
  • The Lofts Project, Town of Malta, Saratoga, New York
  • Between 2014 and 2016, Newman was the Project Architect for the construction of a 214-unit multifamily apartment community, receiving in excess of $35,000.
  • The Vistas Project, Town of Clifton Park, Saratoga, New York
  • Between 2011 and 2014, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of more than 25 townhouses, receiving in excess of $35,000.
  • The Hannoush Jewelers Project, Town of Colonie, Albany, New York
  • Between 2011 and 2012, Newman was hired as the architect on a renovation project for a jewelry store, receiving in excess of $20,000.
  • The Ballston Senior Living Project, Town of Ballston, Saratoga, New York
  • Between 2012 and 2013, Newman was hired as the architect for the development of a multi-story senior living community, receiving in excess of $8,000.
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