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Missing man being sought in federal housing probe

Billy Ocasio 2008 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Billy Ocasio, in 2008 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 24, 2012 8:09AM

A Ukrainian citizen who faces criminal charges in a mortgage-fraud case involving a Northwest Side property that was part of an affordable-housing program overseen by then-Ald. Billy Ocasio is being sought by federal authorities after being out of touch with them for several weeks.

Volodymyr Kuchmiyov, 29, who has been living in Chicago on a student visa, missed a court hearing on Jan. 11 and hasn’t been heard from since late November or early December, which violates the terms of his release on bail.

That’s prompted a judge to issue a warrant for his arrest and prosecutors to seek revocation of his bail.

Kuchmiyov was arrested by the FBI on Nov. 18, 2010. He’s accused in a criminal complaint of lying about his income and falsely claiming he was a U.S. citizen so he could obtain $675,000 in mortgages that he used to buy two new condos in a four-unit development in Humboldt Park in 2008.

In a deal involving the same development in 2008, a daughter of U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) bought a deeply discounted “affordable housing” condo in the same development for $155,000 — though she and her husband had an income of more than $93,000 a year, the Chicago Sun-Times previously has reported. After owning it for 14 months, Omaira Figueroa flipped the two-bedroom, two-bath condo for a profit of 55 percent.

Figueroa took out a $140,000 loan, at 4.75 percent interest, from her parents — the congressman and his wife — in June 2008 to help pay for the home. She sold it for $239,900 — $84,900 over what she paid for it.

Gutierrez has said that both real estate transactions were handled properly.

On May 20, 2010 ­— 16 days after a Sun-Times investigation on Figueroa’s and other affordable-housing deals was published — FBI agents interviewed Kuchmiyov, according to an FBI affidavit.

Back in 2008, Kuchmiyov was an employee of builder Roman Popovych, who sold him two condos in the development at 1834 N. Kedzie, according to Kuchmiyov’s lawyer, Joseph N. DiNatale. After Kuchmiyov’s arrest in 2010, a relative of Popovych posted a $100,000 property bond to bail Kuchmiyov out of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

Kuchmiyov, who has yet to be indicted, “had no reason to go anywhere; nothing was imminent,” says DiNatale, adding that his client should no longer have a passport. “There’s an ongoing investigation — not so much of him, but of other people. The government is trying to figure out where he fits into the whole picture.”

Six months before Gutierrez’s daughter bought her condo from Popovych, his congressional campaign fund got a $1,000 contribution from Popovych. Records also show that a Gutierrez protégé, then-Ald. Ocasio (26th), got $13,500 in campaign contributions between 2004 and 2009 from Popovych and his company, V.P. Interlink.

As the local alderman, Ocasio wielded great authority over the zoning change Popovych needed to build the project. It was Ocasio — now an official with the Illinois Housing Development Authority — who required Popovych to set aside one of the condos in the complex as “affordable” though the program was not part of any city of Chicago affordable-housing program.

Ocasio says federal authorities haven’t contacted him about Kuchmiyov or the 1834 N. Kedzie development. Gutierrez’s press secretary, Douglas Rivlin, says neither the congressman nor his daughter has been asked about the development or Kuchmiyov, either.

“The only thing we know about this guy is what we have read in the Sun-Times,” says Rivlin.

Chris Fusco

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