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Mar 29, 2011 6:59 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Mortgage Fraud Pretrial Conference Slated For Next Month

Mar 29, 2011 6:59 PM

Those charged with orchestrating an $82 million mortgage fraud scheme that targeted several dozen East End homes, a group that includes former Suffolk County Legislator and convicted felon George O. Guldi, are scheduled to attend a pretrial conference on Monday, April 18—a sign that their criminal trial could begin soon.

Mr. Guldi and 16 codefendants, who include part-time Westhampton Beach resident Donald MacPherson and his wife, Carrie Coakley, were indicted in 2009 for their alleged role in the scheme. Prosecutors are charging that Mr. Guldi and Mr. MacPherson were the ringleaders of the operation in which they paid people for their personal information in order to use that data to secure mortgages from banks.

The pretrial conference is scheduled to be held in Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead, according to the Suffolk County district attorney’s office. Bob Clifford, a spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota, said on Tuesday that there is no accurate estimate as to when jury selection will begin. He also noted that additional pretrial conferences will most likely be held first.

Mr. Guldi, now a disbarred attorney who had a law practice in Westhampton Beach, will represent himself in the upcoming trial, according to Mr. Clifford.

On February 16, Mr. Guldi was convicted of grand larceny and insurance fraud, both felonies, relating to an $863,000 insurance check that was issued to him after his Westhampton Beach home burned down two years ago. He was sentenced last week to four to 12 years in prison. Those charges are not related to the mortgage fraud scheme, according to prosecutors. In addition to the prison time, Mr. Guldi could be ordered to pay $863,000 in restitution pending a hearing that has yet to be scheduled.

A month before he was arrested in September 2009 on the insurance fraud charges, Mr. Guldi was indicted for his role in the mortgage fraud scheme and now faces more than 100 charges. It is unclear whether Mr. Guldi, who served as his own attorney during his insurance fraud trial, will represent himself in the upcoming trial. Mr. Guldi’s former attorney, Paul Gianelli, withdrew from the case last July, telling the court that Mr. Guldi was not able to pay him because prosecutors froze the former legislator’s assets.

Prosecutors stated that Mr. MacPherson recruited straw buyers—those who get paid to provide their names and personal information to help another party obtain mortgage loans—at his Manhattan fetish club, Arena Studios. The resulting mortgage fraud scheme, which grew to encompass at least 66 homes in Southampton Town alone, is the largest such case in Suffolk County history, according to prosecutors.

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