The case against a group of people charged with organizing an $82 million mortgage fraud scheme that targeted the East End is scheduled to come to trial in January 2011, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.
Steven Wilutis, the Miller Place attorney representing one of the defendants, part-time Westhampton Beach resident Donald MacPherson, said he is currently preparing for a trial that has been tentatively scheduled for early next year before Judge James F.X. Doyle in Suffolk County Criminal Court.
“We plan on taking this case to trial, and have the district attorney prove, if they can beyond a reasonable doubt, if my client is guilty,” he said.
Robert Clifford, a spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota, said this week that prosecutors expect to be ready for the trial in January.
Mr. MacPherson will likely be tried alongside an unknown number of other people accused in a massive July 2009 indictment of what prosecutors described as a mortgage fraud ring, including his wife, Carrie Coakley, and former Suffolk County Legislator George O. Guldi, who along with Mr. MacPherson, was accused of acting as a ringleader. Altogether, 17 people were named in the indictment.
Mr. Guldi, an attorney with a law office in Westhampton Beach who is representing himself, declined to comment about the pending trial when reached last week. Mr. Guldi, who faces 110 counts in connection with the scheme, is due to appear in Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead on Thursday, September 23. Mr. MacPherson, who faces 90 counts, is due back in court on November 15.
Prosecutors said 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 grew to encompass at least 66 homes in Southampton Town alone and became the largest such case in Suffolk County history, according to prosecutors.
“We’re saying that didn’t happen at all,” said Mr. Wilutis, who added that he has been preparing for the trial for “the better part of this year.” “They were investors wanting to invest in property in the Hamptons, and my client was going to manage these properties and collect rents, and the market fell.” He said he plans on putting “the banks and the government” on trial for causing the economic downturn.
Mr. Wilutis, who said he is currently sifting through a mountain of documents, added that he believed some of the 17 defendants have made “sweetheart deals” with prosecutors in which they have pleaded guilty, or will plead guilty, in exchange for reduced charges, and may testify for the prosecution.
Mr. Clifford confirmed that at least two of the defendants have pleaded guilty: attorneys Dustin Dente of Roslyn and Ethan Ellner of Plainview. Mr. Dente pleaded guilty in March to two counts of first-degree grand larceny and two counts of second-degree grand larceny, as well as first-degree scheme to defraud, all felonies, according to Mr. Clifford. Mr. Ellner pleaded guilty in December to two counts of second-degree grand larceny, as well as first-degree scheme to defraud and fourth-degree conspiracy, all felonies, according to Mr. Clifford.
Neither defendant has been sentenced, he said.
No decisions have been made as to whether or not the two men will testify at trial, according to Mr. Clifford.