By Kathryn G. Menu
The fabled Morpurgo house on Union Street in Sag Harbor will be at the center of a mortgage fraud case against a former Suffolk County Legislator to be scheduled for trial next month.
On Monday, April 18 Suffolk County Judge James F.X. Doyle granted a motion filed by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office to try four grand larceny counts out of a 110-count mortgage fraud indictment against former Suffolk County Legislator George Guldi and Dix Hills attorney Brandon Lisi at a trial expected to begin in May.
In his decision, Judge Doyle wrote that severing the indictment against Guldi into three separate trials “will expedite the trial considering the court’s burgeoning calendar” and that is was being done in the interest of justice.
One count that will be heard at the trial in May is tied directly to the former Morpurgo house at 6 Union Street.
Long the fodder of local news, the dilapidated house was the subject of a decade-long battle between sisters Helga and Anselm Morpurgo over the sale of their family home, which after two failed attempts at a court ordered auction was finally sold in a third auction in 2007 for $1.4 million.
The reported purchasers at the auction were Lisi, now 37, and a bed and breakfast owner named Tina Nannis.
However, according to attorney Samuel Glass, who was allegedly defrauded as a part of the scheme, the actual purchasers were Lisi and Roslyn attorney Dustin Dente.
Dente was originally named as a defendant in the mortgage fraud case, which Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said was likely the largest mortgage fraud ring in county history, involving over $80 million, 60 residences and over a dozen defendants.
As he is alleged to have done for a number of the properties involved in the mortgage fraud ring, Guldi served as Lisi’s attorney on the purchase of the Morpurgo property, gaining control of the residence after Anselm initially refused to vacate the premises.
Nannis has not been charged in connection with the case.
According to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, two of the counts to be tried before a jury next month allege that Guldi, 57, and Lisi stole more than $1 million in mortgage proceeds in separate fraudulent transactions involving a restaurant in Cold Spring Harbor and the Union Street, Sag Harbor residence.
According to the indictment, in the Sag Harbor deal, Glass and his investors were victims of the fraud, with Washington Mutual Bank the victim in the Cold Spring Harbor case.
The two other counts to be scheduled for trial in May are for a grand larceny in the second degree charge against Guldi for the alleged theft of more than $1 million dollars from Wachovia Bank involving a mortgage in 2008 for a house on Deerfield Road in Southampton, and a charge of grand larceny in the second degree against Lisi for his alleged theft of more than $50,000 dollars from JP Morgan Chase for an alleged mortgage fraud involving the purchase of a property in Huntington.
On Monday, Judge Doyle also granted a motion by the district attorney’s office to consolidate the 2009 indictment against Guldi, Donald MacPherson and his wife Carrie Coakley to 34 counts of grand larceny in the first and second degree and one count of scheme to defraud in the first degree. That trial is expected to be scheduled once the Guldi-Lisi trail is finished.
Judge Doyle also consolidated and eliminated from the original indictment criminal possession of a forged instrument charge against MacPherson, leaving one count of insurance fraud in the third degree on the table.
The trial next month will be Guldi’s second this year. Last month, the former Democratic lawmaker was sentenced by Judge Doyle to four to 12 years in prison after being convicted in February on insurance fraud and grand larceny charges unrelated to his alleged involvement in the East End mortgage fraud schemes.
Guldi received consecutive sentences of three to nine years for a grand larceny in the second degree conviction, as well as one to three years in prison for being found guilty of insurance fraud in the third degree.
The convictions stemmed from charges that Guldi stole $863,473 paid by his insurance carrier to him to be held in escrow for the re-construction of his Griffing Avenue, Westhampton Beach home, which was destroyed in a fire in 2008.
In addition to prison time, Guldi has been ordered to repay the mortgage holder on the property, Bank of America.
In addition to the charges he will face next month alongside Guldi, Lisi also faces federal fraud charges for an alleged scheme involving the use of straw buyers to gain mortgages for homes in Dix Hills, Uniondale, Manhasset and Brooklyn.
The date of May trial has yet to be scheduled.