Tag Archive | "George Guldi"

Morpurgo House Awaits a White Knight

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The Morpurgo house on Union Street in Sag Harbor. Michael Heller

By Stephen J. Kotz

It sits forlorn and forgotten, obscured by overgrown shrubs and weeds, barely visible from the street.

Long declared unfit for human habitation by Sag Harbor Village, the Morpurgo house, which is tucked behind the John Jermain Memorial Library on Union Street, may be the closest thing Sag Harbor has to a haunted house.

The subject of a decades-long fight between sisters Anselm and Helga Morpurgo, the house was eventually sold at auction in 2007. But it then became entangled in a nightmarish mortgage fraud scheme that landed former Suffolk County Legislator George O. Guldi in prison, and the man who held an $800,000 mortgage for the property, trying to foreclose on it, so he and his investors could obtain the deed to the house and either rebuild it or raze it and start anew.

But this week, Samuel Glass, a Brooklyn attorney, who led that group of investors, said, he has washed his hands of the place and sold the mortgage to another New York attorney, Joel Zweig, who is leading yet another investor group in the effort to realize a profit from it.

“I loved that piece of property,” Mr. Glass said on Friday. “But I was dealing with 13 investors and after awhile, they got disgusted. We got caught in the maze.”

Mr. Glass, who said he believed Sag Harbor was still a good place for real estate investors to put their money, said “I would have loved to have taken title to that place.”

He said at this point, the house, because of its dilapidated condition, was probably a teardown, but he said if the new owners work with the village, they will be able to build “a beautiful house next to the library.”

Mr. Zweig was unavailable for comment for this article.

Despite the legal troubles swirling around the house, the question remains why Sag Harbor Village has taken a hands-off approach to the property.

The most recent entry from village officials in a file on the property in the village Building Department dates to February 16, 2007, when Anselm Morpurgo still lived there.

In a five-page report then Fire Marshal Tim Platt, who toured the house with Al Daniels, who was the building inspector at the time, pointed out numerous health and safety concerns, from a wood burning stove with a large gap in its flue, to structurally unsound stairways, crumbling plaster, and missing window panes.

In his own letter to the village board accompanying that report, Mr. Daniels cites. His own list of concerns, including the fact that the interior of the building was colder than the outside temperature, which was only 16 degrees on the day of the visit. He listed the elecrical wiring, water supply as concerns and added that the house was strewn with garbage and raccoon feces.

“Obviously, there are pictures showing the dangerous and unsafe conditions that exist in this structure,” Mr. Daniels wrote. “The rodent infestation presents a danger to the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the public and the people that occupy this structure. This structure is definitely unfit for the purpose for which it may be lawfully be used.

“In closing, this building is unsafe, dangerous and beyond repair,” he concluded.

On Tuesday, building inspector Jose Escalante, who joined the village in the summer, and has been dealing with a building boom that includes major renovations and new construction across the village, said he had not received any complaints about the Morpurgo house and did not believe it was in his authority to launch an investigation on his own.

Mayor Brian Gilbride conceded that the village has taken a cautious approach in large part because it is concerned about liability.

“The frustrating part about this job is you can walk by that place and say it is terrible, but it is private property,” he said.

He pointed out that the property has been owned by a series of limited liability corporations. “Are they taking any personal liability? No,” he said. “But the minute we start doing something to that property, we become part of the liability.”

“I always thought the library was going to end up with it, and it would become a moot issue,” he added. In the 1990s, the library board tried to purchase the property to expand, but Anselm Morpurgo resisted its efforts. The library eventually abandoned the idea and turned its attention first to a new site next to Mashashimuet Park before settling on a major expansion and renovation of its existing building.

In the meantime,  Anselm Morpurgo’s sister, Helga Morpurgo, tried to force her sister to sell the property, in which they had a shared ownership. That battle eventually ended with a court-ordered auction of the property in 2007 for $1.4 million.

Mr. Glass said that he was defrauded by two attorneys, Brandon Lisi of Dix Hills, and Dustin Dente of Rosalyn, who bought the property at auction and came to him for financing and then stopped paying the mortgage. He and his investors have sought to foreclose on the property in state Supreme Court, but that proceeding will now be turned over to Mr. Zweig’s group.

Mr. Guldi, who was Mr. Lisi’s attorney for the purchase of the property, was found guilty of mortgage fraud in 2011 in what Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota desribed as the largest case of mortgage fraud in the county’s history. He was  sentenced to four to 12 years in prison.

Just last month, Mr. Guldi’s request for parole was denied. The parole board, which heard his case, concluded that he showed a lack of remorse for his crimes, which could lead to him being a repeat offender. He can next apply for parole in 2016.

 

Former Suffolk County Lawmaker Pleads Guilty in Mortgage Fraud Case

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GEORGE GULDI

During jury selection on Friday for a case regarding his involvement in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme, former Democratic Suffolk County Legislator George Guldi pled guilty to 35 felony charges.

Guldi, from Westhampton Beach, pled guilty to 34 counts of grand larceny and one charge of scheme to defraud in relation to an $82 million mortgage fraud scheme that involved over 60 homes and commercial properties on Long Island, most of them in Southampton, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

One of the properties tied to the case was the 6 Union Street, Sag Harbor property formerly owned by Anselm and Helga Morpurgo.

This was to be Guldi’s second criminal trial this year. He has been incarcerated since March after being found guilty of grand larceny and insurance fraud in an unrelated case. In that case, prosecutors argued Guldi stole money paid by his insurance carrier that should have been held in escrow for the reconstruction of his Westhampton Beach residence, which was destroyed in a house fire in 2008.

Guldi was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison for that conviction. According to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, in return for pleading guilty to all of the remaining charges against him, Judge James F.X. Doyle promised Guldi a one-to-three year sentence, which will run concurrently with the sentence he received earlier this year.

Doyle’s decision, which will be finalized at a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, August 31, in Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead, was not what Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota had hoped for.

In a press release issued on Friday, Spota said he was “extremely disappointed that, over our objection, the Judge has promised the defendant a sentence that is completely inadequate to punish him and deter the massive mortgage fraud that has so severely impacted our local economy.”

Spota said he has directed Mortgage Fraud Unit prosecutor Thalia Stavrides to ask Judge Doyle to sentence Guldi to the maximum term of incarceration, which is eight and one-third to 25 years consecutive to the four to 12 year sentence he is already serving.

Guldi’s co-defendant in the upcoming trail, Dix Hills attorney Brandon Lisi, also pled guilty on Friday, admitting his role in creating millions of fraudulent mortgage deals to victimize Washington Mutual Bank, JP Morgan Chase and other lenders to buy commercial and residential properties in Sag Harbor, Cold Spring Harbor, Southampton and Huntington.

Lisi was one of two buyers present at the 2007 auction of the Morpurgo home in Sag Harbor, which sold at court-ordered auction for $1.4 million. Attorney Samuel Glass, who with a group of lenders was defrauded by Lisi and Guldi, among others, in the purchase of the Union Street property, said his group hopes to take ownership of the property once the case has been settled, but will have to test market conditions before deciding whether or not to sell the home as is or renovate the dilapidated residence.

Lisi pled guilty to two counts of grand larceny in the first degree and one charge of grand larceny in the second degree. Similar to Guldi, Judge Doyle promised Lisi a one-to-three years’ sentence.

Lisi is also facing separate federal charges in an unrelated case regarding bank and wire fraud charges.

“Mr. Guldi’s greed leaves a trail of financial ruin heretofore unseen in this county,” said Spota. “His scheme to defraud lenders through the use of straw purchasers, false documents and phony loan applications duped financial institutions into loaning him and his co-defendants millions of dollars for houses that today are in default.”

Guldi was a Suffolk County Legislator representing the second legislative district from 1994 to 2003 when he lost a re-election bid to current Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman.

Morpurgo House is Focus of Fraud Case

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GEORGE GULDIBRANDON LISI

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.

Morpurgo House May be Back on the Block

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It appears the saga that is the Morpurgo house on Union Street, Sag Harbor continues, although this time the two sisters at the heart of the lore surrounding the historic structure are not a part of the most recent dispute regarding the residence. Rather, lenders for the couple who initially purchased the property are attempting to foreclose on the parcel and possibly develop it themselves after alleging they did not receive payments of interest on their loan for over six months.

In October of 2007, after years of court battles and two previous, unsuccessful court-ordered public auctions, the Union Street residence was sold at auction for $1,460,000 to a man named Brandon and a woman named Tina, who later purchased the home under the limited liability corporation Captain Hulbert House. The house had been at the center of a dispute between sisters Annselm and Helga Morpurgo, who battled in court over the ownership and sale of the residence.

According to their attorney at the time of the auction, Dustin J. Dente, the couple planned to lovingly restore the historic structure and was considering what their options would be under the existing certificate of occupancy at the Union Street residence, which showed eight apartments original to the home. Last year, after some legal wrangling to get Annselm and two women staying at the home off the premises, attorney George Guldi, acting on behalf of the owners, inspected the inside of the residence, which appeared to be without plumbing and was filled with debris and garbage, to assess its structural integrity in hopes of getting a project off the ground.

According to Hempstead attorney Samuel Glass, who is currently listed in Southampton Town records under the Captain Hulbert House LLC contact information, he and a group of lenders loaned Brandon Lisi and Tina Nannis the money to purchase the property and complete renovations. According to Glass, the property is presently in foreclosure as he and his group of lenders were not paid interest on their loan for over six months.

The lenders are now interested in seeing what can be done with the property, or selling it, according to Glass.

 “We probably would like to sit down with the building department and iron out what we can do with the property,” said Glass on Tuesday. “Then we will either build on it or sell it.”

Both attorneys formerly involved in the property, Dente and Guldi, are now defendants in a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud case – with Guldi facing three counts of first-degree larceny and a first-degree count of scheming to defraud, and Dente charged with first degree grand larceny. They are two of five defendants who Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota have charged in connection with fraudulently obtaining more than $50 million in mortgages from various lenders.

When asked whether this house could be a part of the alleged fraud scheme, Glass said authorities were investigating the matter, but for now, the lenders were focusing on what is possible at the Union Street residence.

 “It is a nice location in the village,” noted Glass.

In the meantime, the residence’s previous owner, Annselm, continues to pursue a civil rights case against her sister, Sag Harbor Village officials and police, as well as the county, Sag Harbor’s John Jermain Memorial Library, the private Future Fund and a number of John Does yet to be named. The case was previously dismissed, but Annselm recently won an appeal to have it heard again, with United States Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor one of a three-judge panel that granted the motion.

Guldi Among Five Arrested for Multi-Million Dollar Mortgage Fraud

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A former Suffolk County legislator was among five suspects arrested Wednesday on grand larceny charges by fraudulently obtaining more than $50 million dollars in mortgages on dozens of homes in Southampton Town, including several a few miles from Sag Harbor in and around Noyac and Water Mill. 

In a second scheme, an East Islip man and a Farmingville suspect are charged with attempted mortgage fraud for filing bogus paperwork to attain mortgages for homes in Deer Park, Amityville, Jamaica, Queens and Brooklyn.

District Attorney Thomas Spota said the alleged frauds employed the use of straw purchasers to victimize lenders by filing false loan applications that claimed the homebuyers were employed by various corporations owned or controlled by the scheme’s participants. Another scheme, alleged to have been used to secure money, District Attorney Spota said, involved “mortgage stacking”; the creation of bogus title reports that concealed outstanding mortgages on properties and showed the homes to be owned “free and clear” and unencumbered by existing liens.  

Arraigned Wednesday in Southampton Justice Court on three counts of first degree grand larceny and first degree scheme to defraud are former Suffolk County Legislator George O. Guldi of 44 Brushy Neck Lane Westhampton Beach and Ethan E. Ellner, 54 Sagamore Drive Plainview. 

Guldi, 55, an attorney who served two terms in the county legislature, and Ellner, 49, an attorney and operator of Suburban Abstract, a title company in Stony Brook, allegedly defrauded lending institutions of millions of dollars by using forged documents, false employment and income information on applications, straw buyers, false powers of attorney, deed flipping, and mortgage stacking, said the district attorney in a press release Wednesday.

Codefendants Donald C. MacPherson, 65, and Carrie Coakley of New York and Dustin J. Dente of Roslyn pled not guilty at their arraignments today in Southampton Justice Court.  MacPherson is charged with two counts of first degree grand larceny and one charge of first degree scheme to defraud.  Macpherson’s wife, Carrie Coakley is charged with first degree scheme to defraud.  Dente, 37, an attorney, is charged with two counts of first degree grand larceny. 

 “The damage these defendants single-handedly caused to our local economy is simply appalling,” Spota said.  The district attorney said the defendants engaged in “a seven-year mortgage fraud spree” involving dozens of several east end homes, including a house at 1106 North Sea Road in Southampton, and two Water Mill homes at 982 Noyac Path and 2027 Deerfield Road. 

 

The alleged scheme to defraud involved three basic forms of fraud:

Use of “straw buyers”:

Evidence gathered during the course of the investigation, said Spota, found the defendants used straw buyers (or as they called them “investors”) with fictitious employment and income information for use on mortgage applications to make the mortgage applicants appear far wealthier and thusly, a much lower risk for lenders.

Specifically straw buyers in the scheme charged Wednesday were falsely listed as having incomes as high as $45,000 per month as employees of companies the defendants owned.

One of these companies was Arena Studios, Inc. located at 407 Broome Street in Manhattan; a business that at one time provided dominatrix services. This club was also used by the defendants to successfully solicit straw buyers.

Another source of straw buyers for the scheme to defraud was Maximum Restraint Films and McPherson’s publication, The Soho Journal, said the district attorney, who added publication also promoted Hamptons rental properties fraudulently purchased and used as summer rentals by the defendants.  Another MacPherson firm, the Hamptons Consulting Group, he said, was used as the employer for a straw buyer to falsely report an annual salary of $325,000 per year on a mortgage application.

 

Fraud by Mortgage Stacking and Title Washing:

Mortgage stacking involves the acquisition of a second and in some cases a third mortgage on a house through the use of a bogus title report that falsely reports to the lending institution that no first mortgage exists on the property.

A 2004 mortgage disappeared from the title history of 982 Noyac Path, Water Mill facilitating a fraud in which the name and credit of a person was used to purchase and obtain a first and second mortgage on the property totaling approximately $1.7million dollars, said the district attorney.

The mortgage applicant, on paper, was fraudulently portrayed to have been employed at the SoHo Journal for 10 years as the Director of Sales earning $36,000 a month. In truth, the applicant was not an employee of the publication and had no knowledge that their name and credit was being used to purchase and mortgage a house in the Hamptons, the district attorney said. In 2007, the house went into foreclosure.

While in foreclosure, a straw buyer purportedly employed by Maximum Restraint Films with a monthly income of $45,000 was used in January 2008 to purchase and mortgage the Noyac Path property for another $2 million. The Noyac Path title report was again altered to falsely report to the lender that the first and second mortgage, totaling $1.5 million (and pending in foreclosure), had been satisfied, the release said.

 The mortgage stacking fraud and a straw buyer were also used by some of the defendants to illicitly obtain a loan for a house at 1106 North Sea Road, Water Mill. The investigation established the title report falsely cleared an original $1.25 million dollar mortgage after a new $1.8 million dollar mortgage was obtained.  The evidence found the proceeds of the new mortgage flowed into the accounts of defendants Ellner, Guldi and Dente, claimed the release.

A home at 2027 Deerfield Road in Water Mill, originally titled to Walter Guldi, the father of defendant George Guldi, with an outstanding mortgage of approximately $1.5 million dollars went into foreclosure in 2005. George Guldi acted as the attorney representing the estate in the foreclosure action.  In May 2008, the defendants are alleged to have washed the title of 2027 Deerfield Path of the original mortgage to receive a new $1.8 million dollar mortgage obtained in the name of a straw purchaser.  Proceeds of the stacked mortgage flowed into accounts controlled by Defendants Ellner, Guldi and Dente, the release said.

All three houses are or have been in foreclosure.

 

“We found the defendants repeatedly ignored the obligation to pay off existing mortgages and instead funneled the money into their personal accounts to finance their businesses and lifestyles,” District Attorney Spota noted. 

Arrested by Mortgage Fraud Unit detective investigators Wednesday for alleged mortgage fraud involving homes in western Suffolk and New York City are Ellner, Gary Small, 41, 9 Greentree Avenue in Farmingville and Victor Jinete, 34, of 35 Starlight Drive in East Islip.

Ellner, Small and Jinete pleaded not guilty in first district court in Central Islip today on four charges of Attempted Mortgage Fraud second degree.  Jinete also pleaded not guilty to one count of first degree scheme to defraud. The alleged schemes involve the use of straw buyers and title washing resulting in fraudulent mortgages being issued by duped lenders for properties at 64 Duke Street, Deer Park, 130-25 Inwood Street, Jamaica, 891 Glenmore Avenue, Brooklyn NY and 40 Darerka Street, Amityville.