FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A federal jury in Ft. Lauderdale found 2 former Plantation police officers guilty in a mortgage fraud scheme, but acquitted 2 other Plantation cops, a Lauderhill officer, and an FBI agent who had also been charged.
Plantation Police officers Casey Mittauer and Daryl Radziwon, Lauderhill cop Joseph LeGrasta, and FBI agent Robert DePriest were cleared of all charges after a nine week trial.
Former Plantation SWAT officer John Velez, once Plantation officer of the year , was convicted of conspiracy and several counts of fraud. Former Plantation officer Joseph DeRosa escaped conviction on the conspiracy charge, but faces federal prison on several counts of fraud.
The six officers had been accused of conspiracy and fraud in a $16.5 million mortgage plot.
Federal investigators claimed the 6 law enforcement officers conspired with Plantation police officer Joe Guaracino, to get fraudulent mortgages to buy properties as investors. The goal was to re-sell, or “flip”, the properties.
Mortgage brokers Rene Rodgriguez and Matt Gulla have already pleaded guilty and testified against the defendants. They admitted during the trial that they forged the defendants’ signatures on intentionally faulty mortgage documents hundreds of times.
Prosecutors argued that the defendants must have known and approved of the forgeries, but the federal court jury weren’t convinced in the case of four of the men charged..
Velez and DeRosa each face at least 10 years in prison, with Velez facing up to 20 years because of the added conspiracy conviction. However, federal sentencing guidelines will likely mean each officer will face a maximum of 5 years in prison. Both men will be sentenced in August, according to federal court Judge James Cohn.
Reaction was mixed in the packed courtroom, with family and supporters of the men celebrating both acquittal and conviction with hugs and tears.
The case continues for federal prosecutors, who dealt with 100 thousand documents over the course of the lengthy trial. Jue Guaracino, brother Dennis, and two attorneys allegedly involved in the scheme are set to go on trial next week.