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Plantation Mortgage Fraud Trial Ends In Hung Jury

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(Source: AP)

(Source: AP)

South Florida Crime

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – A federal trial on mortgage fraud charges against two former  Plantation police officers and a real estate attorney ended in a hung jury on six Monday.

After six days of deliberations, the jury told U.S. District  Judge James I. Cohn  they were unable to come to a conclusion on any of the charges brought against  brothers and former officers Joseph and Dennis Guaracino and attorney Steven Stoll.

The case arose out of a  mortgage fraud investigation code-named “Operation Copout.”   Joseph Guaracino, through his company The Home Buyers Group LLC, reportedly obtained more than $16 million in loans by lying on the applications for properties in Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Defense attorneys for the Guaracinos and Stoll argued that their clients were unaware of the lying and forging on the loan applications  handled by their mortgage brokers Mathew Gulla and Rene Rodriguez who earlier accept in return for their testimony against the trio.

Gulla and Rodriguez admitted during the trial that they forged the Guaracinos and Stoll’s signatures on intentionally faulty mortgage documents hundreds of times.

Besides the Guaracino brothers, there have been six other arrests of current and former law enforcement officers on similar fraud charges.

Last April a federal jury in Ft. Lauderdale found two former Plantation police officers guilty in a mortgage fraud scheme, but acquitted six others who were charged.

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.

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.

Federal investigators claimed the 6 law enforcement officers conspired with Guaracino, to get fraudulent mortgages to buy properties as investors. The goal was to re-sell, or “flip”, the properties.

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. DeRosa and Velez are scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday.

A court hearing is set for Oct. 6 in the Guaracino case.

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