Crime

He directed $20 million in fake luxury home buys. That bought real prison time.

For directing a $20 million mortgage fraud in South Beach and Fort Lauderdale, 46-year-old Marco Laureti was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of supervised release.

That makes one year of federal corrections oversight for each million dollars of mortgage fraud.

Laureti, who was convicted of seven counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in November, also got hit with $8,316,135 in restitution. It’s unclear how much of that, if any, will reach Miami Beach’s Sunset Harbour South or Fort Lauderdale’s 45 Hendricks Isle, the two buildings slammed in the scam during the 2007-09 financial disaster.

Two who said they played roles in the scheme under Laureti’s supervision, Miami Lakes’ Michelle Cabrera and Hialeah’s Pedro Melian, were sentenced in November after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud affecting a financial institution. For using her title company in the scheme, Cabrera was sentenced to two years and one month of prison time, followed by five years’ supervised release with $10,502,773.99 in restitution. Melian, who provided a faux buyer (his mother) for one of the 45 Hendricks Isle units, got five years’ probation with $3,778,032.16 in restitution.

The Justice Department believes the remaining member of the fraudulent foursome, Felix Mostelac, has likely skipped the country. Soon after Mostelac scorched Sunset Harbour South and Washington Mutual Bank, Interpol started looking for him.

Here’s how the scam worked, according to court documents:

A mortgage application fibbing about the buyer’s income, assets or down payment (or all three) would be submitted to Washington Mutual. Washington Mutual, which crumbled in the era’s economic collapse and would be swept up by J.P. Morgan Chase, approved the loan. The bank sent the money for the loan to Florida Title, Cabrera’s company. Some of that money would be used for the cash down payment on the property. The quartet would take what remained as criminal profit and walk away from the whole deal.

That left the bank with no option but foreclosure (when it comes to mortgages, banks really want the money, not the real estate). Before and during the foreclosure process, that left the buildings without the maintenance fees an owner would be paying. In that situation, buildings either have to make special assessments or cut staff and services.

At Sunset Harbour South, they worked the scam on one of the units in the tower suites, above the penthouse. They told Washington Mutual that Mostelac would be putting up over $2.3 million from his pocket. Washington Mutual approved the loan and wired the rest of the sale price, $4.27 million. The group used that to pay the $2.3 million and pocketed the remaining $1.9 million.

They did the same for three 45 Hendricks Isle units. And, when they worked the scam on a two-story house, they built another floor onto the scam.

Laureti was the listed buyer for 205 E. San Marino Dr., a 5,900-square foot, 5-bedroom, 6 1/2-bathroom house. Of the $6.9 million selling price, they got $5.2 million from Washington Mutual after saying Laureti would make a $1.7 million down payment. After using $1.7 million of the Washington Mutual money as the down payment, Cabrera sent another $1.2 million to Laureti’s company as “real estate commission.”

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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