A 50-year-old Wilton lawyer who was involved in an extensive mortgage fraud scheme in Fairfield County will have to serve 30 months in prison.
Joseph Kriz, who was a real estate lawyer and a licensed mortgage broker, will begin serving the sentence Aug. 7.
His troubles began in 2005, according to prosecutors, when he and childhood friend William A. Trudeau, Jr. developed a plan to purchase, develop and sell properties by defrauding banks and mortgage lenders.
Kriz’s lawyer, James Diamond, of Stamford, said that his client received a fair sentence.
"I think that Judge Hall gave Joe Kriz and his case a tremendous amount of attention and thought," Diamond said.
Diamond said that the case makes state history as one of the largest lawyer-client real estate thefts in Connecticut.
At sentencing, Judge Janet Hall wondered how a decent hard-working lawyer could end up involved in such a case.
Diamond said that "his character of wanting to help other human beings became a flaw." "He somehow couldn’t say no to his friend when he should have," Diamond said.
Through this scheme, Kriz, Trudeau, and others fraudulently obtained more than $4 million in mortgage loans to purchase six properties in Westport and Newtown, prosecutors said. Prosecutors said that so far mortgage lenders have lost more than $1.9 million.
Kriz took about $3.5 million from his IOLTA account to service the various loans he and his co-conspirators took, prosecutors said.
Trudeau also defrauded private lenders of a total of more than $1 million, according to the prosecution.
Diamond said that taking from an IOLTA account is very serious. "As bad as things get for a lawyer, the IOLTA account is the third rail, you just don’t touch it."
"Even if you’re fairly certain you’re going to pay it back the next day, you just don’t touch it," Diamond said.
Diamond said that Kriz brought the case to the government’s attention and he took the stand at Trudeau’s trial. Trudeau is serving a nearly 16 year  prison term.
Kriz gave up his license to practice law and to practice as a CPA.