A federal jury Monday convicted a real estate professional in a $20 million mortgage fraud involving a Fort Lauderdale luxury condominium building.
After a three-week trial before Senior U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn, jurors found Sunny Isles Beach resident Marco Laureti guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and seven counts of wire fraud affecting financial institution Washington Mutual.
Prosecutors say Laureti used the profits from the scam to purchase a $6.9 million estate in Miami Beach. They charged him via a superseding indictment filed under seal on Dec. 16, 2016.
Laureti was a mortgage broker, lender, real estate agent and Miami newspaper publisher, according to information released Tuesday by the Department of Justice. He was a licensed Florida real estate agent and former licensed mortgage broker who owned several companies, including a news operation called Laureti Publishing Co. He also controlled Northview Equities, Northview Real Estate, Northview Capital, Laureti Holdings Co., Laureti Media Group Inc., ReTrade Inc. and M4 Management.
Prosecutors said he worked with three other conspirators to falsify mortgage loan applications and closing statements for multimillion-dollar condominiums at a waterfront mid-rise at 45 Hendricks Isle, near Las Olas Boulevard and downtown Fort Lauderdale. They charged Felix Mostelac, 45, of Miami; Michelle Cabrera, 49, of Miami Lakes; and Pedro Melian, 40, of Hialeah, in the scheme.
Cabrera and Melian pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and will be sentenced Nov. 17 before U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas. Melian was the principal of Melian’s Investment Group. Mostelac is a fugitive who has likely fled the country, according to the Justice Department. He operated American Holdings Group and Mostelac Enterprises Inc.
Laureti’s lawyer, David Michael Garvin of Miami, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In its prosecution, the government argued the defendants defrauded a financial institution by “grossly inflating income and bank account balances” on mortgage loan applications.
“Once these loans were approved, defendant Cabrera, at Laureti’s direction, diverted the loan proceeds to fund the cash the borrower was expected to bring to the property’s closing, as well as diverting additional monies from the loan proceeds to various companies owned by Laureti and Mostelac,” according to the DOJ.
Cabrera owned Florida Elite Title & Escrow and served as closing agent on the deals. He made $10,000 for each fraudulent transaction Laureti and Mostelac initiated, according the DOJ. Prosecutors alleged Laureti and Mostelac doctored their own mortgage loan applications and closing statements to acquire multimillion-dollar real estate holdings, including Mostelac’s $6.5 million dollar condominium.
All told, prosecutors say the group defrauded a lender of $20 million.
Laureti’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 25. He faces up to 30 years in prison on each count, restitution and a $250,000 fine on each count.