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Feds: Long Island couple sent to prison in mortgage scam

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A husband and wife from Long Island are both headed to prison after being sentenced Tuesday for allegedly running a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme involving dozens of properties in Connecticut, federal prosecutors said Jan. 28.

The U.S. attorney’s office said the Nesconset natives – 56-year-old Winston Shillingford and his wife, 45-year-old Marleen Shillingford – were involved in the operation of a real estate company, Waikele Properties Corp., which operated offices in Bridgeport, Conn., and Garden City. Prosecutors allege that for nearly 10 years – between 2001 and 2011 – the husband and wife duo would allegedly work with others to obtain fraudulent mortgages on more than 40 multi-family properties in Bridgeport, Conn.

During the scam, the Shillingfords would recruit individuals to buy the properties and act as their real estate agent while helping the potential buyers apply for mortgages. While preparing the loan applications, individuals involved in the scam would add false information such as the buyer’s employment status, income, and previous property ownership information, while noting the buyer’s allegedly false intention to make the property their primary residence, federal prosecutors said.

The co-conspirators, according to authorities, would also attach fraudulent supporting documents, including fake letters from fictitious employers, false earning statements and fraudulent bank records.

When the loans were approved, money from the sale was wired into the Waikele Properties bank account and later transferred to others involved in the scheme, the FBI said.

The Shillingfords each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Winston Shillingford was sentenced to serve 48 months in a federal prison, while his wife is expected to serve 36 months behind bars.

Prosecutors expect a judge to order restitution paid back to the banks, which they estimate will be between $2.5 million and $7 million.

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