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Friday, November 19, 2010

Nine-Count Indictment for Westport, Weston Mortgage Fraud

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By James Lomuscio

UPDATE A $3.5 million mortgage fraud involving six Westport properties and one in Weston has brought a nine-count, federal grand jury indictment against property developer William A. Trudeau Jr.

According to the indictment returned Thursday by a federal grand jury in Bridgeport and announced today, Trudeau, 47, is a Westport resident, though a department spokesman said he might be living in Norwalk.

Trudeau’s last known address in town was at 5 Pritchard Lane, a home he vacated in 2001 after he was convicted of financial fraud and sentenced to 22 months in prison. (See WestportNow Sept. 19, 2003) The house was torn down in 2005. (See WestportNow April 6, 2005)

The new indictment charges Trudeau with bank fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud stemming from a mortgage scheme he conspired from February 2004 to April 2010 with several others, including: his wife, Heather Bliss; Thomas Preston, a real estate appraiser; Joseph Kriz, a real estate attorney; and Fred Stevens, a mortgage broker.

The court alleges that Trudeau and his co-conspirators submitted false mortgage loan applications to financial institutions to obtain mortgages, while omitting “true indebtedness” that would have disqualified them, “allowing the applicants to qualify for mortgages that far exceeded their ability to repay the loans.”

The indictment states that Bliss, a paralegal for Kriz, falsified her income, claiming she made anywhere from $22,000 to $53,000 per month as an employee of either Aspetuck Building & Development and Huntington South Associates. According to the court, Trudeau is an unnamed principal of both.

Bliss pleaded guilty in July to to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud stemming from her participation in a mortgage fraud scheme. (See Department of Justice release, July 30, 2010)

Kriz, also mentioned in Thursday’s indictment, pleaded guilty in August 2008 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of fraud in loan and credit applications, and one count of mail fraud. (See Department of Justice release Aug. 5, 2008)

Preston, also mentioned in the indictment, is a Norwalk real estate professional who in November 2009 entered a not guilty plea on federal charges he falsified information on a mortgage application for a Westport home he appraised at $2.7 million. (See WestportNow Nov. 18, 2009) The home was subsequently identified as 35 Prospect Road (see below).

Today’s news release announcing the Trudeau indictment said Preston subsequently changed his plea to guilty.

Trudeau’s name was also hidden from any of the mortgage applications in order to prevent him from having to repay a 2003 court ordered restitution of more than $458,000 from his 2001 conviction, according to the indictment.

Mortgages were obtained for Westport properties located at 6 Sylvan Road South (twice), 85 Saugatuck Ave., 91 Saugatuck Ave., 87 Saugatuck Ave., 9 Fragrant Pines Court, and 35 Prospect Road, and a Weston home at 131 Weston Road, according to the indictment against Trudeau.

The home at 35 Prospect Road was torn down today. (See WestportNow Nov. 19, 2010)

In 2008, Stevens, a 52-year-old Easton man employed as a mortgage broker in Westport and who was also mentioned in Thursday’s indictment, pleaded guilty to fraud charges in connection with a mortgage application on the same 35 Prospect Road Westport property. (See WestportNow Nov. 25, 2008)

According to Tom Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorneys office, Trudeau faces a maximum of 240 years if convicted. He said Trudeau is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.

“An indictment is not evidence of guilt,” he said. “Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

He confirmed that Kriz, Bliss, Stevens and Preston have pleaded guilty to charges related to their involvement in this scheme, and that each awaits sentencing.

Carson added that citizens with information about this case are encouraged to contact FBI special agents McNamara or Bowery at 203-333-3512.

In July 2009, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI announced the formation of the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud cases and related financial crimes occurring in Connecticut. 

In addition to investigating past mortgage fraud schemes, the Task Force focuses on emerging crime trends that are associated with what the U.S Attorney’s Office said was the growing tide of foreclosures, including “foreclosure rescue” schemes, and “short sale” schemes.

Posted 11/19 at 11:53 PM

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