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Friday, April 6, 2012

Former Nashua man pins mortgage scheme on Prieto, asks for probation not prison

CONCORD – A former Nashua man has asked a judge to delay his sentencing again so he can cooperate in the case against his co-defendant.

A sentencing memorandum filed by Walter Bressler’s attorney revealed new details about his involvement in a mortgage scheme prosecutors say cheated homeowners out of their homes and defrauded millions from banks.

Bressler, now of Frisco, Texas, is scheduled to be sentenced for his role in the scheme April 10, but a motion filed Wednesday asked a judge to postpone the hearing because Bressler is helping prosecutors in their case against Michael Prieto, another former Nashua man, according to court documents.

Prieto, who prosecutors say was the architect of the scheme, was only recently indicted and could go to a trial sometime this year, according to court documents. He pleaded not guilty to fraud charges earlier this month.

Also this week, Bressler’s attorneys filed their recommendation for his sentencing along with more than 30 pages of letters from Bressler’s family, friends, co-workers and bosses singing his praises.

Bressler is hoping to get five years of probation, including two years of house arrest during which he would be able to leave home only for work.

He also suggests he be responsible for more than $3.6 million in restitution along with his co-defendants and to be required to do 500 hours of community service during his probation, according to court documents.

In the motion, Bressler points out that another scheme participant, Richard Winefield, was sentenced recently and received three years of probation, including three months of house arrest, according to the motion.

Bressler was a patsy in Prieto’s plan, according to the motion.

He even encouraged his family members to invest with Prieto and took on substantial debt when they ended up saddled with foreclosures on their credit histories, according to the motion.

Bressler knew mortgage documents being submitted to banks weren’t accurate but left the program when he learned the mortgages weren’t being paid and homeowners were losing their homes, according to the motion.

The millions generated by the scheme all went to Prieto, according to the motion, and Bressler made about $50,000 during his year-plus involvement.

Prosecutors claim Prieto and others sought out homeowners who were having trouble making ends meet and offered to buy the property, take over the loan and rent the home back to homeowners.

They also contracted to let the homeowner buy the home back later, at a higher price, although no homeowner was ever able to do so, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gunnison said.

Meanwhile, and without the homeowners knowing it, Gunnison said, the conspirators were flipping the homes, selling them at inflated prices to bogus straw buyers who had taken out much larger loans.

Those larger loans paid off the original mortgages and were then defaulted on while the difference, often tens of thousands of dollars, was pocketed, according to court documents.

The indictments accuse Prieto of overseeing the entire enterprise.

Prieto has long maintained his innocence. In previous interviews, he said that there was no scheme, but rather a refinancing program intended to help struggling homeowners, which would have worked if they paid their agreed-upon rent.

Prosecutors say dozens of New Hampshire homeowners, including at least one in Nashua, were targeted by the conspiracy.

Bressler has cooperated with prosecutors since the outset of the investigation, according to the sentencing motion filed this week.

He also cooperated with Texas authorities in their investigation in David Malloy. Bressler worked for Malloy in Cash Rewards ponzi scheme briefly in 2006 and helped prosecutors convict Malloy, who is now serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for stealing more than $7 million, according to the motion.

The letters attached to the motion came from Bressler’s wife, Stacie, as well as his bosses at Kinder Reese Real Estate Partners, current and former co-workers, and friends in Nashua and Texas, including his high school prom data and college football teammate.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).