Man sentenced for role in mortgage scheme; alleged ringleader from Nashua awaits trial
CONCORD – A man was sentenced to prison Thursday as part of a mortgage scheme that bilked dozens of New Hampshire
homeowners, at least one in Nashua.
Meanwhile, the trial of a former Nashua man accused of running the scheme has been delayed again, this time until June.
In U.S. District Court on Thursday, Walter Bressler was sentenced to 14 months in prison and three years of supervised release on a charge of mail fraud. Bressler will be allowed to serve the sentence at a prison near his home in Texas, according to the court.
Bressler also was ordered to pay a share of roughly $3.57 million restitution.
The scheme’s alleged ringleader, former Nashua resident Michael Prieto, is scheduled to stand trial in June. The trial date has been postponed at least twice.
In February, Prieto’s attorneys requested a delay, citing the mountain of evidence they must review to prepare for trial.
That evidence includes more than 94,000 pages of evidence from prosecutors and another terabyte –
more than 1,000 gigabytes –
of documents detailing the 65 real-estate deals the government accuses Prieto of manipulating.
Prieto has pleaded not guilty to one count of mail fraud and 10 counts of money laundering. Investigators say he coordinated a complicated mortgage scheme from offices in Manchester, controlled a
number of employees and agents, and identified struggling homeowners to target.
Prieto has long maintained he was running a legitimate program. It wasn’t a scam, he has said in previous interviews, but a refinancing program intended to help struggling homeowners. He said it would have done so if
homeowners had paid their agreed-upon rent.
“The agreement and the program … was not a scam,” Prieto previously told The Telegraph. “It was designed for its purpose, which was helping people pay off their debts, giving them breathing room, giving them an opportunity to stay in their homes for two years.”
Prieto said it was a genuine effort to help people with debts. He noted, as have prosecutors, that they also paid off other creditors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gunnison told Judge Steven McAuliffe that the program was part of a long-running criminal conspiracy whose members defrauded lenders and homeowners across New Hampshire.
Along with Bressler, Sadie Stanhope Ng and Richard Winefield have pleaded guilty for their role in the scheme, according to court documents.
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, 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.
Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Meighan on Twitter (@Telegraph_PatM).