Prosecutors Decline to Retry Mortgage Fraud Defendants Whose Trial Ended With Hung Jury
A recent news item caught my eye as a Miami mortgage fraud defense lawyer, because it signals a victory for two people accused of mortgage fraud. According to the Miami Herald, prosecutors decided last week not to retry attorney Steven Stoll and former Plantation police officer Dennis Guaracino for their parts in an alleged mortgage fraud scheme. The two were accused of conspiring with Guaracino’s brother Joseph Guaracino, also a former Plantation police officer, to buy and flip properties, defrauding banks out of more than $16 million. All three were tried this year, but the trial ended in September with a hung jury. Two other police officers were convicted, but three more and an FBI agent were acquitted in the scheme. A pair of mortgage brokers reached plea deals. The announcement said prosecutors would retry Joseph Guaracino, but not the other two.
Numerous current and former police officers were involved in the alleged scheme, which led investigators to call their investigation “Operation Copout.” Joseph Guaracino ran a company called The Home Buyers Group, and Stoll owned a mortgage brokerage firm called The Lending House. They were accused of orchestrating the fraud through their companies, by having buyers lie about their income and intent to live in the home on loan applications. The mortgage brokers who plea-bargained, who worked for Stoll, testified that they forged documents for those loans. Joseph Guaracino was frequently given an ownership stake in the homes after closing, and the homes would then be flipped for profit. At the trial, Stoll and the Guaracinos pointed out that the brokers who testified against them had admitted to large amounts of fraud, and claimed that they didn’t know about or condone it.
As a Florida mortgage fraud defense attorney, I suspect these two defendants are not being retried because they have a fairly strong case. Observers outside the criminal justice system often forget that the standard for convicting someone is quite high: the charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If the jury in the previous case hung, it suggests that at least some jurors had reasonable doubts about the defendants’ guilt. And these had to be strong reasonable doubts, because throwing away the entire trial meant throwing away 54 days of their time. Prosecutors are still planning to retry Joseph Guaraino, so they likely believe the evidence against him is stronger — perhaps because he was running The Home Buyers Group. As a Fort Lauderdale mortgage fraud defense lawyer, I suspect prosecutors will need new allegations or stronger allegations against him if they want a different outcome.
Seltzer Law, P.A., represents people who are accused of mortgage fraud or related crimes like wire fraud in Florida. If you or someone you love is facing these serious charges, call us today for a free, confidential case evaluation. You can send us a message online or call toll-free at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).
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