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Bayville Broker Implicated in Mortgage Fraud Case

A 46-year-old mortgage broker from Bayville is one of 10 suspects facing wire fraud conspiracy in connection with what federal agents believe is a $40,000,000 mortgage fraud scheme involving 10 defendants.

Joe Raedle, Getty Images

Robert Serao is accused of processing fake mortgage loan applications submitted by straw buyers with good credit but insufficient funds to qualify. Investigators say the suspects produced bogus IRS returns, W-2 forms and investment statements to ensure approvals, and divided money supplied by lenders.

Joseph Witkowski, 66, of Flemington, is believed to be the central figure in the plan. He faces a wire fraud conspiracy count and an additional charge of attempted money laundering.

Witkowski and Serao were arrested today along with Isatu Tejan-Sie, 54, of Long Branch; Catherine Pearson, 53, of West Orange; Karen Yokely, 59, of Plainfield; George Lachenmayr, Jr., 79, of Irvington; Aku I. Muhammad, 42, of Newark; Mark Kreischer, 33, of Elmwood Park; and Marc Jacobs, 47, of Hackettstown. Still being sought is Crystal Brame, 42, of Irvington.

The scheme, say investigators, targeted dormant oceanfront condos at the Jersey Shore, in South Carolina and in Georgia in the hands of financially-strapped developers.

Money supplied by mortgage lenders after approvals were divided among the conspirators, according to findings in the probe, being wired or deposited by check into several accounts, with part of the proceeds being doled out to others involved in peripheral roles.

The case is being heard in Camden.

The wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and fines as high as $1,000,000 on conviction. A guilty finding for money laundering conspiracy could mean an additional 10-year prison term and fines upwards of $250,000.

U. S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman says that several people who weren’t charged in the indictment have already admitted tangential roles. They include Stephen F. Corba, 36, of Farmingdale; Charles Harvath, 33, of Lodi; and William Brown, 60, of Newark.

Brown is scheduled for sentencing September 6. Sentencing is not yet scheduled for Corba or Harvath.

Two more defendants have pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy by admitting roles as straw buyers: John Siuszko, 56, of Wharton; and Michael Williams, 34, of Jersey City.

Siuszko was sentenced in June to 18 months in prison plus two years supervised release. He was also ordered to forfeit $40,000 and pay a $5,000 fine. Williams’s sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

The probe was carried out under Fishman’s direction by FBI and Internal Revenue agents in Newark, Atlantic City, Mays Landing, and Hilton Head and Columbia, South Carolina.

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