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Pinellas real estate investor convicted of fraud

TAMPA — A Pinellas County investor accused of illegally profitting from bogus real estate deals was convicted of mortgage fraud Tuesday, according to a news release from the United States Attorney's office, Middle District of Florida.

A federal jury found Christopher Alan Stapleton, 41, of Clearwater Beach, guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and three counts of making false statements to a federally-insured financial institution.

He faces up to 95 years in federal prison when he is sentenced Oct. 29.

Stapleton "pocketed millions of dollars in excess loan proceeds," according to the release.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Stapleton inflated contract purchase prices and his own monthly income to get loan approval from various mortgage lenders. When the lenders approved the loans and disbursed more money than the true contract purchase prices, Stapleton paid the sellers, then kept remaining funds.

Two other people were charged in connection with the case. William Straub Jr., a former mortgage broker in Pinellas County, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution in December 2009. And Warren Jay Knaust, an attorney in Pinellas County who acted as title agent in the transactions, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution Aug. 6.

Knaust's sentencing is also scheduled for Oct. 29. Straub's sentencing date has not been set.

Pinellas real estate investor convicted of fraud 08/17/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 6:40pm]
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