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PrisonA lawyer who helped a gang of mortgage scammers steal $23 million from banks pleaded guilty to seven felonies on Wednesday as part of the federal government’s larger crackdown on loan fraud.

Cheddi Goberdhan, a lawyer in Queens, New York, admitted that he committed bank fraud and wire fraud by helping mortgage brokers at GuyAmerican Funding obtain mortgage loans for straw buyers, according to an FBI press release. The buyers usually had either low or no income, so Goberdhan sent false documents to banks overstating their assets, allowing the buyers to purchase multiple properties at one time.

The banks sent millions of dollars’ worth of loans to Goberdahn, who used the money to pay small bribes to the buyers, keeping the rest for himself and his co-conspirators. The scheme eventually netted Goberdahn and others $23 million. Goberdahn’s wife owned the title company that made many of the transactions, which helped cover up the fraud.

“Cheddi Goberdhan carried out an elaborate subterfuge designed to steal millions of dollars in home mortgage loans,” Preet Bharara, Manhattan U.S. Attorney, said in a press release. “Instead of serving as the gatekeeper whom the banks relied upon to prevent fraud, he abused his position of trust to line his own pockets.”

The successful case against Goberdhan is part of a larger investigation called “Operation Bad Deeds,” in which federal, state and local law enforcement agents arrested 41 people in four states in connection with allegations of mortgage fraud committed in New York. The operation uncovered a “veritable smorgasbord of scams,” Bahara said in Oct. 2009, when the arrests were made. “They run the gamut from equity stripping to bogus foreclosure rescues, phony loan applications to fake property flips.”

Six other conspirators already have pleaded guilty, according to the FBI statement.  Two were convicted after trials, and two more have not yet been arrested and remain fugitives. Goberdahn faces a maximum of 210 years in prison for his role in the scam, and he will be forced to repay the money he stole. He will be sentenced in April.

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