December 21, 2011 [Arlene Fine, Cleveland Jewish News]
Called a “mortgage fraud predator and a hoodlum,” by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, Beachwood resident Uri Gofman pleaded guilty Dec. 21, to mortgage fraud crimes. He faces up to 99 months in prison and will be sentenced Feb. 1, by Common Pleas Judge Daniel Gaul.
According to a release from Mason’s office, Gofman’s dealings covered over 500 illegal real estate transactions totaling $50 million, $44 million in fraudulent loans and $31 million in profits.
Gofman, 39, pleaded guilty to 11 counts including: one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity; one count of theft, two counts of money laundering; one count of telecommunications fraud, and six counts of tampering with records. The Real Asset Fund and Karka, Inc. were Gofman’s business entities that owned and or controlled the real estate.
Also pleading guilty was Anthony Capuozzo, 41, of Concord.
Eight months ago a federal jury found Gofman and his partner Tony Viola of Cleveland Heights guilty of conspiracy and wire-fraud charges.
Gofman and others defrauded lenders through loan application fraud, down payment fraud and loan distribution fraud. He agreed to pay $1 million in restitution, forfeit $600,000 in seized cash, forfeit 43 houses valued at $4.1 million in real estate to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank and cooperate in future prosecutions.
Gofman’s enterprise began with seed money from an investor who transferred funds from an Eastern European bank account in Latvia. His typical scheme involved setting up straw buyers to purchase homes; falsely claiming home improvements were performed or inflated the value of improvements on houses in order to refinance them. He then sold the houses to unqualified buyers with assistance of real estate agents, mortgage brokers, and title companies.
“These criminals deserve every year in prison that they receive,” said Mason. “While illegally making money, they were devastating our neighborhoods with foreclosures.”
“We thought it was in the best interest of Mr. Gofman, his family and his community to take responsibility for his part in these transactions, which we feel were overstated by the county prosecutor,” said Attorney Michael J. Goldberg of Goldberg Law Firm, the lead attorney for Gofman’s defense. “Mr. Gofman did make mistakes and did things that created criminal liability, but we needed to take a plea to try to minimize the effect this has had on his family.”
The federal and state case against Gofman are being worked out together, said Goldberg. “There could be deductions in his sentence that could result in his release in potentially 6 1/2 years,” said Goldberg.
Gofman and his wife are the parents of three young children. He was born in the Ukraine and is a graduate of Cleveland Heights High School where he was a National Honor Society member. He is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
“Mr. Gofman has an excellent attitude and outlook and is not the person he has been portrayed to be by the media,” said Goldberg.