PLEASURE AND PAIN
The facts of the insurance fraud case are that Guldi’s father’s Westhampton Beach home at 9 Griffing Ave. burned down in November 2008. Guldi got a check for $863,473.30 from the insurance company, American International Group (AIG), payable to Countrywide Mortgage and himself. Instead of going into an escrow account, paying off the delinquent mortgage and financing the rebuilding, the check wound up endorsed to Guldi and deposited in a Manhattan bank account.
Five months after he and the others were charged with the $82-million mortgage fraud, Guldi was arrested a second time and charged with forging Countrywide’s endorsement and stealing the money from AIG. Interestingly, the district attorney chose to try this case first.
And so, on a cold Monday in February, Guldi mocked the prosecution’s “crap for evidence” and derided Ellner as “the most truthful criminal in the world.” Ellner had testified that while he was in Guldi’s Ford Excursion, Guldi told him he was going to defraud the insurance company. Guldi’s defense was an impressive performance, at least to this observer, made more poignant because Guldi’s siblings were spending the day at the Westminster Dog Show in Manhattan where his sister had a prize-winning dread-locked Puli competing for the judges’ attention.
When it was the prosecutor’s turn, Stavrides made quick dispatch of Guldi’s claims, reminding the jury that everything he said in his summation was “not under oath.” She jabbed her finger at Guldi, seated behind her about six feet away and said, “He not only knew it was wrong, he knew it was criminal.”
After the jurors left for the day, Guldi told Stavrides that “it’s been a pleasure and we should do this again sometime!”
He then wished her a Happy Valentine’s Day, which brought a smirk to her lips and a terse, “Thank you.”
The $82 million mortgage fraud provoked one East End journalist to say, “This is almost the kind of scam you wish you’d thought of.” And like Bernie Madoff, “you’d never get caught if the market hadn’t collapsed.”
Prominent among the defendants is Douglas MacPherson, a dashing real estate investor in the East End who owned Magic’s Pub, the Artful Dodger, the Sunset Café, the Seabreeze Motel, and 40 private homes, mostly in Westhampton and Quogue. He’s also the provocative publisher of the SoHo Journal, and with his wife, Carrie Coakley, ran the Arena Studio, which, according to its website, “has been involved in the transformation of the New York City fetish scene for the past 18 years.
“Our performances and events, most notably the world-famous Black & Blue Ball, kept us at the forefront of the bd/sm [bondage and discipline/sadism and masochism] scene in NYC & beyond,” the website reads.
The Broome Street studio is currently closed, but those interested in renting props from them such as batons, clamps, medieval torture, leashes and collars, masks and blindfolds, paddles, whips, crops, cuffs, floggers, canes, dungeon décor and “medical & dental” (including “examination tables, doctor bags, dental mirrors, scissors and even a kidney-shaped pan…”) may still find what they’re looking for on their website.
The district attorney has alleged MacPherson and company (Guldi was his lawyer) would recruit participants in their scam from the denizens of the Arena Studios, offering them $20,000 a piece for the use of their names on the titles.
(When this case was first reported, New York Magazine ran the teasing headline: “You WILL Take On This Mortgage, You Little Worm.”) According to Spota, the defendants relied on “straw purchasers” to file false loan applications “persuading lenders, including JPMorgan Chase, Washington Mutual and Bank of America, into loaning tens of millions of dollars in mortgages that…are all in default.”
All of those charged have pleaded not guilty.
“Everyone who claims their identities were stolen were partners,” MacPherson told Dan’s Papers in 2009. “Some invested in houses with me, some purchased properties and I made agreements so they could manage them.”
MacPherson’s attorney in this case, Steven Wilutis, told the Daily News in 2009: “The rental market went bad in the East End, the houses couldn’t be rented and went into foreclosure.”
Whether Spota’s office will be able to match his conviction rate in Guldi’s four-count trial with the 130 counts in this mammoth real estate fraud case remains to be seen, but the proceedings will prove riveting indeed.