A Suffolk mortgage fraud investigation that began about two years...

A Suffolk mortgage fraud investigation that began about two years ago has grown to ensnare dozens of defendants accused of bilking lenders out of more than $15 million. Credit: iStock

A mortgage fraud investigation that began about two years ago has grown to ensnare dozens of defendants, who were led by three lawyers accused of bilking lenders out of more than $15 million before the real estate market collapsed, the Suffolk district attorney's office said Tuesday.

Eighteen defendants pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges contained in an indictment with more than 300 counts. For the past couple of weeks, numerous other defendants have been charged in the indictment, and prosecutors say other arrests are expected in the weeks to come.

"Criminal manipulation of residential lending has had a lot to do with the circumstances of our current economic crisis," said District Attorney Thomas Spota. "Those involved in swindling lenders have put entire neighborhoods at risk by leaving empty, foreclosed homes in their wake."

Almost half of the more than 50 properties in the indictment are in Brentwood and Central Islip.

Prosecutors say Robert Ibraham, 42, an Oakdale attorney, used fraudulent contracts, settlement statements and title reports to gain more than $6 million from the sale of 23 properties. He and Valdas Duoba, 68, a Northport lawyer, represented purchasers and sellers on dozens of the fraudulent transactions, prosecutors say.

Duoba made $5 million on 19 fraudulent sales, prosecutors said.

"We will win this case, because he is not guilty," said Duoba's attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge.

Ibraham's lawyer, Robert Altschuler of Manhattan, could not be reached for comment.

The third attorney charged, Craig Hecht, 44, of Mount Sinai, is accused of providing fraudulent title reports and selling properties to straw buyers with falsified qualifications. Prosecutors say he made $1.5 million.

Hecht's attorney, William Wexler of North Babylon, said it was too early in such a complex case to evaluate it.

All have pleaded not guilty.

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