A former Long Island lawyer was arrested by FBI agents early Friday morning on charges of orchestrating a $2.3-million mortgage fraud.
The arrest of the lawyer, Leesa Shapiro, at her Manhattan apartment, was one of the latest around the country in a still-continuing federal crackdown on mortgage fraud known as "Operation Stolen Dreams." The operation has been quietly going on since March, according to officials.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in going public with the overall investigation on Thursday, said that as of that day, 485 people had been arrested in frauds allegedly involving $2.3 billion in losses.
Shapiro, who also used the name Leesa Willett and Leesa Shapiro-Willett, had operated most of the alleged fraud while she was living in Syosset between 2005 and 2008, according to officials.
U.S. Magistrate E. Thomas Boyle in Central Islip released her after an initial hearing on $2.5-million bail. Shapiro's attorney, Kenneth Kaplan of Manhattan, declined to comment, as did Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Burton Ryan.
According to an FBI arrest warrant, Shapiro used a number of techniques to illegally enrich herself, pocketing a million dollars of the mortgage money obtained through fraud. Much of the money was transferred overseas "to hide assets from New York State courts" while she in the midst of a divorce, according to the warrant.
In one case, according to the warrant, Shapiro told her then-live-in baby-sitter and tennis instructor in Syosset that she would pay that person $10,000 to act as the straw buyer on a home in Springfield Gardens.
Meanwhile, for another defendant, attorney Brandon Lisi, 36, Thursday's indictment meant the Dix Hills man is now having to defend himself - with the help of his own lawyer Randy Zelin of Westbury - against a total of four criminal cases.
The latest was a superseding indictment unveiled Thursday in federal court in Manhattan that beefed up an earlier indictment accusing Lisi, former attorney Dustin Dente, 38, of West Islip, and two other men of using straw buyers to get fraudulent mortgage loans for properties on Long Island and New York.
Since two prior Suffolk County cases and now two sets of federal charges have some common allegations and some common properties, Zelin thinks officials should have one trial, though he is ready for four trials.
Dente's attorney, Lawrence Ruggiero, didn't return a call for comment.