After deliberating for less than three hours Friday, a jury rejected a Medford man's defense that he didn't know it was wrong to enter homes that were in foreclosure, fix them up and rent them out.
Paul Salamone's defense revolved largely around his ignorance over rightful ownership of seven Suffolk houses in foreclosure. Defense attorney Eric Naiburg of Central Islip had asked jurors not to convict his client for being stupid.
But jurors convicted Salamone, 28, of all charges - first-degree scheme to defraud, seven counts of third-degree burglary and other charges in a scheme that netted him more than $8,500.
After the verdict was read, prosecutor Marc Lindemann asked that Salamone, who had been free on $250,000 bail, be taken into custody.
Naiburg argued that Salamone has not fled since his August arrest and has been on time for his court appearances.
Judge James Hudson said the conviction changes things: "You are no longer a defendant. Your title now is convict . . . criminal." He ordered Salamone be held on $500,000 cash bail or $1-million bond.
Court officers handcuffed Salamone and led him away as his girlfriend, pregnant with their second child, sobbed in the back of the courtroom.
She left without commenting
As Naiburg exited the Riverhead courthouse, he called the decision the "worst verdict I've heard in maybe 20 years."
Jurors congratulated Lindemann, saying they were surprised it was his first felony trial. Juror Nicole Knight, 38, of Brentwood, said the challenge was understanding the law and that the decision "wasn't easy."
Salamone faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced next month.