Round two of three trials for former Suffolk Legis. George Guldi on fraud charges is scheduled to begin in about a month.
Guldi, a Democrat, was convicted in February of insurance fraud and grand larceny and is now serving a sentence of 4 to 12 years. He was also a defendant with three others in a 130-count mortgage fraud case, but Suffolk County Court Judge James F.X. Doyle in Riverhead Monday split the case into three parts at the request of prosecutors.
One trial, with co-defendant Brandon Lisi, 37, of Dix Hills, is scheduled to go first. Lisi, like Guldi, is a lawyer.
Another trial, with married co-defendants Donald MacPherson, 67, and Carrie Coakley, 40, both of Manhattan, will be tried later. MacPherson also faces charges on his own.
It's all part of what District Attorney Thomas Spota has called the largest mortgage fraud ring ever in Suffolk, involving the sale of 60 homes and a total theft of more than $80 million. Guldi, 59, of Westhampton Beach, served as a lawyer in many of the transactions, prosecutors have said. MacPherson and Coakley recruited straw buyers, including clients and employees at The Dungeon in Manhattan, where Coakley was head dominatrix, according to prosecutors.
The defendants are accused of using straw buyers to purchase homes in foreclosure, but not paying off the banks, essentially stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from them, prosecutors have said.
Guldi, who again is representing himself, appeared in court in handcuffs with his head shaved. Assistant District Attorney Thalia Stavrides said her office had delivered five boxes of documents to the jail for Guldi's review in preparation for his next trial. She also dismissed 53 counts of the indictment against him to make it easier to understand for jurors. But if convicted of all remaining counts, Guldi could be subject to the same punishment.
Guldi and his co-defendants' attorneys all opposed the motions to split the case up and dismiss counts. Steven Wilutis of Miller Place, MacPherson's attorney, agreed the case would have taken months to try and would have been almost incomprehensible to a jury, but he added that would be Stavrides' problem.
It will still be a challenge for Guldi's co-defendants as he represents himself. "It's going to be a mess," Wilutis said. "The first time Guldi asks a question and says the word 'I,' I'm going to move for a mistrial."
In effect, Wilutis said that when Guldi questions witnesses about his own actions, Guldi would be testifying -- yet Wilutis won't necessarily have the opportunity to cross-examine him if Guldi doesn't take the witness stand.
In the insurance fraud trial, that wasn't an issue because Guldi was the only defendant.