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Jury convicts 4 in mortgage scam

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published April 13. 2011 4:00AM
Fate of fifth defendant undecided in fraud centered in New London region

Hartford - After a nearly monthlong trial that included four days of deliberations, a U.S. District Court jury on Tuesday convicted four of the five defendants charged in a massive mortgage-fraud scheme centered in New London.

Among those found guilty were Waterford painting contractor Rab Nawaz, 47, convicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, eight counts of wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. Former Pfizer Inc. scientist Wendy Werner, 46, who listed a New London address on loan documents but now lives in Sarasota, Fla., was also convicted, on one conspiracy count and one count of mail fraud.

Others found guilty included Morris Olmer, 82, of New Haven, a former attorney and one-time state representative, who was convicted of one conspiracy count, eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of making a false statement. Home seller Marshall Asmar, 40, of Milford, was convicted of one conspiracy count, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of making a false statement.

The jury could not decide on the guilt or innocence of attorney David Avigdor, 57, a prominent New Haven rabbi. No decision has been made on whether to re-try the case against Avigdor.

Those convicted face up to five years in prison for each conspiracy and false-statement charge, as many as 10 years for the obstruction count and up to 20 years on the wire and mail fraud charges. Sentencing will be July 1.

The mortgage scam, masterminded by Syed A. "Ali" Babar of New London, involved about three dozen properties throughout Connecticut. Loans for the various properties, including those in Norwich, Groton and New London, amounted to more than $10 million, of which an estimated $3.2 million was lost through fraudulently inflated appraisals, shady sellers and so-called straw buyers - purchasers in name only - who conspired to walk away from the homes almost as soon as the closings were held.

Babar, along with appraiser Thomas Gallagher and mortgage broker Nathan Russo, already have pleaded guilty in the scam and are awaiting sentencing, as is straw buyer and fake-document producer Kenneth Perkins of Groton, along with others.

Nawaz, Babar's uncle, sold three homes in New London as part of the scam. He later urged Perkins, one of the homebuyers, to lie to authorities about his knowledge of the conspiracy, without knowing that Perkins - a friend of Babar's - by that time had agreed to cooperate with the FBI and was wearing a wire.

Werner sold three homes on Lake Street in Norwich for a more than $700,000 profit, according to prosecutors, later kicking back $283,000 to Babar, according to evidence presented in court. Two of those indicted for being straw buyers in the Norwich scheme, Mohammad Saleem and Rehan Qamer, have yet to be apprehended.

l.howard@theday.com

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