Former NJ lawyer guilty in $40.8 million scam

A former lawyer and 10 co-conspirators have pleaded guilty to orchestrating a massive scam

A former New Jersey lawyer has pleaded guilty to participating in a $40.8 million mortgage scam.

Joseph W. Witkowski, 68, pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the US Attorney’s Office. To date, 10 of his co-conspirators have pleaded guilty to participating in the scam.

According to prosecutors, Witkowski and his co-conspirators found oceanfront condominiums built in New Jersey by financially distressed developers and properties owned by financially distressed New Jersey homeowners, as well as properties in Georgia and South Carolina. They then recruited straw buyers to purchase the properties.

Prosecutors say the scammers generated phony documents to make the straw buyers look more creditworthy, as well as establishing phone lines specifically to provide phony employment verification. Once the loan proceeds were disbursed, Witkowski and his co-conspirators diverted some of the cash into accounts they controlled.

Witkowski could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the wire fraud conspiracy charge and up to 10 years and a $250,000 fine for the money laundering conspiracy charge. He has already agreed to forfeit more than $2.4 million, his share of the fraud proceeds. Scheduled for sentencing in November, he is currently free on bail.