How a grandma helped commit a $70M real estate fraud scheme

For this grandma, getting run over by a reindeer is the least of her worries this holiday season. The 75-year-old woman was sentenced to 14 years in prison for her role in a massive real estate fraud scheme.

For this grandma, getting run over by a reindeer is the least of her worries this holiday season.

Mae Rabuffo, 75, was sentenced last week to 14 years in prison for being an accessory in her ex-husband’s $71.6 million real estate fraud scheme.

Rabuffo, who claimed to have been ‘blinded by love’, was sentenced as a co-conspirator according to the Sun Sentinel.

"She, just like many others, has been conned by a man who only comes around and pretends to be part of our family when it benefited him. Unfortunately for my grandmother's trusting and caring nature, she was duped," her grandson, Domenick Lagomarsine, a New York City police officer, wrote Chief U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore.

However, witnesses described her as the one who controlled the cash.

"It's no one's fault but her own," Federal Prosecutor Dwayne Williams told the judge. "Mae Rabuffo has never been prepared to accept any responsibility for what she did in this fraud scheme."
Domenico Rabuffo began the bank fraud and wire scheme in 2003 according to the FBI. Through shell companies, Domenico and Mae owned a residential development called Hampton Springs in Cashiers, North Carolina.

Straw borrowers purchased building lots in the area and obtained building and construction loans through fraudulent loan applications the Rabuffo’s managed. According to the Sun Sentinel, straw buyers were paid $12,500.

Domenico is currently serving his sentenced 27 years and three months for the crime.

Mae wrote a letter to the judge explaining why she stayed with her conning ex-husband and hid money and other assets for him. She also apologized in court, even though she says she will be appealing her conviction and punishment.

"I am very embarrassed to think I fell for his ability to make a fool of me," she wrote according to the Sun Sentinel.

Mae’s lawyer said Domenico kept her in the dark and colluded with others to forge her signature on documents. But she does admit to signing some of the papers.

According to letters written by relatives seeking her release, Mae has spent the last few months knitting baby clothes in her cell.