Phoenix man convicted in mortgage fraud scheme

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PHOENIX -- A real estate investor from Phoenix has been convicted in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme.

Federal prosecutors say 51-year-old Mario Bernadel was convicted Tuesday on 19 counts that included mail fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 30.

Prosecutors say Bernadel played a leadership role in the scheme that involved at least 32 residential properties in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Authorities say the objective of the conspiracy was to recruit unqualified borrowers as straw buyers, submit fraudulent loan applications on their behalf, obtain mortgage loans in excess of the selling price of the property and then take the excess amount of the loans out through escrow in what is know as a "cash back" scheme.

Prosecutors say 40 defendants were indicted and arrested, including many real estate professionals in June 2008, and Bernadel is the 20th defendant to be convicted so far.

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