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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | On Mon., Feb. 27, Donald MacPherson, the publisher of the Soho Journal, was sentenced in Suffolk County Court to four to 12 years in prison for his leading role in a massive mortgage fraud involving mostly Hamptons properties.
MacPherson, 68, his wife, Carrie Coakley, 41, former county legislator George Guldi and others schemed to defraud mortgage lenders out of an estimated $82 million in a scheme that dated back to 2002, according to Thomas Spota, the Suffolk County district attorney.
“JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other lenders were swindled by this defendant and his associates, who arranged for the filing of mortgage applications that were filled with fraud, specifically false employer information supplied to straw purchasers, forged notary signatures and falsified powers of attorney and fictional bank balances,” Spota said. “Every one of these mortgages for some 60 homes ended up in default. The defendants’ greed inflicted massive economic damage to the banking industry and the regional economy.”
The swindled banks are now trying to recover the money: Spota said that, on Monday, the District Attorney’s Office secured 34 restitution judgment orders against MacPherson, totaling $44 million on behalf of the victimized lenders.
On Nov. 16, MacPherson pleaded guilty to 45 counts of grand larceny, scheme to defraud, insurance fraud and other charges in what was deemed the largest mortgage fraud in Hamptons history.
According to Spota, MacPherson, Guldi and their collaborators engaged in “mortgage washing” and “title stacking,” in which they took out multiple mortgages on the same properties. MacPherson used “straw buyers,” who cited phony, inflated incomes, to obtain the mortgages; these individuals were, in fact, clients of a Soho S&M dungeon used by a dominatrix, MacPherson’s wife, Carrie Coakley, according to Spota.
Coakley pleaded guilty in December to grand larceny in the second degree and scheme to defraud in the first degree and will be sentenced March 8.
MacPherson’s co-defendant Guldi is incarcerated in Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County, N.Y. Guldi was previously convicted of insurance fraud and grand larceny charges involving a fire at his own house, for which Judge James F.X. Doyle sentenced the ex-lawmaker to four to 12 years in prison. Five months later, Doyle sentenced Guldi to a concurrent one-to-three-year sentence for his role in the mortgage fraud ring with MacPherson.
Robert Clifford, a spokesperson for the Suffolk D.A., said MacPherson had been held in jail since pleading guilty in November.
“He is now incarcerated in the county jail,” Clifford said. “He’ll be transferred to an Upstate prison in a week or two, and the state Department of Corrections will determine the state prison he’s sent to to serve his time.”
Clifford said, on Monday, in an attempt to postpone the sentencing, MacPherson’s attorney presented a letter in court from the defendant’s cardiologist, claiming MacPherson is under a doctor’s care. But Judge Doyle reminded the attorney that there are medical facilities and resources available in the jail should MacPherson need them.
On Tuesday, a call placed to MacPherson’s cell phone was answered by his wife.
“He’s not here right now,” she said. Told by a reporter that he’d heard MacPherson had been sentenced, she acknowledged, “Yesterday.”
Asked if she had anything to say about it, she said, “No comment.”
The reporter noted that Coakley had also pleaded guilty, to which she responded, “I actually have to go right now. Have a great day,” and hung up.
In a follow-up call, Coakley was asked if, with MacPherson in lockup, the Soho Journal will now continue to publish.
“Really, I can’t make any comments on anything until after I’m sentenced. Take care,” she said, and ended the call.
MacPherson, who lives on Varick St. near the Holland Tunnel entrance, was a member of Community Board 2 from 2001 to 2008. He seriously considered a run for board chairperson in 2006, but conceded to Maria Passannante-Derr when he saw he didn’t have enough support among the board’s 50 volunteer members to win election.
During his aborted campaign, during which he ran as a reformer, he said, “There are several issues that I think have not been addressed [by C.B. 2]: Air quality in Lower Manhattan, pollution; billboards and the proliferation of signs; the inability to cross a street with a baby carriage without being run over by a truck or an 18-wheeler; and liquor licenses — being ignored by the State Liquor Authority, the saturation of Soho.”
Neighbors in his Varick St. building described him as a doting father to his young children. A handyman said MacPherson was the place’s biggest tipper, and added that he personally didn’t care if MacPherson was ripping off banks, as opposed to Bernie Madoff, who stole people’s lifetime savings.