(Cleveland) - A Florida man who investigators contend was involved in a major cleveland-area house-flipping scheme has pleaded guilty to 11 charges and will have to pay $1 million in restitution.
Prosecutors said 44-year-old Blaine Murphy was involved in flipping 235 houses by filing forged deeds, a scheme that ravaged neighborhoods by causing a decline in property values.
Invesigators maintain, Murphy was the key participant in a nationwide scam from 2005 through 2010 that included the purchase and sale of real estate in many states with the most activity occurring in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Texas.
They say the purpose of the scam was to make a quick profit by selling houses in Cuyahoga County which was done by filing forged deeds and engaging in related conduct.
Of the 235 houses sold in Cuyahoga County, 186 properties were in Cleveland, 31 properties in East Cleveland, five properties in Warrensville Heights, four properties in Euclid, three properties in Cleveland Heights, three properties in Shaker Heights, two properties in Maple Heights, and one property in Garfield Heights.
A total of 96 properties fell into tax foreclosure for a total tax delinquency amount of $1,032,849.84.
According to investigators, the scam existed in two phases. First, acquisitions were made with little or no regard for the condition of each property.
In his quest to make a fast profit, Murphy ignored property code violations and payments of taxes at the expense of these communities in Cuyahoga County.
Secondly, Murphy sold these properties in bulk or individually for a quick profit to various buyers, essentially in the same manner as these properties were acquired.
The forgeries hid the real identity of Murphy and made it difficult, if not impossible, for communities in Cuyahoga County to make contact with the individual or individuals responsible for the condition and maintenance of the properties.
Murphy pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of telecommunications fraud and 10 counts of tampering with records. But his attorney claims Murphy, formerly of Naples, Florida pleaded guilty to the charges because he used a pseudonym to sign deeds to 10 homes, not because he was involved in illegal house-flipping.
Racketeering charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement. Murphy will be sentenced May 8.
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