Last of 8 accused home swindlers convicted

The last defendant in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud case that officials say swindled four Westchester County families out of their homes was convicted of theft, fraud and conspiracy today.

A jury found Mildred Didio of Manhattan (left) guilty of four counts of second-degree grand larceny and one count each of first-degree scheme to defraud and fourth-degree conspiracy. All the charges are felonies.

She faces a maximum of 15 years in state prison when she is sentenced on Jan. 25. She also could be sentenced to a minimum of five years’ probation.

Prosecutors said Didio was involved in a group of eight who stripped homes from families in Croton-on-Hudson, Yorktown, Cortlandt and Mount Vernon; and scammed two mortgage lenders out of $1.4 million. All were arrested in 2009.

The group told victims, who they found through notices of public auction and foreclosure, that they could transfer their deeds to an investor, who would hold the titles while they saved money to reclaim their home.

But once the “investor” took title, the group’s members got inflated mortgages, which they used to pay off the original mortgage and kept the remainder for themselves. The former owners have filed lawsuits to try to reclaim their losses.

Didio, 46, represented the straw buyers or acted as a settlement agents for the lenders, according to prosecutors.

Hubert “Phil” Hall, a former editor at a precursor to The Journal News, and his wife, Doreen Swenson, are serving two to six years in prison after pleading guilty to grand larceny and fraud. Prosecutors said the Tarrytown couple helped set up the phony mortgages.

David Reback, an attorney from Rye Brook, and Amerigo DiPietro of Brewster, who owned Interstate Monetary Concepts in Briarcliff Manor, pleaded guilty to their roles in the scam. Prosecutors said they were the principal players. They  were sentenced to a year in jail.

Eileen Potash of Queens was convicted at trial of fourth-degree conspiracy but acquitted of grand larceny and fraud charges. She is serving five years’ probation.

Wilma Shkreli of Westwood, N.J., who posed an an investor, is to be sentenced Nov. 22 after pleading guilty to grand larceny.

This was Didio’s second trial for her role in the scam. Her first ended in a hung jury. Frank Corigliano, a lawyer from Newtown, Conn., was acquitted of all charges by the jury that convicted Potash and was hung on Didio.

Fight leads to $905,000 settlement

In the category of “whatever happened to that case” … news of a six-figure settlement for Daniel Acosta, a Yorktown man who sued The Katonah Grill in Katonah after he almost bled to death after a fight in the bar’s parking lot in October 2004.

Acosta, 28, was slashed from neck to chin during the fight and sought damages from the establishment, claiming its employees fueled the violence by continuing to serve his drunken attacker after the initial fight.

The lawsuit claimed the business was negligent under the state Dram Shop Act, which states that if a bar sells alcohol to a visibly drunk person, the bar can be sued for damages if that person injured or kills someone else. The case went to trial earlier this year but never reached a verdict. It was settled for $905,000. Acosta’s lawyer said they originally sought “multimillions.”

According to court records, the owner and bouncer of The Katonah Grill brought Acosta’s attacker into the basement and told him to stay there. He was given another drink and took two OxyContin pills, according to the suit, which claimed The Katonah Grill “acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others” by hiding Barrows, allowing him to take narcotics, and “continuing to serve him alcohol.”

Acosta, whose jugular was severed, was taken to the hospital. His attacker was arrested in Queens in February 2005 and charged with attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted assault and was sentenced to five years in prison. He is eligible for parole in October 2010.