SALEM — The trial of a Salem real estate developer charged in a nearly $10 million, decade-long mortgage fraud scheme that also turned a dozen multifamily rental properties into condos has again been delayed.
George Kritopoulos was supposed to stand trial this month in the case — which U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris on Monday called one of the oldest, if not the oldest, on the federal docket — but a shutdown of jury trials in the federal court through the end of this month has again forced a postponement.
Saris said the case “is the most elusive case I’ve ever had.”
The case was then given its seventh trial date — March 29.
Saris told the prosecutors and defense lawyers in the case that the anticipated length of the trial, at approximately three weeks, and the pandemic-related court closures were responsible for the long delay in getting the case to trial.
Prosecutors allege that Kritopoulos, along with two other men who have since pleaded guilty to lesser roles in the scheme, David Plunkett and Joseph Bates III, conspired to recruit people to pose as buyers of a dozen properties around the city of Salem to purchase multifamily homes, which would then be converted to condominiums.
Prosecutors allege that the individuals who then bought the condos would not have qualified for mortgages; the money was coming from Kritopoulos, who would temporarily add their names to a bank account and create a fictional paper trail to show a source of income.
A total of 15 banks and mortgage lenders loaned $9.5 million for the properties. The eventual loss to the banks — after the properties were foreclosed — was $4.3 million. The alleged scheme went on from 2006 until 2015.
Kritopoulos was indicted and arrested in 2018.
The properties — multifamily homes on Sylvan, Leach, Beaver, Cabot, Chase, Mason, Grove, Turner and Essex streets and Forest Avenue — were turned into 21 condominium units. The initial mortgages were made with FHA loans.
During the three years the case has been pending, prosecutor Victor Wild and defense lawyer Jack Cunha have reached several agreements to try to shorten the trial, which will also involve at least one witness coming into the United States from Greece.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis