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Prosecutor: Defendants not minor players, but central figures in mortgage scam

Hartford - Waterford painting contractor Rab Nawaz's attorney wanted to paint him Monday as the Scarecrow in a multimillion-dollar mortgage scam perpetrated by his nephew and the scheme's "Oz," otherwise known as Sayed A. "Ali" Babar of .

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Glover, in arguments at the close of a nearly month-long trial in U.S. District Court, said Nawaz, like the other four defendants including former Pfizer Inc. scientist Wendy Werner, weren't just pawns in the conspiracy, but were central to the scheme.

"Mr. Babar did not do this alone," Glover told the jury of 15, including three alternates. "Though Mr. Babar was at the middle of this, everyone else ... (was) playing their role."

Nawaz's role, according to prosecutors, was to sell three homes in at significant markups of more than $300,000 to straw buyers, including key prosecution witness Kenneth Perkins of Groton who, like others, walked away from the deals soon after signing mortgage documents.

Nawaz also allowed conspirators to use a phone at his home as well as his mailing address so banks could verify employment, prosecutors said.

The jury will receive instructions this morning from Chief Judge Alvin Thompson before beginning deliberations on the charges against Nawaz, Werner and the other defendants. They are former attorney Olmer, attorney David Avigdor and home seller Marshall Asmar. All are charged with conspiracy to commit wire or mail fraud. Other charges for the various defendants range from giving false statements to Nawaz's obstruction of justice count.

Donald Cretella, Nawaz's attorney, downplayed Nawaz's role, saying "Mr. Babar - Oz - called all the shots."

As the Scarecrow, Nawaz didn't know about the conspiracy, Cretella said, and simply did what Babar told him.

"Mr. Babar ran this conspiracy where the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing," Cretella said.

Attorney Ryan McGuigan, representing Werner, took another tack, insisting his client did everything in a legitimate manner. He said Werner's profits from the sale of three homes on Lake Street in Norwich were distributed by check, with Babar receiving a consulting fee based on a joint- venture partnership. He pointed out that the homes' sales profits were reported on income-tax forms, though Glover said Babar's $283,000 fee was deducted from the figure.

Glover said Babar's fee should have been reported on mortgage documents filed with the homes' sales, but McGuigan contended that the money was based on a separate deal and therefore did not need to be documented.

"My client had nothing to hide from the get-go," McGuigan said.  He pointed out that Werner, now living in Sarasota, Fla., bought the properties in 2001 for $45,000 and then sold them five years later for a combined $800,000, at a time when multifamily dwellings were seeing big markups.

"This could hardly be seen as a flip," McGuigan said, comparing Werner's deal to others in which sellers made quick profits.

But prosecutor Glover said it isn't credible to think that Werner - an experienced real-estate professional - could close a deal with such a huge profit and not know something shady was going on. The fact that checks were passed rather than bags of cash, as in other deals, does not mean Werner's deal represented a legitimate transaction, he said.

He pointed out that Werner's check didn't go to Babar directly, but rather to an account for Global Accounting and Taxation, a company that the conspiracy mastermind owned.

And he said that Werner's closing attorney, Ramona DeSalvo of Waterford, never knew about the payment to Babar.

"The way this deal went down, it was a fraud," he said. "It wasn't done in the light of day."