Lawyer pleads guilty in mortgage fraud scheme

A Las Vegas lawyer pleaded guilty Monday to a felony conspiracy charge stemming from a mortgage fraud scheme, federal authorities said.

Gerry Zobrist, 43, who has served as a pro tem justice of the peace in Las Vegas Justice Court, faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.

Authorities said between 2006 and 2008, he and his accomplices paid straw buyers to buy 144 homes in the valley, obtaining mortgage loans for more than $53 million.

They submitted applications that contained fraudulent information about the straw buyers’ income and assets. Part of the sales proceeds went to real estate companies and other entities controlled by Zobrist and his accomplices, authorities said. They defaulted on the loans, causing more than $30 million in losses to financial institutions.

In 2006, the lawyer ran for justice of the peace in Las Vegas Justice Court and lost. He was a pro tem justice of the peace until last week, when he resigned, a court spokeswoman said. He did not preside on any cases for at least a year.

A call to Zobrist’s office seeking comment was not returned. Sentencing is scheduled for April 15.

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