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Romanian businessman gets jail time for Albany Pk. mortgage fraud

Sheriff Tom Dart after he suspended evictions from buildings that have been foreclosed on in 2008. Behind him is the building at 4914 N. Spaulding, which was at the center of Romanian businessman Catalin Stoian’s scheme. Pictured are, l-r, tenant Mario Hernanzez, Dart, and tenants Maria Cruz and Gabriela Maciel with her son Diego Franco. File photo by Al Podgorski.

A Romanian businessman convicted in a $1.8 million mortgage fraud scheme was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday by a federal judge who agreed to recommend he serve the time in his homeland.

The case involving an apartment building in the Northwest Side Albany Park neighborhood helped spur citywide reforms in how tenants are treated in evictions caused by mortgage foreclosures.

In an unusual twist, defense attorneys requested that Catalin Stoian, 41, be allowed to serve his sentence in a prison in Romania, where he was born and where his wife and daughter now live.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman agreed to make the request of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which determines where federal prisoners are housed.

David Stetler and William Ziegelmueller, who represented Stoian at sentencing, said the transfer to Romania may be allowed under a treaty with the U.S.

Stoian was convicted in 2015 after a bench trial in which he tried to blame his associates for the scheme that involved buying the building and then selling the apartments to themselves at inflated prices as condos.

In arguing for a stiff sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Crull emphasized the harm that Stoian caused residents of the apartment building, who were caught up in the eviction process when he defaulted on the loans.

“These were innocent victims who got caught up in the defendants’ greed,” Crull said.

Stoian, who faced approximately 10-12 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, sniffled through tears as he apologized to the judge for his “stupid decisions.”

Stoian, who sent his $1.6 million share of the loan proceeds to Romania in 2008, now says he’s broke.