Hearing planned next month in federal court in Orlando for possible new trial
ORLANDO -- The scheduled July 28 sentencing hearings for Jim Sotolongo and Stephanie Musselwhite have been re-scheduled to Sept. 13 in U.S. District Court in Orlando with a hearing on the possibility of a new trial sandwiched in between.
Sotolongo could not be reached for comment on the pushed-back sentwncing hearing.
A defense motion for consideration of a new trial is now set for Aug. 12 and the July 28 sentencing hearings have subsequently been moved back to Sept. 13.
A jury in late April found James Fidel Sotolongo and Stephanie Musselwhite guilty on multiple counts of conspiring to defraud four lending institutions close to $13 million in seven upscale home mortgages in greater Daytona Beach, but Ramara Garrett, the former realtor in the alleged mortgage fraud ring, was acquitted outright in highly emotional verdicts on the second day of deliberations. None of the trio took the stand during the two week trial, in which the government relied on the testimony of a fourth indicted defendant, Christopher Mencis, a North Carolin mortgage broker who copped a guilty plea and testified for the government in exchange for a lighter sentence. There also was a procession of unindicted co-conspirators, led by the likes of Sidney Coton of Deltona, described as "straw men" or buyers of the properties in a mortgage ring described by the FBI as led by Sotolongo under a shell company, American Signature Homes, with Musselwhite complicit in title insurance role and Garrett showing most of the luxury homes under the Waverly mortgage realty company while Sotolongo was head of an allied business called American Signature Homes.
Sotolongo faces up to 30 years in prison, though he scores no more than 12-15 years, according to sentencing guidelines based on his prior record and the nature of the offenses, but more than likely could get 10--12 years unless a new trial is granted in the interim because he doesn't have a record of violence. Musselwhite has no prior record and sentencing guidelines call for one to three years or possibly even probation in lieu of prison.