Teacher and wife sentenced for massive mortgage fraud

FRESNO, Calif.

Justin and Kelly Linder were sentenced today for real estate dealings between 2004 and 2007, as well as welfare fraud in Fresno County.

They came into court wearing street clothes, but they left in handcuffs.

Investigators accused the Linders of masterminding a mortgage fraud scam targeting dozens of people in Fresno, Madera, and Riverside counties.

In all, the fraudulent loans totaled more than $11 million.

The judge who sentenced them said the scope of their fraud meant they needed to go to prison.

"They victimized individuals in the process and have caused quite a bit of financial damage to many people," said Judge Houry Sanderson.

Prosecutors say the Linders and four other suspects cheated the system by getting people into loans they couldn't afford or by just faking signatures to get people into loans they didn't even know about.

The deal described in this paperwork made one victim the unknowing owner of a vacant lot.

Her bill is about $1 million.

The Linders' profit was $92,000.

But Justin Linder's attorney says the fraud was somewhat common during the boom years of the housing market.

"As long as the market goes up, everyone's happy," said Jeff Hammerschmidt. "But as soon as the market goes down, there's got to be someone to blame and clearly Mr. Linder was part of that."

Hammerschmidt says his client owned up to his crime and accepted a significant sentence for it.

Kelly Linder will serve five years in the Fresno County jail.

Justin will go to prison on a sentence of more than nine years.

"Accepting and stipulating to a long prison term shows he's accepting responsibility for his actions," Hammerschmidt said.

But the Linders will each serve only half of their prison terms, so they'll both be out again within four years.

Action News talked to a few victims who were too embarrassed to go on camera.

A couple said the sentences are too short.

But one said just watching deputies putting handcuffs on the Linders was enough for him.

Restitution will be figured out next month.

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