A Florida man who pleaded guilty to 11 charges in connection with a house flipping scheme in Northeast Ohio has been released from prison early. But as ideastream’s Nick Castele reports, a judge has ordered the man to live and work in a neighborhood prosecutors say the scheme helped devastate during the housing meltdown.
Blaine Murphy was accused of illegally buying and selling hundreds of houses in Cuyahoga County using fraudulent documents and aliases, and pleaded guilty to charges of tampering with records and telecommunications fraud.
After Murphy served eight months in prison out of a two year term, his defense attorney filed to have him leave prison on judicial release.
Judge Richard McMonagle agreed, but with a big caveat -- he’ll have to live for 18 months in Slavic Village in one of the houses he owned.
He must also continue paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution. In a phone interview, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory Mussman said he must perform 3000 hours of community service in the neighborhood.
“He is going to be responsible for improving the Slavic Village portion of Cleveland, a neighborhood that his criminal actions had impacted the most,” Mussman said.
Murphy will report to Cleveland City Councilman Tony Brancatelli, who told ideastream that Murphy will be inspecting abandoned homes, among other jobs.
“We’re also having him come to work and help clean parks and trails, help work in the community gardens that are being created out of these foreclosed homes,” Brancatelli said.
Murphy said he’d prefer going back to prison, Mussman and Zukerman said.
His defense attorney Larry Zukerman said in a phone interview that it will be especially hard for Murphy to pay the quarter million dollars he still owes if he has to spend his time volunteering rather than working for pay.
"The judge imposed pretty onerous conditions upon him, and that seems like a recipe for disaster," Zukerman said.
Still, Zuckerman said, he thought McMonagle made a fair ruling -- one he says he hopes Murphy can live up to.