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Attorney expected to change plea in foreclosure scam case

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//October 19, 2011//

Attorney expected to change plea in foreclosure scam case

By: Jack Zemlicka, [email protected]//October 19, 2011//

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A Brookfield attorney charged with stealing more than $500,000 through a complex foreclosure scam appears ready to face his fate.

On Wednesday morning, Thomas Bielinski, 52, and his attorney, Michael Hart, requested a Dec. 14 hearing at which the defendant is expected to plead guilty to felony fraud charges.

Bielinski initially pled not guilty on Sept. 28, but Hart said given the evidence, his client is likely to change his plea.

“He’s not going to plead guilty,” Hart said, “because he’s not guilty.”

Bielinski, who declined to comment, faces up to five years in prison and $25,000 in fines, if convicted.

Prosecuting attorney Kurt Benkley did not say what sentence he will seek, given the expected plea change.

“We agreed to do this,” he said. “This is what the defendant requested that the court do.”

Bielinski allegedly stole $542,231.61 in unclaimed foreclosure money by falsely representing himself since 2007 as the attorney for the proper claimants.

According to the criminal complaint filed Aug. 23 by Benkley, Bielinski targeted mortgage-foreclosure cases in which there was surplus money from sheriff’s sales.

If the winning bids for foreclosed property are more than what is owed to the creditor, the difference goes into a trust and can be claimed by the owner of the property when it went into foreclosure, said Debbie Bachun, fiscal and operations manager for the Milwaukee County Clerk of Courts office.

At least six owners of foreclosed properties were entitled to surplus money held in trust by the clerk’s office, but they had never filed a claim, according to the complaint. Bielinski purported to represent the owners and claimed the money, according to the complaint.

On Wednesday, Judge J.D. Watts asked Bielinski and Hart if restitution to victims of the scam could be repaid prior to the Dec. 14 hearing.

In an interview, Hart said there is no timetable at this point for compensating the victims, but he expected that will be addressed in the future.

In addition to facing criminal charges, Bielinski had a foreclosure claim filed against him by Waterstone Bank SSB on Sept. 21 and his wife, Jane Bielinski, filed for divorce on Sept. 15 in Waukesha County Circuit Court.

Bielinski also filed a letter with the State Bar of Wisconsin seeking voluntary resignation of his law license, which is awaiting approval by the state Supreme Court.

During his alleged criminal activity, Bielinski had no legitimate law practice, according to the complaint. His fraud scheme, which involved identity theft, false notarizations, forgeries and thefts, was his primary source of income, according to the complaint.

He graduated from Marquette University Law School in 1985.

Benkley’s complaint states that in forging signatures authorizing power of attorney, Bielinski “duped judges into signing orders to pay out the surplus funds.”

Prior to seizing Bielinski’s computer, authorities asked whether it contained any privileged attorney-client information. Bielinski said he had no law clients, according to the complaint.

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