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Men accused of mortgage fraud plead not guilty

Two men allegedly involved in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders out of hundreds of thousands of dollars pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday.

Michael Hawthorne Sr., owner of Hawthorne Developments LLC in Milwaukee, and Calvin Morris Jr. of The Nexes Group Ltd. in Racine were arraigned in front of Eastern District Magistrate Judge Patricia Gorence on wire fraud charges alleged in an indictment filed Dec. 10.

Hawthorne and Morris, along with mortgage broker Christopher Lauria of Mortgage Solutions Inc. and Vliet Street LLC, allegedly committed wire fraud by moving more than $100,000 between banks in different states to buy residential properties in Milwaukee and Racine.

Hawthorne faces one count of wire fraud, while Morris and Lauria each face three counts. Lauria, who was arrested by U.S. Marshals on Dec. 11, pleaded not guilty the same day and was released on a personal recognizance bond.

Assistant Federal Defender Juval Scott, who is representing Morris, said Friday that all attorneys were given more than 6,500 pages worth of discovery documents gathered during the investigation. Scott filed a motion to allow attorneys more time to assess the case and conduct their own investigations.

Joel Mogren, Hawthorne’s attorney, refused comment when contacted Friday. Patrick Rupich, who is representing Lauria, did not return a message.

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