A Florida man was convicted yesterday of charges related to a scheme in which he sold swampland to several Miami residents for vastly inflated amounts in the 1980s and 1990s, officials said.

Dudley Cohn, 74, of Hernando, Fla., was convicted of one count of organized scheme to defraud, a first-degree felony, by a Miami-Dade jury after a two-week trial, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist’s office said today.

In the late 1980s, Cohn, 74, sold vacant land to 13 individuals in an area known as the East Everglades, officials said. Cohn charged the victims $15,000 for the 1.25-acre lots that were later appraised by the federal government as being worth about one-tenth of that amount, Crist’s office said.

The victims testified that Cohn misled them by claiming the land was suitable for building and that roads would be built to their property, officials said. Cohn did not disclose that the County had determined that no roads would be built and the land was unsuitable for development, according to Crist’s office.

“This is similar to the old scam of selling swamplands to unsuspecting Floridians,” said Crist. “These people wanted to build a home, but instead they were swindled out of dreams and money.”

Cohn pressured buyers into making accelerated payments to him in order to collect the money before the federal government moved to acquire the property for much less than the original selling price, officials said.

The victims kept paying on promissory notes for years and did not discover the fraud until 2001 when the National Park Service began acquiring the property to add it to the Everglades National Park, officials said. Victims reported a combined loss in excess of $300,000, according to Crist’s office.

Sentencing for Cohn is set for April 10, 2006. He faces up to 30 years in prison and must make full restitution to his victims, Crist’s office said.

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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