A St. Petersburg attorney has been sentenced to federal prison for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Warren Jay Knaust, 62, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution in August, and a federal judge sentenced him last week to 30 months in federal prison.

Knaust acted as title agent and prepared fraudulent closing documents for two men, Christopher Alan Stapleton and William Straub, Jr., according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.

Stapleton falsely inflated the contract purchase price of real estate and his monthly income “in an effort to get lenders to approve the loans,” according to the release.

Straub, a former mortgage broker, would then submit fraudulent loan applications to lenders, before Knaust acted as title agent.

Stapleton then paid the contract amounts to the sellers and, without lenders’ knowledge, pocketed the difference, according to authorities.

Straub has been sentenced to a year and nine months in prison, while Stapleton is awaiting sentencing. In addition to his prison sentence, Knaust was ordered to pay restitution to the lenders in the amount of more than $1.9 million.

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