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Former Ridgewood real estate scammer gets 4 years in federal prison

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A former Ridgewood masseuse-turned-real estate investor was sentenced today to 48 months in prison in federal prison for scamming friends out of millions of dollars through sham deals in Oklahoma that she instead used in other ventures that flopped.

Taya Romano, 37, admitted in January 2011 that she bilked three mortgage lenders out of $4.7 million in a fake down-payment assistance scheme that forced more than a dozen unsuspecting homebuyers to default on their loans.

(Three of the properties were bought from a company partly owned by ex-Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa. Neither Zisa nor his associates were named in the government’s criminal complaint.)

Lat summer, Romano also copped to conning other victims into investing in apartment complexes and undeveloped land in Oklahoma, where she lives now.

Romano, then known as Taya Waldon, and her husband got one couple to pony up $1 million and another $890,000 for the bogus deals. She neither put the money toward the investments nor paid any of it back, the government said.

Other friends and associates were victimized, as well, records show.

In one instance, Romano conned a contractor into selling property to her mother to raise the cash for what was supposed to be a joint investment near her Edmond, OK home.

She then used the money to buy another property, records show.

In addition to the prison term, Romano was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay back the $4.7 million.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman credited FBI special agents with making the case, which also produced a guilty plea from agent Elizabeth Labruna of Little Ferry.

Labruna admitted helping Romano and was expected to testify against her if the case went to trial.

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