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City employee pleads guilty in real estate swindles

Then-candidate Cornell Mills campaigned at Dudley Station in Roxbury in 2011.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/File

A city employee and former candidate for Boston City Council pleaded guilty this week in connection with posing as a real estate broker and swindling thousands of dollars from potential home buyers.

Cornell Mills, 44, of Roxbury, pleaded guilty to seven counts of larceny over $250, six counts of fiduciary embezzlement, one count of acting as a broker without a license, and one count of being a common and notorious thief, according to the attorney general’s office.

He is expected to be sentenced in Suffolk Superior Court on Monday.

Mills, who doesn’t have a broker’s license, posed as a real estate broker and solicited potential home buyers in Boston to give him thousands of dollars. He claimed he would hold the money in escrow, pending the prospective purchases of homes, the authorities said.

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In reality, according to the attorney general’s office, he had no escrow account. According to a court filing, Mills withdrew large amounts of cash and in a few instances used the funds “to pay for airline tickets and a vacation to the Caribbean.”

In 2011, Mills unsuccessfully ran for the City Council against Tito Jackson. At the time of his arraignment in April 2017, he was working as a project manager in the city’s Office of Workforce Development. A spokeswoman for the Boston Planning & Development Agency said in an e-mail on Thursday that “termination proceedings have begun” for Mills.

In 2013, Mills advised the campaign of Jamarhl Crawford, who also ran unsuccessfully against Jackson for the District 7 seat, which is now occupied by Kim Janey.

Mills is the son of a former state senator, Dianne Wilkerson, who was released from a federal prison in 2013 after serving a 3½-year sentence for taking bribes. She pleaded guilty in June 2010 to several counts of attempted extortion and was convicted of accepting $23,500 in bribes.

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The attorney general’s office launched a probe of Mills after referrals from state licensing officials and the Suffolk district attorney’s office.

After his arraignment last year, authorities said in a statement that Mills would allegedly represent homeowners facing foreclosure in some instances as part of his scheme. Specifically, he would offer to help such homeowners by selling their homes via short sales but fail to fulfill his pledges to sell the homes, according to the attorney general’s office. When the homeowners tried to reach him after he had spent the deposits he received from prospective buyers, he ignored them, the authorities said.

A short sale is the selling of a property when its market value has fallen below the cost of the mortgage, but the mortgage holder agrees to sell the property at the lower price to prevent foreclosure.

The attorney general’s office said Mills bilked people of about $50,000 through his scheme.

According to a court filing, from 2011 to 2015, he “committed a series of thefts from eight different victims, stealing amounts ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 from each person.”


Meghan Irons and Felicia Gans of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com.