MANHATTAN - A Blue Point man faced a federal judge in Manhattan Thursday for allegedly running a national mortgage scam.

Justin Romano, 40, was charged in an $18.5 million mortgage modification scheme, the largest ever prosecuted. Romano and two other men allegedly preyed on thousands of struggling homeowners, saying they would help them with mortgage payments.

The indictment says Romano posed as the president of two alleged law firms in Holbrook and Sayville. He allegedly used the law firms as fronts to persuade homeowners to pay upfront fees in return for legal services and lower mortgage rates.

Federal prosecutors say around 8,000 people were targeted in all 50 states. Two other men, both from California, were also arrested and all three were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy.

Neighbors say Romano moved to Blue Point with his wife and three children about a year ago and claimed to be a chiropractor.