COMPETITION IN THE REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE INDUSTRY A Report by the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice
A federal grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento today returned a superseding indictment charging Andrew B. Katakis, of Danville, Calif., with obstruction of justice related to a federal investigation into conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions held in San Joaquin County, Calif., the Department of Justice announced.
The remaining allegations are unchanged from the original indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on Dec. 7, 2011. The pre-existing counts charge Katakis, Donald M. Parker, Anthony B. Joachim and W. Theodore Longley with conspiring with other unnamed co-conspirators to rig bids and commit mail fraud when purchasing selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions. Wiley C. Chandler, another real estate investor who was also charged in the original indictment, pleaded guilty on Feb. 24, 2012.
The added charge alleges that after Katakis received a letter notifying him that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed his bank account, he deleted and caused others to delete electronic records and documents related to the conspiracies. The superseding indictment alleges that Katakis also installed and caused others to install and use a software program that overwrote deleted electronic records and documents so that they could not be viewed or recovered.
“Obstruction of a grand jury investigation is a crime the Antitrust Division takes seriously,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “We will prosecute those who subvert the competitive process, as well as those who attempt to conceal their illegal actions by destroying evidence.”
According to the superseding indictment, Katakis, Parker, Joachim, Longley and co-conspirators agreed to suppress and restrain competition by rigging bids to obtain selected properties offered at public auctions in San Joaquin County. The conspirators also devised a scheme to fraudulently acquire titles to selected properties sold at the public auctions and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have gone to the beneficiaries. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy lasted from at least September 2008 until at least October 2009.
“This superseding indictment includes allegations that, in addition to the charges previously alleged, this defendant obstructed justice,” said Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California. “The new charge arises out of a long-running investigation that has already resulted in guilty pleas by numerous other defendants who participated in the scheme charged in this case.”
Katakis, Parker, Joachim and Longley are charged with bid rigging, a violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine. They are also charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The newly added obstruction of justice charge against Katakis carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
To date, 10 individuals have pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in connection with the investigation: Anthony B. Ghio, John R. Vanzetti, Theodore B. Hutz, Richard W. Northcutt, Yama Marifat, Gregory L. Jackson, Walter Daniel Olmstead, Robert Rose, Kenneth Swanger and Chandler.
The additional charge today is the latest filed by the department in its ongoing federal antitrust investigation of fraud and bidding irregularities in certain real estate auctions in San Joaquin County. The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, the FBI’s Sacramento Division, and the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco office at 415-436-6660, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm, contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California at 916-554-2700 or contact the FBI’s Sacramento Division at 916-481-9110.
Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
Bank Executive Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Mortgage Fraud Scheme in California
U.S. Attorney’s Office February 25, 2013
Eastern District of California (916) 554-2700
SACRAMENTO, CA—U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb sentenced Joel Blanford, 44, of San Ramon, California, to 30 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for a mortgage fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. On September 19, 2012, following a seven-day trial, a jury found Blanford guilty of six counts of mail fraud.
This case was the product of an investigation by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul A. Hemesath and Michael M. Beckwith prosecuted the case.
According to evidence presented at trial, from approximately April 2003 through October 2005, Blanford, while working as a senior sales representative for Long Beach Mortgage, a wholesale subprime lender and former subsidiary of Washington Mutual Inc., participated in a scheme to defraud his employer. Blanford earned compensation based on the volume of loans processed by Long Beach Mortgage. The evidence established that he paid a loan coordinator in cash and checks to falsify documents, provide false verification of borrowers’ employment or professional licensing status and turn a blind eye to fraudulent representations contained in loan applications and other documents submitted to Long Beach Mortgage.
In each of the years 2003, 2004, and 2005, before taxes and payroll deductions, Blanford received more than $1 million in commissions and other compensation from Long Beach Mortgage as a result of his scheme. Between April 2003 and October 2005, he paid the loan coordinator more than $50,000 in checks alone.
U.S. Attorney Wagner stated, “This investigation exposed a sophisticated chain of fraud that started at the homebuyer level and extended all the way to banking insiders. It is a lesson that those earning million-dollar paychecks are not exempt from significant criminal penalties.”
This case was done in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending; and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov.
Real Estate Developer Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charge
U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Arkansas (501) 340-2600
LITTLE ROCK—Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced that real estate developer Roger Stephen Clary, age 60, of Little Rock, pled guilty to mail fraud before United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes today. The remaining four counts of wire fraud were dismissed.
According to the indictment, Clary created a company called Destination Ventures, which was to purchase, custom outfit, and lease buses. Clary obtained a loan from Banc of America Leasing Corporation (BALC) to fund the purchase and outfitting of the buses. The loan was approved and entered into on May 8, 2008. On the following day, Clary requested that BALC distribute a portion of the loan proceeds to purchase and outfit the buses. However, on the same day, Clary directed the vendor who was to outfit the buses to redistribute the funds once the vendor received them. The vendor complied with the directives from Clary. Consequently, $1,595,000 of the loan proceeds were paid to companies in which Clary had a financial interest but which had no involvement in the purchase, custom outfitting, or leasing of the buses as intended by the loan agreement. The mail fraud count charges Clary with later falsely certifying to BALC that the buses had been custom outfitted.
Clary faces a statutory penalty of no more than 30 years’ incarceration and/or a fine of $1,000,000 with five years of supervised release. The sentencing date will be determined by the Court at a later date.
The investigation was conducted by the Little Rock Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by former First Assistant United States Attorney Jane Duke and Assistant United States Attorney Angela Jegley.
Real Estate Developer Sentenced to Three Years for Making False Statements
U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Alaska (907) 271-5071
ANCHORAGE—U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that an Anchorage man was sentenced in federal court in Anchorage for 12 counts of false statements to a credit union.
Lee E. Baker, Jr., 57, from Anchorage, Alaska, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline, to 36 months in prison.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Retta Randall, who prosecuted the case, Baker made false statements to Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union (DAFCU) while drawing down the proceeds of a $9.2 million construction loan obtained for a proposed 85 unit apartment project, “Bryn Mawr,” located on Northern Lights Boulevard in Anchorage. Baker, as president of Discovery Construction Inc., submitted 12 draw requests certifying each time that certain work had been completed on the Bryn Mawr project, when actually, very little work had been done and the total amount Baker verified as completed was false. The Bryn Mawr project was never completed. As a result of his false statements, approximately $4.3 million was disbursed to Baker by DAFCU before he defaulted on the loan.
Judge Beistline, after imposing sentence, stated, “Ultimately the success of the banking industry and the construction industry depends on integrity.” Judge Beistline went on to acknowledge that the construction industry in Alaska faces challenges, but insisted that, “when facing challenges, the highroad must be taken.” He further indicated that fundamental principles of honesty and integrity are necessary to deal with problems before others get hurt and that the community cannot tolerate this kind of deception. Giving Discovery Construction credit for work completed on the Byrn Mawr project, Baker was ordered to pay $3 million in restitution.
United States Attorney Karen Loeffler noted, “Financial crimes such as those committed by Baker create significant and lasting harms on the community as well as the businesses affected. The Alaska federal law enforcement community is dedicated to working together to investigate and prosecute these serious crimes.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Mary Rook stated, “The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to address significant financial crimes which impact a wide range of individuals, businesses, and industries. As is frequently the case, the impact of this crime was more widespread than just those immediately identified as victims, as the losses sustained by Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union were also felt by its members.”
Ms. Loeffler commends the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division for the investigation of this case.
Singer in Rock Band Charged in Multi-Million-Dollar Loan Fraud Case
U.S. Attorney’s Office Central District of California (213) 894-2434
LOS ANGELES—The frontman of a Los Angeles-based rock band called Lights Over Paris has been charged with submitting false documents to banks to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars worth of loans, money that he allegedly used to fund his band and his lavish lifestyle.
Robert Brandon Mawhinney, who turns 30 today and whom authorities believe currently resides in the luxury WaterMarke Tower in downtown Los Angeles, was ordered detained yesterday afternoon by a federal judge.
During the hearing yesterday afternoon in United States District Court, United States Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick ordered Mawhinney held without bond after determining that he posed a flight risk, given Mawhinney’s frequent travel abroad, conflicting information about his finances, and the fact that he had sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to Cyprus.
Mawhinney, who uses the stage name Robb “TaLLLLL” University, was arrested at Miami International Airport earlier this month after he returned from a trip to Buenos Aires. He was subsequently transported to Los Angeles by the United States Marshals Service. Mawhinney was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint that alleges he applied for loans by submitting phony brokerage statements that falsely showed that he had almost $8 million in assets. The phony statements were altered versions of real statements that showed less than $10,000 in the brokerage accounts.
According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, between August 2009 and April 2011, Mawhinney obtained four loans from Comerica Bank totaling approximately $6.25 million. Mawhinney defaulted on the loans, causing Comerica to suffer losses of approximately $6 million.
Mawhinney allegedly told bank officials that he needed the money to fund his music business and to purchase recording equipment. According to investigators, Mawhinney used the money from the Comerica loans and loans from other banks to pay for travel, entertainment, and a luxury tour bus that cost well over $750,000.
The other banks that issued loans to Mawhinney and suffered losses were JP Morgan Chase, Zions Bank, and Bank of America, according to court documents.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Mawhinney is charged with making a false statement in a loan application. If he is convicted of the charge in the criminal complaint, Mawhinney would face a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in federal prison. Mawhinney is scheduled to be arraigned in this case on February 11.
In a related case that was unsealed late yesterday, two former Mawhinney associates were charged with conspiracy to commit loan fraud. Matt Salazar, 29, of Valley Village, and his brother, Jason Salazar, 28, of Grover Beach and Fresno, have agreed to plead guilty.
The Salazar brothers, who are co-owners of the Burbank-based Matt Salazar Recording Productions and part-owners of LA Sound Gallery, also based in Burbank, admitted in court documents that they provided false documents to Bank of America, Greystone Bank, and Huntington National Bank to obtain about $1.7 million in loans for their music business.
Mawhinney also used the Salazars’ studio to bolster his own fraudulent loan applications. Mawhinney met with a Comerica loan officer at their recording studio and falsely claimed to be an owner of the studio.
The case against the Salazars has been assigned to United States District Judge Judge Cormac J. Carney, who will schedule a hearing for the brothers to enter their guilty pleas. Once they plead guilty, each of the Salazar brothers will face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
The cases against Mawhinney and the Salazar brothers are the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS-Criminal Investigation.
Closing Attorney Charged with Wire Fraud in Mortgage Loan Scheme
U.S. Attorney’s Office January 07, 2013
Northern District of Alabama (205) 244-2001
BIRMINGHAM—Federal prosecutors have charged a Birmingham real estate lawyer with wire fraud in connection with a nearly $1 million mortgage fraud scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Kelvin Leonard Davis, 41, with four counts of wire fraud for knowingly submitting false mortgage documents and statements to various lenders in order to obtain approval for mortgage loans. At the time of the fraudulent transactions, from October 2007 to January 2012, Davis served as the closing attorney on each of the fraudulent loan transactions.
Davis has agreed to plead guilty to the charges and to forfeit $269,335 to the government as proceeds of the illegal activity.
The charges against Davis were filed in October. Documents in the case were unsealed last week in U.S. District Court.
According to the four-count information charging Davis and his plea agreement with the government, he carried out his fraud as follows:
Davis submitted false statements with loan documents in order to obtain approval for mortgage loans that would otherwise not have been approved. In many instances, Davis, while serving as closing attorney, would use his trust account to provide money to the borrower when a mortgage loan was closing. Davis would recover the money by subtracting the amount he provided from the proceeds he issued to the seller. Davis also would assess the seller a fee, ranging from $1,000 to $6,000, and make checks for the fee payable to Peaceful Valley Homes, a corporation he had formed. Total losses to the various lenders as a result of Davis’ fraud were nearly $1 million.
The maximum sentence for each count is 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrests of Two Individuals in Multi-Million-Dollar Scam Involving Elderly Woman
U.S. Attorney’s Office May 02, 2012
Southern District of New York (212) 637-2600
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York; Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York State Attorney General; and Janice K. Fedarcyk, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced charges today against IFEANYICHUKWU ERIC ABAKPORO and LATANYA PIERCE for allegedly swindling an elderly woman out of her multi-million-dollar property in Harlem that she had owned for more than 40 years and then deceiving a bank into giving them a $1.8 million mortgage loan secured by the property. ABAKPORO was arrested Monday in Queens, New York, and PIERCE was arrested yesterday after voluntarily surrendering to the FBI.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “As alleged, these two defendants preyed on an elderly woman, using false documents and fraudulent representations to essentially steal her property out from under her. They then allegedly took their brazen scheme one step further, using the property to deceive a bank into lending them more than a million dollars. Sadly, this type of mortgage fraud scheme and exploitation of vulnerable victims have become all too familiar, but as these charges make clear, we are committed to bringing those who perpetrate these types of harmful schemes to justice.”
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman stated: “Through lies and deception, these individuals abused the trust of an elderly woman in order to perpetrate a multi-million-dollar fraud. Now that their despicable scheme has been exposed, they will face justice.”
Assistant Director in Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk stated: “These defendants are charged with spinning a web of lies to steal the victim’s property. Cases like this are rightly a priority for the FBI: fraudulent schemes that victimize the vulnerable and enrich the unscrupulous.”
As alleged in the indictment unsealed yesterday in Manhattan federal court:
Beginning in March 2006, ABAKPORO, a lawyer with an office in Brooklyn, New York, and PIERCE, who worked for ABAKPORO, cultivated a relationship with an elderly woman (“the Victim”) who owned a residential apartment building worth millions of dollars located at 1070 St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem (the “Property”). As part of the fraud scheme, ABAKPORO and PIERCE earned the Victim’s trust by, among other things, offering to help her manage the Property. This included collecting rent from its tenants on her behalf. However, instead of providing the Victim with the renters’ money, ABAKPORO and PIERCE pocketed it.
ABAKPORO and PIERCE then convinced the Victim to sell her property to them for $3.1 million. While they contracted to buy the property for that amount, at the closing, they presented the Victim with multiple fake and fraudulent checks to make it appear as if they had paid the contracted sale amount, when in fact they had not. Moreover, after the Victim’s attorney had left the closing, ABAKPORO and PIERCE fraudulently induced her to return all of the checks to them by representing that they would safeguard her money and give her a “private mortgage” in the Property, which they explained would include monthly payments made to her based on the money she had effectively loaned them. As part of the scheme, ABAKPORO and PIERCE signed and provided the Victim with a written agreement representing that she had loaned them approximately $1.9 million and in return held a “private mortgage” in the Property. Unbeknownst to the Victim, ABAKPORO and PIERCE never recorded the private mortgage and subsequently submitted a fraudulent application to Washington Mutual Bank seeking a $1.8 mortgage loan secured by the Property. ABAKPORO and PIERCE never disclosed to the bank that the Victim already held a private mortgage on the Property. Instead, ABAKPORO and PIERCE falsely represented to the bank that they had purchased the Property for $3.1 million and owned it “free and clear.” Based on those, and other, fraudulent representations, ABAKPORO and PIERCE obtained a $1.8 million mortgage loan from the bank, which they failed to repay.
As a result of the alleged fraud, the defendants obtained substantially all of the Victim’s assets, and $1.8 million in fraudulently obtained mortgage proceeds. The Property went into default.
ABAKPORO, 52, a Nigerian citizen, is a resident of Queens, and PIERCE, 43, is a resident of Brooklyn. They are each charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, and bank fraud conspiracy. The wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy charges each carry a maximum prison term of 20 years. The bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy charges each carry a maximum prison term of 30 years.
ABAKPORO is currently detained pending his satisfaction of court-ordered bail conditions: a $1 million bond secured by an interest in property and co-signed by three individuals. PIERCE was released on a $500,000 bond to be co-signed by three individuals and secured by two properties.
Mr. Bharara praised the New York State Attorney General’s Office investigative staff and the FBI for their excellent work on the investigation of this matter. He also thanked the New York State Department of Financial Services for its assistance.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Southern District of New York Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan Poscablo and Michael Lockard, along with Assistant Attorney General Meryl Lutsky, who has been designated a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Assistant Attorney General Rhonda Greenstein, are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
PHILADELPHIA—Frank J. Dattilo, 64, of Holland, Pennsylvania, was sentenced today to 15 months in prison for a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders in an effort to obtain money and property, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. DAttilo was the owner and operator of the mortgage brokerage firm Provident Financial Group (“PFG”), located in Bensalem, PA. He employed Michael Giello as a mortgage broker and loan officer, and Jason Megow as a loan processor. Dattilo marketed to people with poor credit or low incomes. Between January 2004 and February 2007, Dattilo, Giello, and Megos created false documents for use in mortgage applications. The falsified forms, among other things, overstated borrowers’ income, falsely showed that borrowers had rental histories, and showed that a property was an income-producing rental property when, in fact, it was not. These fraudulent documents made borrowers appear more creditworthy than they were, thereby misleading the banks into funding the mortgage loans.
All three defendants pleaded guilty to two counts, each, of mail fraud. Giello was sentenced to one year and one day; Megow was sentenced to one day in prison and five years of supervised release. In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Norma Shapiro ordered the three defendants to pay total restitution in the amount of $117,673.66.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Pennsylvania Department of Banking. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Maria M. Carrillo.
Four Detroit area residents were indicted on charges of wire fraud and interstate transportation of money taken by fraud, announced United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade. McQuade was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Charged in the 14-count indictment, which was unsealed this week, were MELVIN A. JOHNSON, 49, of Lathrup Village; CURTISS JOHNSON, 46, of Novi; BRADY MUSE, JR, 48, of Novi; and LANITA J. GATEWOOD, 53, of Detroit.
The indictment charges that from November 2004 through February 2006, these individuals knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders. The loan applications were completed or supervised by Melvin Johnson or Curtiss Johnson at CHALLENGE MORTGAGE’s branch office in Southfield, Michigan, where Melvin was the branch manager and Curtiss a loan officer. Challenge Mortgage was a mortgage broker based in Florida.
The indictment alleges that the loan applications were materially false or fraudulent and that when the mortgage loans closed, Melvin Johnson and Curtiss Johnson benefitted financially through checks made payable to Challenge Mortgage and other businesses with which Melvin Johnson was associated, such as JEM Marketing Realty, JEM Processing, and First United Realty.
The indictment also alleges that the fraudulent information provided in the loans documents included false employers, overstated income, fictitious bank accounts, stolen identities, and information obtained from forged deeds, and that as a part of the scheme, Brady Muse created counterfeit documents to support the fraudulent loan packages assembled by Melvin Johnson and Curtiss Johnson. It also alleges that Lanita Gatewood allowed property she did not own to be titled in her name, and that she distributed the proceeds of the fraud to other participants in the scheme.
The defendants are charged with multiple counts of wire fraud and interstate transportation of money taken by fraud. Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Each count of interstate transportation of money taken by fraud carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The defendants could also be ordered to pay restitution to the mortgage lenders.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven has returned a second superseding indictment charging a total of 10 individuals with various offenses related to their alleged participation in a mortgage fraud conspiracy. Six defendants, including Syed A. Babar of New London, have been charged previously with various mortgage fraud offenses stemming from the alleged scheme. The second superseding indictment charges four additional defendants, MARSHALL ASMAR, 40, of Joanne Drive, Milford; WENDY WERNER, 45, of Sarasota, Florida; REHAN QAMER, 38, formerly of Ashtabula, Ohio, and MOHAMMAD SALEEM, 39, formerly of Flushing, New York.
The indictment alleges that, between August 2006 and May 2010, Syed A. Babar, also known as “Ali” and “Asad,” 28, of New London, was the de facto leader and organizer of a conspiracy to obtain millions of dollars in residential real estate loans, including loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration, through the use of sham sales contracts, false loan applications and fraudulent property appraisals. The indictment alleges that ASMAR and WERNER entered into sales contracts with straw purchasers to sell homes for a price higher than the actual price that ASMAR and WERNER, as the sellers, would receive. Members of the conspiracy—which included a mortgage broker, two attorneys and a real estate appraiser—submitted false documentation in connection with loan applications that were submitted, including fraudulent appraisals of the properties being purchased in order to justify the inflated sales price and the loan amount being sought to fund each purchase. The indictment further alleges that members of the conspiracy created a fictitious construction company called “Sheda Telle Construction, LLC,” in order to divert fraud proceeds to it and, in some cases, to falsely justify the artificially inflated sales price of houses based on renovations purportedly made to the property that, in fact, did not occur. The co-conspirators then split the fraud proceeds.
It is alleged that, in August 2006, WERNER, through her company, Marbo Restorations, LLC, sold three houses on Lake Street in Norwich to QAMER, a straw purchaser working with Babar. The fraudulently inflated sales prices for 35, 37, and 41 Lake Street were $260,000, $270,000, and $270,000, respectively, and QAMER obtained residential real estate loans to purchase homes for those amounts. WERNER provided Babar with approximately $283,000 of the proceeds generated from the sale of the three houses. Babar then wrote 10 checks totaling approximately $179,000 to QAMER.
SALEEM also is alleged to have served as a straw purchaser during the conspiracy. Babar is alleged to have recruited and paid straw purchasers up to $20,000 to nominally purchase homes.
Contrary to the representations made on the loan applications, it is alleged that the straw purchasers never occupied the houses as their primary residences, failed to make payments on the loans and the properties went into foreclosure, including the three Lake Street properties that QAMER purchased from WERNER.
The alleged mortgage fraud scheme involved approximately 35 properties and loans obtained in the amount of approximately $10 million. Current losses from the scheme are estimated to be at least $2.5 million.
The indictment charges ASMAR, WERNER, QAMER, and SALEEM with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years. ASMAR and WERNER also are charged with eight counts of wire fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years on each count. The indictment also charges ASMAR with four counts of making false statements, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years on each count. Finally, the indictment charges WERNER and QAMER with one count of mail fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years.
The second superseding indictment was returned on July 29, 2010, and unsealed on September 15. ASMAR was arrested on August 20. He entered a plea of not guilty to the charges and is released on a bond in the amount of $250,000, fully secured by real property. WERNER was arrested in Florida on September 10. On September 21, she appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford and entered a plea of not guilty to the charges. She is released on a bond in the amount of $85,000, fully secured by real property.
QAMER and SALEEM are currently being sought by law enforcement.
U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
U.S. Attorney Fein stated that the investigation is ongoing.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Eric J. Glover and Susan Wines.
In July 2009, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the formation of the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud cases and related financial crimes occurring in Connecticut. In addition to investigating past mortgage fraud schemes, the Task Force will focus on emerging crime trends that are associated with the growing tide of foreclosures, including foreclosure rescue schemes, and short sale schemes. Citizens are encouraged to report any suspected mortgage fraud activity by calling 203-333-3512 and requesting the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General; and State of Connecticut Department of Banking.
To report financial fraud crimes, and to learn more about the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov.
Farrington is Last Defendant to be Sentenced in Case
U.S. Attorney’s Office June 02, 2011
DALLAS—Eric Rulack Farrington, 58, of Irving, Texas, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay to 132 months in federal prison for largely orchestrating a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme in the Dallas area, announced U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. Judge Lindsay also ordered that Farrington pay approximately $2.5 million in restitution and forfeit approximately $1.2 million to the U.S. Farrington and seven other defendants were convicted in April 2010, following a nearly two-month trial on various felony offenses related to the fraud scheme that they operated in the Dallas area from March 2002 until January 2006. He is the last defendant in this case to be sentenced and was ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on September 6, 2011.
The jury convicted Farrington on all 32 counts of the superseding indictment, including: one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of bank fraud and aiding and abetting, 15 counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting, 10 counts of money laundering and aiding and abetting, and five counts of engaging in a monetary transaction with criminally derived property and aiding and abetting. Farrington was the president of Eric Farrington Seminars, Inc. and Prestige Capital Corporation, which did business as Farrington Mortgage Group. He was also a manager of EFC Investments, LLC, which did business as EFC Management Company. All were located in Dallas.
Farrington’s former fiancé, Janice Little Shepherd, 51, of Irving, Texas, a mortgage broker who did business as EFC Capital Mortgage Company, was sentenced yesterday by Judge Lindsay to five years in prison and ordered to pay $1,564,498 in restitution and forfeit approximately $1.2 million to the U.S. She was convicted at trial on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting, and four counts of engaging in a monetary transaction with criminally derived property and aiding and abetting. She was also ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on September 6, 2011.
Other defendants convicted and sentenced in the scheme include:
Regis Lamont Williams, 45, of Dallas, was a Texas certified real estate appraiser who did business as Executive Certified Appraisal. He was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of bank fraoud and aiding and abetting, nine counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting, and five counts of engaging in a monetary transaction wtih criminally derived property and aiding and abetting. He was sentenced on April 28, 2011 to 46 months in prison and ordered to pay approximately $1 million in restitution and forfeit approximately $1.2 million to the U.S. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s office will send a copy of his judgment order to the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board for whatever action they deem appropriate.
Kevin Ray Sanderson, 36, of Irving, Texas, was a business associate of Farrington and the vice president of Farco Construction, Inc., Dallas, which also did business as Farrington Mortgage Group. He was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, four counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting, and one count of money laundering. Earlier this week he was sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay $762,983 restitution, and forfeit approximately $1.2 million to the U.S.
James Edward Jones, 45, of Dallas, was a real estate agent. He was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting. On August 27, 2010, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $624,414 restitution and forfeit approximately $1.2 million to the U.S.
Edwin Terrence Bell, 44, of Fort Worth, Texas, was in the real estate management business and was the president of Togetherness, Inc. Bell also did business as The Togetherness Group and TTG, Inc. He was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting, and two counts of engaging in a monetary transaction with criminally derived property and aiding and abetting. On August 27, 2010, he was sentenced to 41 months in prison and ordered to pay $442,604 in restitution and forfeit approximately $1.2 million to the U.S.
Micheal (sic) Lewis Andrews, 51, of Plano, Texas, was chief executive officer of Second Chance Mortgage, Inc. and did business as 2nd Chance Mortgage. He was convicted on two counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting. He was sentenced last week to 24 months in prison and ordered to pay $108,659 in restitution.
Robert John Mason, 56, of Oak Leaf, Texas, was an employee of Prestige Capital Corporation. He was convicted of two counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting. He was sentenced in July 2010 to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $463,722 in restitution.
Prior to trial, Marcus Allen Parker, 36, of Rowlett, Texas, who was an associate of defendant Kevin Ray Sanderson, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced in July 2010 to three years’ probation.
The scheme was largely orchestrated by Farrington—a motivational speaker and author of a real estate book who had an infomercial on making money in real estate that ran on late night television. The defendants located single-family residences for sale in the Dallas area, including distressed and pre-foreclosure properties, and negotiated a sales price with the seller. They created surplus loan proceeds by inflating the sales price to an arbitrary amount substantially more than the fair market value of the residence, many times using inflated appraisals. In some cases, they would create a bogus outstanding mortgage lien to be discharged. They recruited individuals with high credit scores to act as borrowers and falsely represented to them that the property would be managed by the defendants and rented by a suitable tenant; that the mortgage, interest, taxes, insurance and property maintenance would be paid from the rental income; and the purchasers/borrowers would have no expenses. The borrowers had no intention to live in the property and did not have sufficient income to repay the loans. They said they relied on Farrington.
The defendants prepared and submitted fraudulent loan documents showing inflated incomes in the names of the borrowers and obtained loans in inflated amounts based on these fraudulent loan documents. Then they used the fraudulently obtained surplus loan proceeds to pay the sellers kickbacks, to conceal the fraud, and distributed the bulk of the proceeds among themselves. They would then allow the loan to go into foreclosure after a few payments were made on the loan.
Some of the residences used in the scheme include:
1420 Travis Circle South, Irving, Texas
6231 Azalea Lane, Dallas
7730 Cliffbrook Drive, Dallas
10907 Cinderella Lane, Dallas
7617 Arborgate Drive, Dallas
13735 Ashridge Drive, Dallas
6824 Winterwood Lane, Dallas
6840 Winterwood Lane, Dallas
6915 Winterwood Lane, Dallas
7012 Creek Bend Road, Dallas
1509 Appalachian Drive, Allen, Texas
Mortgage fraud is a major focus of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.gov.
U.S. Attorney Jacks praised the investigative efforts of the FBI and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and the cooperation of several state agencies including the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending and the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Revesz and Walt Junker prosecuted the case.
CHICAGO—Three partners in a failed North Shore development project, a title company executive, and a loan officer were charged in a federal indictment unsealed yesterday with engaging in a $15.7 million residential mortgage and construction loan fraud scheme to help finance the failed mixed-use commercial development known as the Center of the Northshore, federal law enforcement officials announced. The five defendants allegedly caused various lenders and a title company to lose at least $8.45 million. The loan proceeds allegedly were used to make lulling interest payments on multiple fraudulent residential mortgages, as well as to make interest payments on a $26.2 million loan to finance the purchase of 14 acres at the intersection of Dundee Road and Skokie Boulevard in Northbrook for the proposed mixed-use development, which ultimately fell into foreclosure.
The 11-count indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on May 26, was unsealed after four of the five defendants were arrested yesterday by federal agents. The arrests and charges were announced today by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Thomas A. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service in Chicago; and Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The defendants and charges against each are as follows:
Edward Renko, 49, of Glenview, who was chief executive officer of the now-defunct EAG Capital Holdings, Inc.—two counts of wire fraud and one count each of bank fraud and making a false statement to influence the action of a bank;
Alexander Field, 42, of Northbrook, formerly president of EAG Capital—three counts of wire fraud and one count of bank fraud;
Gary Fishkin, 54, of Glencoe, formerly chief operating officer of EAG Capital—two counts of wire fraud and one count each of bank fraud and making a false statement to influence the action of a bank;
Kalliope Shaykin, 51, of Chicago, formerly president of Absolute Title Services, Inc., in Schaumburg—seven counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement to influence the action of a bank; and
Tatyana Furman, 41, of Northbrook, formerly a loan officer and mortgage broker at American United Mortgage Co., in Northbrook, which was 50 percent-owned by EAG Capital—seven counts of wire fraud.
Renko, Field, Fishkin, and Furman were arraigned yesterday before Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez in U.S. District Court, and were ordered to remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Shaykin was not arrested and was scheduled to be arraigned today before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber in federal court.
According to the indictment, between June 2006 and November 2007, the defendants fraudulently obtained at least $8.45 million in residential loan proceeds by repeatedly obtaining mortgages secured by residences owned by Renko, Field, and Fishkin, located respectively at 711, 700, and 688 Greenwood Rd., Northbrook. The mortgages were obtained purportedly to refinance existing loans secured by those residences, but instead of using the loans to pay off the existing mortgages, the defendants allegedly converted the fraudulently obtained loans to their own use, including to pay personal expenses, business expenses, and interest payments on the $26.21 million loan financing the purchase of property for the proposed Center of the Northshore.
On multiple occasions, the indictment alleges that Furman prepared, and Renko, Field, and Fishkin signed, fraudulent mortgage loan applications that contained false statements that failed to disclose the respective defendant’s existing mortgage liabilities and the purpose of the loans. Shaykin allegedly created and submitted to lenders fraudulent title insurance policies under the name of Title Company A that intentionally omitted prior existing mortgages and liens on the respective defendant’s residences.
The indictment alleges that Renko, Field, and Fishkin distributed at least $720,000 in fraudulently obtained loan proceeds to Shaykin through various means, and that those four defendants distributed at least $240,000 to Furman through various transactions. Overall, Renko, Field, and Fishkin obtained home mortgages and a construction loan totaling at least $15,790,000 and caused actual losses to lenders and Title Company A totaling at least $8.45 million.
The indictment seeks forfeiture totaling nearly $10.5 million from all five defendants.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan S. Hedges.
Wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, four of the wire fraud counts allegedly affecting financial institutions, together with bank fraud and making a false statement to influence the action of a bank, each carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. As an alternative, the court may impose a maximum fine totaling twice the loss to any victim or twice the gain to any defendant, whichever is greater, and restitution is mandatory. If convicted, the court must determine a reasonable sentence to impose under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
Ira J. Pressman was charged today by information in connection with a Ponzi scheme that defrauded 20 investors out of more than $6 million, announced United States Attorney Zane David Memeger. The charges include one count each of wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. The information alleges that since 2006, Pressman ran a company called PJI Distribution Corporation that purported to purchase and sell closeout and overstock merchandise. Pressman solicited individuals to invest in these closeout deals, promising investors no risk returns of up to 100 percent annually. Unbeknownst to the investors, however, most of these closeout merchandise deals were fictitious. Pressman instead used new investor’s money to pay returns to the old investors.
Information Regarding the Defendant
Name: Ira J. Pressman
Address: Bala Cynwyd, PA
Age or Year of Birth: 1947
If convicted of all charges, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of 60 years in prison, a fine of $1 million, three years of supervised release, and a $300 special assessment.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Leo R. Tsao and Special Assistant United States Attorney Steven Latzer.
DENVER—Philip R. Lochmiller, Jr. pled guilty yesterday afternoon to conspiracy to commit securities and mail fraud and money laundering, U.S. Attorney John Walsh, FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis and IRS – Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Christopher M. Sigerson announced. Lochmiller, Jr. entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Court Judge Philip A. Brimmer. Judge Brimmer has not yet scheduled a sentencing hearing date for Lochmiller, Jr., although he did state that the sentencing hearing will take place in Grand Junction. The defendant appeared at the hearing free on a $100,000 unsecured bond.
According to the stipulated facts contained in the plea agreement, Valley Mortgage, Inc. was incorporated in Colorado in September 1994 by Philip Lochmiller, Sr. The company originally engaged in the business or originating or brokering home mortgages. Lochmiller, Jr. owed 100 percent of Valley Mortgage’s stock and was principal, officer and director. Lochmiller, Sr.’s stepson, Philip Lochmiller, Jr., joined Valley Mortgage in 1999 as a mortgage officer. Lochmiller, Sr. then changed the name to Valley Investments. Lochmiller, Jr. eventually worked his way to become responsible for day-to-day operations of the company. Beginning in 2000, Valley Mortgage entered into the “affordable housing” real estate market by buying vacant land or existing mobile home parks, entitling the land so residential subdivisions could be built, and then selling lots with either a mobile home or a manufactured home on it.
Valley Investments could not secure traditional sources of funding for their projects, primarily because Lochmiller, Sr. had a prior fraud conviction and a bankruptcy. Instead, the company often purchased land with financing provided by the sellers in a “owner-carry” arrangement. Valley Investments then began to advertise in local newspapers and solicit investment funds from the public. The company promised returns from 10 percent to 16 percent, and in some instances, as high as 18 percent. In exchange, investors were promised a promissory note and a recorded first “Deed of Trust” on individual lots. Investors were also promised that the lot values would be “verified by a licensed appraiser.” The advertisements and verbal representations by both of the Lochmillers characterized the investment as a “solid security” secured and recorded by a Deed of Trust in the investor’s name. Both of the Lochmillers represented to investors that Valley Investments used investor funds exclusively to acquire property and finance the development of the subdivisions Valley Investments owned. Both the Lochmillers further represented that Valley Investments generated large profits by selling manufactured homes together with lots within the subdivisions. Investors were not told about Lochmiller Sr.’s prior felony conviction or bankruptcy.
Between 2000 and 2005, Valley Investments acquired five properties purportedly to develop “affordable housing” subdivisions. Between 2000 and 2009, Valley Investments received over $30,000,000 from approximately 420 investor contracts. The government’s expert forensic accountants shows that this influx of investor funds kept Valley Investments operating, particularly in its later years, and without investor funding, Valley Investments would have failed. The government accounting analysis also determined that investor funds were used by both of the Lochmillers for purposes other than what investors were told. Further, incoming investor funds were used to make interest and principal payments to existing investors. Once investor money started coming into Valley Investments, the funds went to personal expenses, family expenses and other non-business expenditures. Lochmiller, Jr. then engaged in monetary transactions involving more than $10,000 of the proceeds of the fraud.
Valley Investments did not own sufficient property or assets to secure the investments as represented. Unbeknownst to investors, the amount of investment funds, which were supposed to be secured by real property, far exceeded the value of the encumbered property and the business assets. Valley Investments failed to file all of the Trust Deeds and behalf of investors as promised, and many of the filed Trust Deeds were not the first encumbrances on the properties named and were thus worthless. Despite these facts, the Lochmillers and Valley Investment employee Shawnee Carver continued to misrepresent to investors that the business was thriving, and never disclosed to new investors how their money was being used.
“In cases like this, where investment schemers who take people’s hard earned money—particularly their retirement money—on the basis of false promises and representations, federal law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute them aggressively,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “We will prosecute criminals who steal with the pen and the computer with the same vigor as we prosecute criminals who steal by other means.”
“This guilty plea reflects the tremendous dedication of our agents and the cumulative commitment of the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and IRS – Criminal Investigation to aggressively investigate and prosecute white collar criminals that prey on innocent victims,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis. “Our efforts will continue to focus on seeking justice on behalf of the more than 400 victims throughout Colorado that have experienced financial devastation as a result of their involvement with Valley Investments.”
“Defrauding investors is a serious offense and IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement partners to prosecute those who victimize clients,” said Christopher M. Sigerson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Denver Field Office.
Lochmiller, Jr. faces not more than five years’ imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to commit securities and mail fraud. He faces not more than 10 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine, or twice the amount of the criminally derived property, for money laundering. Accordingly, in total, Lochmiller, Jr. faces not more than 15 years’ imprisonment, up to a $500,000 fine, or twice the amount derived from the crimes.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the IRS Criminal Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Heldmyer and Pegeen Rhyne.
This prosecution is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
DENVER—Cedric Lipsey, age 35, and Philip A. Martinez, age 34, both from Denver, Colorado, were indicted by a federal grand jury last week on charges of wire fraud as part of a mortgage fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney David Gaouette, FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis, and IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Christopher M. Sigerson announced. Lipsey was arrested by federal agents without incident. He appeared in U.S. District Court in Denver on August 31st, 2009 for an initial appearance, where he was advised of the charges pending against him. He appeared in court again today, where U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix authorized his release on a $50,000 property bond.
According to the indictment, beginning in April 2004, and continuing thereafter until about March 2006, in the District of Colorado and elsewhere, Cedric Lipsey, aided and abetted by defendant Philip A. Martinez, did knowingly devise and intend to devise a scheme to defraud lending companies that funded residential mortgage loans and to obtain money from them by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises.
Cedric Lipsey, a licensed real estate agent, held himself out as a successful real estate agent and investor. Philip A. Martinez was a loan officer and mortgage broker.
Lipsey orchestrated the purchase and resale or refinancing of numerous residential properties, including the sale of one of his own homes, by paying individuals to participate as “investors” in what he referred to as an investment “opportunity.” Lipsey and Martinez arranged for these so-called “investors” to use their good credit to obtain mortgage loans to purchase the properties. Shortly after the first set of loans that helped these individuals purchase properties, Lipsey caused them to sell the properties to a second set of buyers at substantially higher prices, with Lipsey and Martinez taking a combination of commissions, fees, and proceeds from the first and second transactions.
Lipsey falsely represented that the first buyers would be purchasing and had purchased the properties for less than their actual market value. The first sales were not “distressed”, as the defendants sometimes represented to facilitate their fraud. In fact, the first buyers purchased the properties at or near their market value, and there was no legitimate reason for the substantial increase in price when the same properties were resold shortly thereafter.
Lipsey and Martinez arranged to have a variety of fraudulent documents submitted to the lenders in support of the loan applications. These consisted primarily of documents purporting to show proof of the borrowers’ employment, proof of the borrowers’ assets, and sources of the borrowers’ asset, and incomes. The defendants also used forged signatures where necessary to facilitate the scheme. Furthermore, Lipsey enabled certain appraisers to create false reports which reflected that the subject properties were “comparable” to the higher quality or otherwise more valuable properties, when they were not.
“Mortgage fraud weakens our economy, threatens the recovery of the housing market, and makes it more difficult for law-abiding folks to purchase a home,” said United States Attorney David Gaouette.
“Mortgage fraud hurts borrowers, financial institutions, and legitimate homeowners,” said FBI Denver Division Special Agent in Charge James Davis. “The FBI, in conjunction with our law enforcement, regulatory, and industry partners, will continue to diligently pursue perpetrators of mortgage fraud schemes.
“Mortgage fraud creates a significant loss of tax revenue, drives buyers into foreclosure, leave lenders burdened with bad loans and neighborhoods with abandoned and deteriorating properties,” said Christopher M. Sigerson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Denver Field Office.
If convicted of wire fraud, which are counts one through 27, the penalty is not more than 20 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine, per count. If convicted of count 28, monetary transaction in property derived from unlawful activity, the defendant faces not more than 10 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS CI).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Kaufman.
MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court in the District of Minnesota, two people pleaded guilty to their roles in a scheme that defrauded mortgage lenders out of approximately $4.2 million. My Dinh Lam, age 30, of Minneapolis, and Ashley Elizabeth Prasil, age 27, of Eden Prairie, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the scheme. The defendants, who were charged on April 21, 2011, entered their pleas before United States District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson in St. Paul.
In their plea agreements, the defendants admitted that from December 18, 2006, through December of 2007, they conspired to defraud mortgage lenders in connection with the marketing of the Cloud 9 Sky Flats (“Cloud 9″), a Minnetonka development. The defendants admitted that the scheme involved finding buyers to apply for mortgage loans to purchase units in the development, knowing that each buyer would receive a kickback of approximately 30 percent of the reported purchase price of any unit. The application forms submitted to the lenders did not disclose these kickbacks. The kickback payments were returned to the buyers through an account controlled by a co-conspirator, with a portion skimmed off and shared among the defendants. More than 40 Cloud 9 units were sold through the scheme, and more than 80 percent of the loans have since defaulted. In excess of $4.2 million was transferred to accounts controlled by Sheri Lynn Delich, a person who has been charged by Information in this case.
For their crimes, the defendants face a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison. Judge Nelson will determine their sentences at a future hearing, yet to be scheduled.
This case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert M. Lewis.
This law enforcement action is in part sponsored by the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. It includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch and, with state and local partners, investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
Two Houston Men Sentenced to Prison for Mortgage Fraud
U.S. Attorney’s Office June 01, 2011
HOUSTON—Adrian Levale Cole and Albert Terrance Watkins, both of Houston, have been sentenced to prison for their roles in a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
Cole, 40, owned and operated the “fictitious” companies AC Homes and WT Homes and generated more than $10 million in fraudulent home loan submissions at and through Phantom Marketing, Capri Mortgage, and United National Mortgage by recruiting borrowers with good credit in Houston and the surrounding area. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud and false representation of Social Security numbers in June 2010. Today, United States District Judge David Hittner sentenced Cole to a 108-month term of incarceration to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release.
Watkins, 47, who devised the scheme with Cole to purchase multiple residential properties in the greater Houston area through fraudulent mortgage loans, was sentenced to 150 months’ incarceration by United States District Judge David Hittner. Watkins’ role in the scheme was two-fold. He was both a recruiter of borrowers with good credit on behalf of Phantom Marketing and a loan processor at Capri Mortgage and subsequently at United National Mortgage. Watkins pleaded guilty in June 2010 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Judge Hittner has also imposed a three-year term of supervised release to be served by Watkins upon completion of his prison term.
The scheme involved the borrowers with good credit to agree and to apply for home mortgage loans from multiple lenders, with the understanding that they would not be responsible for the monthly mortgage payments—rather, Phantom Marketing would make all payments on all loans. Watkins explained to the borrowers that the portions of the approved loan proceeds from the purchased homes would go to them and/or Watkins and/or Cole and others. As was true of most of the other loans that were part of this scheme, only the first few monthly mortgage payments were made, and then the mortgage loans went into default for non-payment.
Specifically, as related to Cole and his counts of conviction, in December 2004 Cole purchased a Houston residential property for $110,000, an “inflated” sales price, using a false Social Security number belonging to a minor on the home mortgage loan application with a “created” line of credit that was ultimately approved for $99,000. Loan funds from the bank account of the lender, People’s Choice Home Loans Inc., were wired into the bank account of the title company. Out of the loan proceeds, a check in the amount of $69,100 issued to AC Homes, Cole’s company, as a “Contractor Loan.” No construction work of any kind was ever done by AC Homes on that property located in Houston. On June 23, 2005, Cole sold this property to a “straw purchaser,” who purchased it for a greater “inflated” sales price of $150,000. According to the title file, $105,000 went to pay off Cole mortgage loan and $39,551.33 cash went to seller, Cole. No improvements were ever done to this property. The straw buyer defaulted on $150,000 in loans and the loss to bank, after resale of the foreclosed home, has been determined to be $105,128.
In addition to the prison terms, Judge Hittner has also ordered Cole and Watkins to pay restitution, jointly and severally, to various financial institutions who are currently the servicers of the loans as a result of the bankruptcy and closure of the now defunct, initial lenders. The final amount of restitution will be determined by the court within 90 days.
The investigation leading to the charges was the result of a joint investigation conducted by agents of the FBI, Friendswood Police Department, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations and the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Melissa J. Annis and Carolyn Ferko prosecuted the case.
SALT LAKE CITY—A detention hearing is set for 11:15 a.m. Wednesday in federal court for John S. Dudley, age 56, of Sandy, charged last week in a 17-count indictment with money laundering and wire and bank fraud in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme. Wednesday’s hearing will be before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Warner.
Dudley had an initial appearance Friday following his arrest on the indictment. He entered a plea of not guilty to the charges. A status conference has been set for Aug. 8, 2011 at 9:15 a.m. The case is being investigated by the special agents of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation. Anyone who believes they might be a victim of the scheme alleged in this indictment should call the FBI in Salt Lake City at 801-579-1400.
According to the indictment, Dudley devised a scheme to induce individuals to invest money with him for use in various investment programs, including a foreign exchange trading program, mining speculation, European and domestic stock options and commodity trading, and a human jetpack rocket suit. In January 2007, Dudley began to solicit investors at investment club meetings, sometimes called “bounce nights” or “Tashi group meetings,” in Salt Lake County by representing himself as an experienced and successful investor and describing his investment programs to prospective investors.
The indictment alleges Dudley made a variety of false representations to potential investors, including telling them they could expect monthly returns of 5-10 percent; that he had not suffered a trading loss since 1978; that investors’ funds would be used exclusively for investment purposes; that he had personally done very well in his investments and had never made less than 5 percent per month over the last 30 years; that investors’ money was backed by a “senior life settlement policy” that reduced or eliminated investors’ risk of loss; and that investing with him was an exclusive opportunity with only a limited number of investors allowed to invest with him at one time.
According to the indictment, Dudley advised prospective investors on how to engage in a process he called “equity mining” to borrow money from banks to invest with him. Using this process, he told individuals they could purchase luxury items, such as homes or boats, which would pay for themselves. Using the scheme, individuals would obtain financing from a bank for more than the sale price of the item and then invest the remainder of the loan proceeds in an investment offering that guaranteed a 10 percent return each month.
The indictment alleges Dudley used new investors’ money to pay old investors’ returns in a scheme commonly referred to as a ponzi scheme. Virtually all of the investors’ money was used by Dudley to either pay “returns” to other investors or for his own personal use, including the purchase of two homes—a $1.5 million home in Sandy and a $860,327.63 home in Riverton; a down payment of $28,978.31 for a ski boat; and to pay for meals, airline tickets, and gifts for his family.
Around 75 to 100 investors gave Dudley more than $12 million from about January 2007 to March 2010, the indictment alleges.
The potential penalty for each of the 10 counts of wire fraud in the indictment is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Bank fraud, charged in two counts, carries a potential penalty of 30 years per count and a $1 million fine. The maximum potential penalty for each of the five money laundering counts is 10 years and a fine of $250,000.
Indictments are not findings of guilt. Individuals charged in indictments are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in court.
PHOENIX—Phoenix resident Paige Kinney, aka Jaime Lee Lawler, 42, pleaded guilty in two separate cases in federal district court on Friday. In one case, Kinney admitted to her leadership role in a $40 million mortgage fraud involving Countrywide Home Loans, and in the second case, she admitted to committing bankruptcy fraud, bank fraud, and mail fraud.
“This defendant’s fraudulent activities were pervasive—she targeted financial institutions, she undermined the integrity of the bankruptcy court, and she stole from an insurance company,” said U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke. “For those in the real estate and mortgage industry: If you engage in fraud to line your pockets at the expense of others, we will come after you with everything we have. I congratulate the IRS and FBI on a thorough investigation.”
“Today’s guilty plea signifies the continued commitment by the FBI, the Arizona Mortgage Fraud Task Force, and the United States Attorney’s Office in targeting mortgage and bankruptcy fraud,” said John Strong, Federal Bureau of Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge, Phoenix Division. “The FBI and its law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively pursue those who are involved in these types of fraudulent schemes. Mortgage fraud has greatly impacted the citizens of Arizona over the past few years and will continue to remain a top criminal priority of the FBI.”
Kinney admitted that from January of 2005 through December of 2007, she and others recruited straw buyers to purchase homes the buyers never intended to live in by obtaining mortgage loans the buyers never should have received. Kinney arranged for the loan applications to be submitted with false information about the employment, income, and assets of the buyers so they would qualify for the loans. The loans, totaling almost $40 million, were obtained based on inflated property appraisals. The excess cash totaling $9 million was then diverted to Kinney and her co-conspirators.
Kinney further admitted that she continued her illicit activities while she was pending trial on the mortgage fraud charges. She declared bankruptcy and then attempted to hide assets and liabilities by changing her name. She committed additional financial fraud by arranging for friends to fraudulently obtain a loan to purchase a Mercedes. And she committed insurance fraud by staging a phony burglary of her residence and then collecting $130,000 from Allstate Insurance Company.
Kinney pleaded guilty to a total of 13 felony offenses, many of which each carry a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a maximum fine of $1 million. In determining an actual sentence, the federal district court judge will consult the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. The judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.
Sentencing is set before Judge Neil V. Wake on September 12, 2011. The investigation in this case was conducted by the IRS and FBI. The prosecution is being handled by Kevin M. Rapp and Monica B. Klapper, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.