FBI Aids in Houstonian’s Sentencing in Mortgage Fraud Case
The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, along with special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation combined efforts to convict a Houston, TX, man for his role in a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme. At a hearing held last Friday before a United States District Judge, Lawrence Benham was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to wire fraud and mail fraud involving a financial institution. The court sentenced Benham to 8 years in prison, and ordered him to pay restitution of $412,800. Benham, who has been in federal custody without bond since his arrest in September 2005, will remain in federal custody to serve his sentence.
The 42-year-old Benham was convicted of devising a mortgage fraud scheme in which he located residential properties for sale and persuaded and used others as nominee purchasers of the properties for his benefit. Using the nominee borrower’s credit and identifying information on loan applications, Benham exaggerated the their financial resources and ability to repay loans, and arranged for nominee borrowers to purchase properties at prices far in excess of their true value. Benham then directed as much as $1.5 million from the closing on the residential properties to be paid to himself or to accounts he controlled.
At a previous hearing, Benham admitted that on July 7, 2003, he caused a federally insured financial institution to wire transfer $325,151 as a result of a fraudulent loan application he submitted in the name of a nominee borrower, without the borrower’s permission. Not surprisingly, he used those funds for his own benefit, knowing he was not legally entitled to do so. On October 3, 2003, Benham admitted having caused a payment on the mortgage to be sent by commercial courier to a lender for the purpose of avoiding detection and continuing the fraudulent scheme.
Benham conceded in court that the amount of gain from his mortgage fraud scheme was between $1.5 and $2.0 million, and that he used the proceeds to purchase or lease assets for himself and his business, including a Land Rover, furnishings, and luxury items like plasma televisions.