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.