Patrick Lee, 45, formerly of Canton and Easton, Massachusetts, a dual U.S.-Irish citizen,  pleaded guilty yesterday to charges arising out of a multi-year mortgage fraud scheme.

Between July 2005 and May 2007, Lee engaged with others in a mortgage fraud scheme. Specifically, Lee or a relative bought five multi-family buildings in Dorchester and South Boston, Massachusetts financed those purchases with fraudulently obtained mortgage loans, and quickly converted the buildings to condominiums which facilitated the resale of individual units in the buildings to straw buyers. The straw buyers were recruited for this purpose and their purchases were financed with fraudulently obtained mortgage loans. The straw buyers were assured that they would not have to put any money down or pay the mortgages, and that they would get a fee at closing and/or a share of the profits when the properties were sold. The loans were funded with interstate wire transfers from the mortgage lenders to the closing attorneys’ conveyancing accounts, and the proceeds were then distributed to Lee and/or a family member, the recruiters, and others involved in the scheme. According to the government, mortgage lenders suffered losses of more than $1.5 million.

Lee pleaded guilty to wire fraud and making an unlawful monetary transaction. Chief U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris scheduled sentencing for Feb. 28, 2019. Lee was extradited from Ireland to the United States last year to face the charges. It was Ireland’s first extradition to the United States since 2012.

The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of unlawful monetary transactions provides for a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of criminally derived property. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Stephen A. Marks, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Boston Field Office, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra S. Bower and Christine Wichers of Lelling’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

 

Surjit Singh, 72, Dublin, California, Rajeshwar Singh, 44, Pleasanton, California and Anita Sharma, 56, Gilroy, California were sentenced today for crimes relating to their involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme.

According to court documents, in 2006 and 2007, Surjit Singh recruited individuals with good credit to act as straw buyers for residential properties owned by his family members and associates. Rajeshwar Singh, a licensed real estate agent, assisted in the scheme by submitting loan applications for the straw buyers. Anita Sharma, a dental assistant at the time, was one of the straw buyers. Because Sharma and the other straw buyers could not afford the homes based on their true incomes, the Singhs submitted fraudulent loan applications and supporting material to lending institutions that included false statements about the straw buyers’ income, employment, liabilities, and intent to occupy the homes as their primary residences.

At least 14 properties were involved in the scheme. Anita Sharma alone purchased five homes in San Jose, San Ramon, Elk Grove, Sacramento, and Modesto, California. Other straw buyers purchased or refinanced properties in Stockton, Modesto, Patterson, Lathrop and Tracy, California. All of these homes were ultimately either foreclosed upon or sold in a short sale where the bank lets homeowners sell their homes for less than is owed on the mortgage.

Sharma was paid for her involvement in the scheme. Rajeshwar Singh received financial benefits through broker commissions for the transactions and as the seller of seven of the properties. He also continued to occupy the San Ramon property at a time when Anita Sharma should have been living there. Surjit Singh benefitted through payments out of escrow directed to shell companies, such as SJR Investments and BK Investments, which were associated with his daughter and significant other, whose initials are SJR and BK respectively. These payments were purportedly for contracting services, which did not occur. He also benefitted through rental payments made to him and his significant other by the renters of the homes, as the straw buyers were not living in the homes. In addition, many of his family members received money by selling properties and had money directed to them out of escrow. According to court documents and evidence produced at trial, the defendants were responsible for the origination of more than $9.3 million in fraudulently procured residential mortgage loans.

Surjit Singh was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison, his son, Rajeshwar Singh was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison on four counts of mail fraud, four counts of bank fraud, and four counts of false statements on loan and credit applications. Anita Sharma, was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison on two counts of mail fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and two counts of false statements on loan and credit applications. Surjit Singh was ordered to pay a $2 million fine, $698,787 in restitution, and $847,000 in forfeiture. Raj Singh was ordered to pay a $1 million fine, $928,287 in restitution, and $838,399 in forfeiture. Anita Sharma was ordered to pay $603,180 in restitution and $30,000 in forfeiture.

Surjit Singh is in custody.  Rajeshwar Singh and Anita Sharma are scheduled to self‑surrender on January 9, 2019.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee S. Bickley, Kelli L. Taylor, and Kevin Khasigian prosecuted the case.

Christopher B.  Pitts, 48, Georgia, who was previously a practicing attorney in Montgomery, Alabama, received a 37-month sentence on November 6, 2018 for devising a scheme to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution.

According to court documents, between 2005 and 2008, Pitts served as a closing attorney for the sales of all homes owned by HUD in northern and central Alabama.  As the closing attorney, it was Pitts’ job to receive purchase money, pay closing costs, and transmit to HUD the remaining purchase money.  As Pitts admitted when he pleaded guilty, on numerous occasions, he did not actually remit payments to HUD.  As a result of Pitts’ fraud, HUD never received the money it was owed for the sale of HUD-owned houses.

United States District Judge L. Scott Coogler sentenced Pitts after he pleaded guilty to defrauding the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

At the sentencing hearing, Judge Coogler found that Pitts was responsible for causing a total loss to HUD of $1,090,888.53.  The judge ordered that Pitts make full restitution to HUD upon his release from prison.

This case was investigated by HUD’s Office of Inspector General.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan S. Ross prosecuted the case.

 

UBS AG  and several of its United States affiliates (together, UBS), has been sued by The United States Government alleging that UBS defrauded investors throughout the United States and the world in connection with its sale of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) in 2006 and 2007.

The complaint alleges that UBS’ actions violated the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), based on mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and other misconduct.  FIRREA authorizes the Attorney General to seek civil penalties up to the amount of the gain derived from the violation or the losses suffered by persons other than the violator resulting from the violation.

As detailed in the complaint, from 2006 through 2007, UBS allegedly misled investors about the quality of billions of dollars in subprime and Alt-A mortgage loans backing 40 RMBS deals.  Specifically, in publicly-filed offering documents, UBS is alleged to have knowingly misrepresented key characteristics of the loans, thereby concealing the fact that the loans were much riskier and much more likely to default than UBS represented.  In the end, the 40 RMBS sustained catastrophic losses.

The complaint alleges that instead of ensuring that their representations to investors were accurate and transparent, UBS affirmatively misled investors and withheld crucial information from them about the loans in its deals,” said U.S. Attorney Pak.  “UBS allegedly placed a higher priority on selling bonds and making profits than accurately representing the quality of the underlying loans to investors.  These practices resulted in massive losses to investors, harmed homeowners, and ultimately jeopardized the banking system.”

The fraudulent actions by UBS as alleged in the complaint contributed to the 2008 financial crisis, which resulted in lasting economic harm to the nation and unnecessary suffering for Americans,” said Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio. “This suit aims to hold UBS accountable and sends a strong message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate fraud committed by corporations.

Investors who bought RMBS from UBS suffered catastrophic losses, which not only caused direct harm to those investors, but also contributed to the financial crisis of 2008,” stated U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue.  “The filing of this complaint makes it clear that we will continue to hold financial institutions fully accountable for their conduct and will aggressively pursue financial fraud.”

The government’s case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern District of Georgia and the Eastern District of New York.  The Office of the Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Administration also provided assistance in the government’s investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Austin M. Hall and Armen Adzhemyan with the Northern District of Georgia; and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bonni J. Perlin, Michael J. Castiglione, Richard K. Hayes with the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov (link sends e-mail) or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

Jason Anthony Martinez, 38, Tampa, Florida has been sentenced to an additional three months’ imprisonment for a total of 27 months’ imprisonment for lying to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Financial Litigation Unit and U.S. Probation to avoid his restitution obligation in a mortgage-related fraud case.

According to the plea agreement, Martinez was previously convicted and ordered to pay $3,008,551.01 in restitution. On October 24, 2017, Martinez signed and submitted a Financial Disclosure Form, upon which he falsely claimed a net income that was approximately half his actual net income and failed to disclose a number of credit accounts. This false information materially and adversely affected the resulting restitution-related payment calculations in his prior case. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Jason+Anthony+Martinez

In addition, he was sentenced to an additional two years of supervised release, extending his post-incarceration supervision to a total of five years.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, recognizing the critical importance of recovering restitution for victims, has a Financial Litigation Unit that collects criminal monetary penalties, including restitution, imposed on criminal defendants by the U.S. District Court as part of his or her sentence. One of the tools used by the Unit to collect restitution is the Financial Disclosure Statement, which requires defendants to truthfully disclose, among other things, their income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Economic Crimes Section. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas N. Palermo.

Sergio Roman Barrientos, 64, Poway, California was sentenced today in multimillion dollar mortgage and foreclosure rescue fraud scheme. Barrientos was sentenced to 14 years in prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud.

According to court documents, from about September 2004 through February 2008, Barrientos and co-conspirators Zalathiel Aguila and Omar Anabo operated an entity named Capital Access LLC, Vallejo, California. They preyed on homeowners nearing foreclosure, convinced them to sign away title in their homes, spent any equity those homeowners had saved, and used straw buyers to defraud federally insured financial institutions out of millions of dollars in home loans obtained under false pretenses. The equity stripped from the distressed homeowners’ properties was then used for operational expenses of the scheme and personal expenses of Barrientos and his coconspirators. Vulnerable homeowners across California lost their homes and savings as a result of the scheme, and lenders lost an estimated $10.47 million from the fraud. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Sergio+Roman+Barrientos

Co-defendant Zalathiel Aguila pleaded guilty and is scheduled for sentencing on November 16, 2018. Aguila faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew M. Yelovich and Todd A. Pickles are prosecuting the case.

James Bayfield, 46, Queens, New York was sentenced today to 21 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.

Bayfield, a self-described mortgage specialist, was convicted by a federal jury in January 2017 for his role in a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=James+Bayfield

Between September 2008 and May 2011, Bayfield and his co-conspirators caused mortgage loan applications with false information to be submitted to lending institutions, including Amtrust, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, in connection with the purchase of residential properties located in Brooklyn and Queens, New York.  These applications contained fraudulently inflated purchase prices and false information about the assets and income of the purported purchasers, many of whom were paid to act as straw purchasers.  Bayfield and his co-conspirators also provided false down payment checks to make it appear as if the straw purchasers and other borrowers had made down payments on the properties.

To complete their scheme, Bayfield and his co-conspirators conducted simultaneous and secretive purchases and sales of the properties, sometimes called “flips,” at inflated prices.  Ultimately, the lending institutions issued millions of dollars of mortgage loans secured by properties with inflated appraisal values, and many of these loans were placed into default status.

Bayfield was also ordered to pay $184,651 in forfeiture.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, announced the sentencing.

Bayfield has portrayed himself as a mortgage specialist, but now stands exposed as a convicted thief who used his knowledge of real estate transactions to carry out his fraudulent schemes against lending institutions,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “This Office will continue working with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute those who commit mortgage fraud and enrich themselves at the expense of lenders left holding the loans.”  Mr. Donoghue thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General; and the New York State Department of Financial Services for their hard work and dedication over the course of this multi-year investigation and prosecution.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys David C. Pitluck, Mark E. Bini and Michael T. Keilty are in charge of the prosecution.

Joseph Bates III, 38, Wakefield, Massachusetts pleaded guilty today in connection with a decade-long mortgage fraud scheme involving at least two dozen fraudulent loan transactions and $4.3 million in losses to lenders.

According to the charging documents, from 2006 through 2015, Bates and others engaged in a scheme to defraud banks and other financial institutions by causing false information to be submitted to those institutions on behalf of borrowers, people recruited to purchase properties, located primarily in Salem,Massachusetts . The properties were usually multi-family buildings with two-to-four units, which the co-conspirators then converted into condominiums. The co-conspirators recruited other borrowers to purchase the individual condominium units, which were also financed by fraudulent mortgage loans. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Joseph+Bates+III

Bates was charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, and two counts of bank fraud. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled. One of Bates’ alleged co-conspirators, George Kritopoulos, 46, Salem, Massachusetts was indicted on related charges in September 2018, and another participant, David Plunkett, 52, Lynn, Massachusetts was charged by Information.

The false information submitted to lenders included, among other things, representations concerning the borrowers’ employment, income, assets, and intent to occupy the property. Specifically, the false employment information included representations that borrowers were employed by entities that were, in fact, shell companies used to advance the fraudulent scheme. The employment information included false representations about the income that the borrowers received from the entities, when, in fact, the borrowers received little or no income from them.  Furthermore, the income asserted on the borrowers’ loan applications substantially overstated their true income. The false information also included representations that the recruited borrowers intended to live in the properties that they were purchasing, when the borrowers, in fact, did not intend to do so. Plunkett allegedly assisted the scheme by preparing tax returns for some of the borrowers that contained false and inflated income. Some of those tax returns were submitted to lenders in support of the fraudulent loan applications.

Because the borrowers did not have the financial ability to repay the loans, in many instances, they defaulted on their loan payments, resulting in foreclosures and losses to the financial institutions of more than $4.3 million.

The charges of bank fraud and wire fraud affecting a financial institution each provide for sentences of no greater than 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a fine of $1 million. The charge of conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Regional Office; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston, made the announcement today.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark J. Balthazard and Sara Miron Bloom of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 

Diamond Residential Mortgage Corporation, Illinois, entered into a settlement today under which the company will pay $1.2 million to eligible consumers who were defrauded by one of the company’s branch managers.

According to the investigation, allegations were made that Diamond’s Springfield branch manager, Chris R. Schaller defrauded individuals seeking mortgage loan. In some cases, borrowers believed they were obtaining a mortgage when Schaller actually placed them into a different type of transaction, a contract for deed, which can be financially riskier for borrowers than a traditional mortgage. Additionally, in some instances, consumers did not receive signed copies of their agreements with Schaller. In other instances, IDFPR found evidence that Schaller engaged in fraudulent loan origination activities. Madigan’s office is conducting a separate investigation of Chris Schaller, which is ongoing.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) made the announcement.

Madigan entered the settlement, an assurance of voluntary compliance, with Diamond Residential Mortgage Corporation (Diamond), a residential mortgage company based in Lake Forest, Illinois. The agreement resolves an investigation by Madigan’s office and IDFPR into alleged mortgage fraud at Diamond’s Springfield branch.

I appreciate the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s partnership with my office to root out mortgage fraud at Diamond Residential’s Springfield branch,” Madigan said. “I encourage people to file a complaint with my office if they think they could qualify to receive compensation.

Under the settlement, Diamond agrees to pay $1.2 million that Madigan’s office will distribute to consumers defrauded by Schaller. Madigan’s office and IDFPR will work together to conduct a claims process for consumers who were aggrieved by Schaller’s practices to request compensation from a fund that will be managed by Madigan’s office. Consumers who wish to be considered for compensation from the $1.2 million fund should file a complaint with Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau in Springfield. Complaint forms are available on Madigan’s website or by calling her Consumer Fraud Hotline at 1-800-243-0618.

Bureau Chief Elizabeth Blackston, Deputy Bureau Chief Paul Isaac and Assistant Attorney General Justin Tabatabai are handling the settlement for Madigan’s Consumer Protection Division.

Universal American Mortgage Company, LLC (UAMC) has agreed to pay the United States $13.2 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by falsely certifying that it complied with Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance requirements in connection with certain mortgages.  UAMC is a mortgage lender headquartered in Miami, Florida, doing business across the country, including in the Western District of Washington.

The United States alleged that between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2011, UAMC knowingly submitted loans for FHA insurance that did not qualify.  The United States further alleged that UAMC improperly incentivized underwriters and knowingly failed to perform quality control reviews, which violated HUD requirements and contributed to UAMC’s submission of defective loans.

During the period covered by the settlement, UAMC participated as a direct endorsement lender (DEL) in the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) FHA insurance program.  A DEL has the authority to originate, underwrite and endorse mortgages for FHA insurance.  If a DEL approves a mortgage loan for FHA insurance and the loan later defaults, the holder of the loan may submit an insurance claim to HUD, FHA’s parent agency, for the losses resulting from the defaulted loan.  Under the DEL program, the FHA does not review a loan for compliance with FHA requirements before it is endorsed for FHA insurance.  DELs are therefore required to follow program rules designed to ensure that they are properly underwriting and certifying mortgages for FHA insurance and to maintain a quality control program that can prevent and correct deficiencies in their underwriting practices.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.

Mortgage lenders may not ignore material FHA requirements designed to reduce the risk that borrowers will be unable to afford their homes and federal funds will be wasted,” said Assistant Attorney General Joseph H. Hunt for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will hold accountable entities that knowingly fail to follow important federal program requirements.”

“In a quest for profits, mortgage companies have ignored important lending standards” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Annette L. Hayes.  “Not only does this harm the borrowers leaving them over their heads in debt and underwater on their mortgages, it harms taxpayers because the mortgages are backed by government insurance.  This settlement should serve as a warning to other lenders to diligently follow the rules.

United States Attorney Joseph Harrington for the Eastern District of Washington said, “FHA mortgages are vital to first-time homebuyers and to families whose credit and assets were damaged by the 2008 economic crisis.  FHA underwriting and other requirements are critical to safeguarding the integrity of the public money used to operate this important program.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that mortgage lenders and others who profit from this program, while ignoring its rules, will be held accountable.

One of our principle responsibilities is to protect and ensure the integrity of federal housing programs for the benefit of all Americans,” said Jeremy M. Kirkland, Acting Deputy Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General.  “This settlement demonstrates our resolve and should signal to irresponsible lenders that this conduct will not be tolerated.

FHA depends upon the lenders we do business with to apply our standards and to truthfully certify that they’ve done so,” said David Woll, HUD’s Deputy General Counsel for Enforcement.  “Working with our federal partners, HUD will enforce these lending standards so we can protect families from preventable foreclosure and to protect FHA from unnecessary losses.

The settlement resolves allegations originally brought by Kat Nguyen-Seligman, a former employee of a related UAMC entity, in a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows private parties to bring suit on behalf of the federal government and to share in any recovery.  The whistleblower will receive $1,980,000 as her share of the federal government’s recovery in this case.

This matter was handled on behalf of the government by the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Washington and Western District of Washington, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General.  case is captioned United States ex rel. Kat Nguyen-Selgiman v. Lennar Corporation, Universal American Mortgage Company, LLC, and Eagle Home Mortgage of California, Inc., 14-cv-1435 (W.D. Wash.).  The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no admission of liability.

The settlement agreement is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Kayla Stahman.