Gregory Gibbons, 54, Mobile, Alabama, was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution. The announcement was made today.

Between June 2008 and February 2009, the defendant conspired with others, including Alagi Samba, a realtor, and Daniel Badu, to devise a scheme to obtain eight loans for unqualified borrowers for homes in the Bronx, New York.  As part of the scheme, Gibbons acted as the mortgage broker and altered income and asset documents of the borrowers before they were sent to financial institutions.

For instance, Gibbons altered and created documents to make it appear that defendant Badu qualified for a mortgage on a property at 814 Faile Street, Bronx, New York. The defendant indicated that Badu was a research ophthalmologist and earned a specific income when in fact, Badu was not a research ophthalmologist nor did he receive the income stated on a loan application. Gibbons knew that these false loan documents were submitted to

The Funding Source, a mortgage bank, in order to secure a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Based on that false application and supporting documentation, the loan was approved. The Funding Source then sold the loan on the secondary market to M &T Bank, which wired funds from New York through the State of Ohio to purchase the loan.

The defendant and his co-conspirators arranged for additional fraudulent loans to be approved, including another loan for Badu, and caused wire communications to be transmitted in interstate commerce for those loans. These fraudulent transactions caused losses of approximately $4,800,007 affecting M&T Bank and other financial institutions including SunTrust Bank, JPMorgan Chase Bank, and Citibank. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Gregory+Gibbons

U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. made the announcement.

Gibbons was sentenced to time served by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci, Jr. The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution totaling $1,458,847.90 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, CitiBank, and M&T Bank.

The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector-in-Charge Joseph Cronin, Boston Division; the Department of Housing and Urban Development, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brad Geary; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Buffalo Division, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert.

Vision Property Management, LLC, a South Carolina based real estate company, its CEO Alex Szkaradek, and a number of affiliated companies have agreed today, subject to court approval, that more than $3.75 million will be paid in consumer restitution for engaging in and operating an illegal, deceptive, and unlicensed mortgage-lending business that targeted, among others, the disabled, the elderly, single parents, and others living on fixed incomes.

Specifically, the settlement includes cash payments of $600,000 that will be distributed to numerous New York consumers who were victims of Vision’s conduct and have, for the most part, moved out of their previous homes. Additionally, more than $3.15 million in unpaid principal for 58 homes will be forgiven by Vision as restitution. The ownership of these 58 homes will be transferred, free and clear of any future payments, to Vision’s current New York consumers. Additionally, the defendants must wind down their remaining business in New York over the following year, and along with any businesses they take a controlling interest in, are permanently enjoined from engaging in any future residential real estate business in New York.

The settlement is set to resolve an August 2019 federal lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, alleging that, since at least 2011, Vision and its affiliates profited from predatory, subprime home loans at the expense of some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, primarily in Upstate and Central New York. In the complaint, Attorney General James and Superintendent Lacewell accused the company of buying severely distressed properties and marketing them at a substantial markup with high-cost, interest rates, in the range of 10% to 25%. Vision rarely disclosed these high interest rates and typically made no repairs or renovations to the dilapidated homes they were selling, illegally passing those costs on to consumers. Further, Vision was not properly licensed to engage in seller finance lending in New York, which it was required to be beginning in late 2011, and thus was operating illegally when entering into these transactions.

The lawsuit further charged that Vision targeted vulnerable consumers who , by the company’s own admission, were eager to share in the American dream of homeownership, but could not qualify for conventional financing due to various employment, health, marital, or other financial reasons. While Vision claimed its “unique” business model was a path to homeownership, in reality, the company made significant profits with little risk by skirting consumer protections and financial regulations and trapping consumers with high cost mortgages and often uninhabitable homes.

Despite placing the burden of repairing and maintaining the homes on consumers, Vision did not fully disclose the many dangerous, unhealthy, and unsafe conditions in its homes, and in many instances concealed the extent of these conditions by leaving the electricity and other utilities turned off while consumers took walk throughs of the homes. These conditions included pest infestations; faulty electrical wiring; water damage; missing heaters, pipes, water tanks, and septic systems; mold; asbestos; foundation damage; and severely damaged and rotted out, floors, windows, walls, and roofs. The high cost of Vision’s loans combined with the significant cost of repairing these violations set consumers up to fail. Moreover, Vision routinely evicted consumers who had invested substantial sums of money in repairs without offering them the foreclosure protections to which they were entitled.

The settlement being announced today is still subject to final court approval.

New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York Superintendent of Financial Services Linda Lacewell made the announcement.

Vision’s illegal and deceptive practices that were targeted against New York’s most vulnerable residents will finally be put to an end,” said Attorney General James.Owning a home is what millions of New Yorkers dream of, but Vision turned that dream into a nightmare. Not only are we shutting down this company’s illegal New York racket, but we are securing restitution for the many victims and are ensuring 58 families have their mortgage debts wiped away. A fair and transparent housing market is essential for the health, welfare, and economic stability of New York and its residents, which is why my office will never stop fighting to hold companies responsible for their deceptive actions. I want to thank Superintendent Lacewell and her team at DFS for their partnership and diligent work throughout this case.”

Vision property management stole from hundreds of New Yorkers who sought the American dream of homeownership,” added Superintendent Lacewell. “This settlement holds Vision accountable for their illegal actions and provides a measure of restitution to New Yorkers who were victimized by Vision’s predatory practices. This is a clear message that New York has zero tolerance for those who rely on deception and fraud to turn a profit, and I commend Attorney General James and the staff of both DFS and the Attorney General’s office for their hard work on this important matter.”

In August 2019, Attorney General James and Superintendent Lacewell reached a settlement with New York-based hedge fund Atalaya Capital Management LP, for its role in funding and assisting Vision and its affiliates in their illegal business. Under that settlement, Atalaya paid New York $250,000 in civil penalties, agreed to abide by injunctive terms intended to prevent future wrongdoing, and paid more than $2.5 million in restitution to consumers, which is now being distributed to more than 100 New York homeowners in the form of monetary payments and payment cancellation.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Noah Popp of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia and Chief Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Meghan Faux. The Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

Additional attorneys handling this matter for the Department of Financial Services included Deputy Superintendent Peter C. Dean and Supervising Attorney in the Consumer Protection and Financial Enforcement Division Cynthia M. Reed.

Cabral Simpson, 43, Belleville, New Jersey, was arraigned today on charges that he engaged in a conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud that resulted in potential losses in excess of $1 million.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Simpson, a real estate investor, and his conspirators engaged in mortgage fraud by creating fake bank statements and fake employee verification records for buyers of properties and transferring money into the buyers’ bank accounts for payment of the deposit for a property. Simpson and his conspirators submitted fraudulent mortgage loan applications, supporting documents, and closing documents on behalf of the buyers. They induced lenders to issue more than $1 million in loans, resulting in defaults and exposing the lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to more than $1 million in potential losses. 

The conspiracy and wire fraud counts with which Simpson is charged each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross loss or gain caused by the offense.

Simpson appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre in Newark federal court. He is charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, with the investigation leading to the indictment.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Kogan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Cybercrimes Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Judge issues arrest warrant for Montgomery County man charged with mortgage fraud  – Patricia Duckett cries as she recounts how she lost her home of nearly 20 years, Nov. 6, 2019, in District Heights, Md. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post) Patricia Duckett cries as she recounts how she lost her home of nearly 20 years, Nov. 6, 2019, in District Heights, Md. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post) By Rachel Chason Jan. 3, 2020 at 9:51 a.m. PST A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge issued an arres

Source: Judge issues arrest warrant for Montgomery County man charged with mortgage fraud – The Washington Post

Judge Tosses Paul Manafort’s Mortgage Fraud Case In New York Lawyers for the former Trump campaign chairman argued the charges should be dismissed on double jeopardy grounds.

Source: Judge Tosses Paul Manafort’s Mortgage Fraud Case In New York | HuffPost

Saoud “Sam” Rihan, 59, Bronx, New York, admitted today his participation in a conspiracy to carry out a $3.5 million scheme to use bogus information and simultaneous loan applications at multiple banks to fraudulently obtain home equity lines of credit, a practice known as “shotgunning,”.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

Rihan was a business partner of Simon Curanaj, 65, Yonkers, New York. From 2012 through January 2014, Rihan, Curanaj, and others conspired to fraudulently obtain multiple home equity lines of credit (HELOC) from banks on residential properties in New Jersey and New York.

In 2013, Rihan and Curanaj executed a deed to transfer ownership of a Bronx, New York property to people identified in the complaint as “Individual 1” and “Individual 2,” neither of whom lived at the property. Rihan offered Individuals 1 and 2 $10,000 cash payments for acting as straw borrowers but never paid them. Rihan and Curanaj then applied for three HELOCs valued at $750,000 from multiple banks in the name of Individual 2.

Rihan and Curanaj hid the fact that the same Bronx, New York property was pledged as collateral in all three applications. The applications also fraudulently inflated Individual 2’s income. In addition, at the time the applications were made, the value of the Bronx property, which was encumbered by a mortgage, was far less than the amount of the HELOC loans that Rihan and the real estate broker applied for.

The victim banks eventually issued loans to Individual 2 in excess of $370,000. After the victim banks funded the HELOCs and deposited money into Individual 2’s bank accounts, Individual 2 disbursed almost all of the funds to Rihan, Curanaj, and others. In 2014, Individual 2 defaulted on all the HELOC loans.

The overall scheme resulted in over $3.5 million in losses to the victim banks.

Rihan faces a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for March 25, 2020.

Curanaj previously pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and is awaiting sentencing.

Rihan pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez to an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert Manchak in Newark; and special agents of the FBI, under the direction Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory of the FHFA-OIG.

Defense Counsel: Jeffrey Garrigan Esq., Jersey City, New Jersey

 

Carol Michaelson, 56, Dawsonville, Georgia, a formerly licensed real estate agent, pleaded guilty today to defrauding her clients by faking property sales, forging contracts and deeds, and then pocketing her victims’ money.

According to the charges and other information presented in court,  Michaelson operated a scheme to defraud her clients while acting as a real estate agent.  She pretended to arrange real estate purchases for her clients and received funds from them to complete the purchases, but then diverted the funds to her own personal use.  In furtherance of the scheme, she prepared fraudulent real estate contracts listing false owners, forged signatures on the contracts and other agreements, and filed fraudulent warranty deeds with forged signatures with the county clerk’s office.  Michaelson also sent emails to her victims impersonating closing attorneys, loan officers, and other financial and real estate personnel, to trick the victims into believing that the real estate transactions were legitimate and progressing.

Michaelson defrauded her victims in a variety of ways.  In some cases, she falsely informed victims that certain properties were for sale by their owners, when in fact they were not; and the true owners were unaware of Michaelson’s false representations.  In another instance, after Michaelson deceived a victim into believing that she had purchased properties for the victim, Michaelson created false tenant identities to deceive the victim into further believing that she had arranged for the properties to be rented.  Michaelson then sent rent checks to the victim, pretending to be the false tenants.  The victim did not know that he was not the true owner of the properties.  In yet another instance, after facilitating a real sale to a victim, Michaelson transferred ownership back to the bank, without the victim’s knowledge, and filed a fraudulent warranty deed with forged signatures in the county clerk’s office.

Michaelson stole over $1 million from her victims through her real estate scheme.

Michaelson was previously charged with forgery, theft by conversion, and false statements in Dawson County for defrauding real estate clients.  As a result, she lost her real estate license in 2014.  Even after surrendering her license, Michaelson continued to act as an unlicensed real estate agent and engage in fraudulent real estate transactions.  Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

This defendant stole her clients’ hard-earned money by pretending to purchase properties for them, while pocketing their funds for her own personal use,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “She then tried to cover her tracks with fake sales agreements and forged deeds.  Michaelson is a repeat offender, having previously lost her real estate license for defrauding clients.”

This case demonstrates the commitment the Secret Service and our law enforcement partners have in aggressively pursuing those who defraud innocent victims,” said Steven R. Baisel, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Atlanta Field Office.  “This guilty plea should serve as a reminder to other like-minded individuals that we will protect our economic system and arrest criminals who violate public trust for personal gain.”

We are grateful to all the involved criminal justice agencies who worked so diligently to help close these cases. It is our continued desire that justice will be served in hopes of deterring these types of crimes,” said Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson.

The U.S. Secret Service, the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office are investigating this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen H. McClain, Chief of the Complex Frauds Section, is prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov 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.

 

Latrese Gevon Breaux, 47, was sentenced today for helping run a sophisticated real estate fraud scheme that resulted in the theft of more than $1.4 million from 2014 to 2016.

From July 2014 through September 2016, Angela Cotton, assisted by her co-defendants, used fictitious escrow and title companies that she had created to deceive a lending company into believing it was funding two legitimate real estate transactions.

The group stole the identities of nine people in order to facilitate the fictitious real estate sales. Along with the fake escrow and title companies, the defendants created a fictitious place of employment for one supposed homebuyer under whose name the two loans were approved, the prosecutor said.

To convince the lender of the legitimacy of the transactions and the entities involved, the defendants created fraudulent websites, emails and phone networks along with fake employment documentation and bank account statements from a non-existent financial institution for the borrower.

The lender transferred funds to a bank account it believed to be owned by a legitimate title company but was owned by one of the defendants.

The properties for which the defendants received loans were located in Los Angeles, California and La Cañada Flintridge, California and had not been listed for sale, the prosecutor added. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Latrese+Gevon+Breaux

Breaux, pleaded no contest on February 14, 2019 to one felony count each of grand theft and identity theft, and she admitted an allegation of fraud and embezzlement. She was sentenced to 212 days in county jail. She also is required to complete 200 hours community service and was placed on formal probation for five years under the terms of a plea agreement.

In October, Angela Grace Cotton, 47, was sentenced to 12 years in state prison after pleading no contest to three counts of identity theft, two counts of grand theft and one count each of forgery and money laundering, all felonies.

Denaysha Coleman, 27, was sentenced to three years and eight months in state prison after pleading no contest to one felony count each of grand theft and money laundering.

Lawrence Edward Cotton, 53, was sentenced to two years in state prison after pleading no contest to one felony count each of grand theft and money laundering.

All four defendants are required to pay more than $1.4 million in restitution under the terms of a negotiated plea agreement.

Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office made the announcement.

Deputy District Attorney Daniel Kinney of the White Collar Crime Division’s Real Estate Fraud Section prosecuted case BA472018.

The case was investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau.

 

Marek Harrison, 56, Plant City, Florida has pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

According to the plea agreement, between September 2007 and December 2008, Harrison created and executed a mortgage fraud scheme involving Saratoga Resort Villas, a condominium conversion of a former hotel located in Kissimmee, Florida.  Harrison’s scheme to defraud financial institutions involved kickbacks of mortgage proceeds to buyers and co-conspirators, as well as misrepresentations regarding the source of down payment funds for the transactions. None of the incentives and kickbacks were disclosed to the mortgage lenders. Harrison also recruited otherwise unqualified buyers, and provided down payment money for the buyers.  http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Marek+Harrison

Harrison faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

This case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

 

Mordechai Boaziz, 68, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Jonathan Marmol,41, Odessa, Florida have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements to financial institutions.

According to their plea agreements, beginning around the summer of 2006 and continuing through August 2008, Boaziz and Marmol conspired with others to execute a scheme to influence the credit decisions of financial institutions in connection with the sale of condominium units at The Preserve at Temple Terrace, a 392-unit condominium complex. Boaziz was converting The Preserve from an apartment complex into a condominium complex and hired Marmol to market the units.

In order to recruit and entice otherwise unqualified buyers to purchase units at The Preserve, the conspirators offered to pay the prospective buyers’ down payments (“cash-to-close”). The conspirators then intentionally concealed from the financial institutions the cash-to-close payments made on behalf of the buyers.

In particular, the HUD-1 Settlement Statements submitted to the financial institutions falsely stated that the buyers brought their own cash-to-close funds to purchase the condominium units, which influenced the financial institutions’ mortgage loan approval decisions. In reality, Boaziz funded the buyers’ cash-to-close and routed the payments through Marmol and others. As a result of the conspiracy, the financial institutions that financed the condominium unit purchases at The Preserve sustained a total loss of approximately $5 million.

Each faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

This case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency–Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor and Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.