CoreLogic reported that the National Mortgage Application Fraud Risk Index increased to 122 in the fourth quarter of 2016.  The trend shows increasing risk for the year overall from an index value of 115 in the Fourth Quarter of 2015.

Risks levels increased overall with the most significant increase being in purchase loans with LTVs of 80 or less.  This is actually surprising, generally the higher the LTV, the higher the risk.

Syracuse, New York had the largest index increase with a 204% quarter of quarter (Q3 2016 to Q4 2016) increase.  The application activity in Syracuse showed a trend of atypical transactions consistent with occupancy issues and reverse occupancy and investment scheme red flags.  South Florida still leads the list though, followed by New York-Newark-Jersey City.  Las Vegas is also on the list at number 10.

Based upon the current economic conditions and the fact that home prices are reaching those of late 2006, I expect to see a continuing increase in fraud, especially in occupancy, valuation and misrepresentations.  I also anticipate an uptick in investment fraud schemes, straw buyers and, of course, flipping.

Urmila Sri Thakur, also known as Urmila Buddhu-Thakur and Indro Buddhu-Thakur, 72, Wethersfield, Connecticut was charged in a nine-count grand jury indictment with conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering offenses related to a fraudulent debt elimination scheme.

According to court documents, from 2009 to June 2012, Thakur, her former husband, Deowraj “Deo” Buddhu and their daughter, Sunita Buddhu, sold a debt elimination “program” to vulnerable individuals through various businesses, including Paradise Consulting Service, Hema, Inc., and Secured Redemption. In exchange for substantial fees, Deo Buddhu told victims about a little-known government fund that could be used to pay off their mortgages and other debts. In fact, no such fund exists. Buddhu instructed his victims to stop making payments on their mortgages, credit cards and other debts, and to stop paying their property taxes. He also provided his victims with fictitious promissory notes, which he called “bonds,” as well as other frivolous documentation, and advised his victims to use them to pay their debts.

The indictment alleges that Thakur participated in the scheme by signing documents provided to victims as a witness, taking money from victims in exchange for their participation in the purported program, and managing payroll operations for the various businesses used for the purpose of selling and attempting to sell the program to the victims.

The indictment further alleges that, on June 12, 2012, the day after Deo Buddhu’s arrest, Thakur withdrew $75,000 from a certificate of deposit account that contained funds from the scheme. Thakur also obtained several cashier’s checks, including one for $50,000 made payable to Thakur, which she thereafter negotiated using accounts in the name of SDK SYS Solutions and TRK Consulting Services.

The indictment was returned on February 15, 2017. Thakur appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford, Connecticut, entered a plea of not guilty to the charges, and was released on a $250,000 bond.

The indictment charges Thakur with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and seven counts of money laundering. If convicted, she faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years for the conspiracy count, 20 years for the mail fraud count and 10 years on each count of money laundering.

Deo Buddhu and Sunita Buddhu were previously convicted in Hartford federal court.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut announced the indictment. The matter is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John T. Pierpont, Jr. and Liam Brennan.

Homayoon Daneshvar, 63, Washington, D.C., was sentenced to 18 months in prison.  The charges related to a $1.9 million real estate investment fraud scheme.

Danshevar was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, forfeit $1.945 million, and pay $926,020 in restitution.

Daneshvar pleaded guilty on October 24, 2016.

According to court documents,  Daneshvar engaged in a real estate investment fraud scheme from in or about April 2009 to January 2013.  Deneshvar lied and made false promises to eight victim investors to persuade them to give him approximately $1.9 million. Daneshvar told the victim investors the money would be used for bridge financing to purchase foreclosed property that would be “flipped,” or quickly resold for profit. Daneshvar promised the investors a monthly return on their investments.  In reality Daneshvar used the money to invest in the stock market, pay “returns” on the investments back to the investors, and to pay for his own personal expenses.

The victims of the real estate investment fraud included a 78-year old retiree who invested her retirement savings.  Another victim was a permanently disabled Marin Corps veteran who borrowed against his home, according to court documents.  When the victims became suspicious, Daneshvar them that their money was tied up in properties and that their investments had grown. Eventually, he confessed that he had been lying to the investors and running a Ponzi scheme.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton. Assistant U.S. Attorney Grace L. Hill prosecuted the case.

Cristina Montijo was the subject of a complaint and arrest warrant issued in the Southern District of New York on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud in connection with fraudulent emails.  She was arrested in the Southern District of California.

According to the complaint, sworn to by a Detective with the New York City Police Department for the purpose of demonstrating probable cause for the issuance of the arrest warrant, on or about June 21, 2016 Victim-1 who was in the process of purchasing a home, received an email that purported to be from Victim-1’s attorney.  The fraudulent email instructed Victim-1 to wire $190,000 to a bank account at a San Diego Credit Union to be held in escrow for the home purchase.  A copy of the residential purchase contract for the property that Victim-1 was purchasing was included in the email. Victim-1 wired the money and then called the real estate attorney to confirm receipt of the wire and was told that the attorney had not requested the wire.  Victim-1 realized that the email address on the email received differed from the real estate attorney’s true email address by one character.  Victim-1 recalled the wire.

Victim-1 later received another email from the incorrect email address.  The new fraudulent email supplied an additional bank account number for Victim-1 to deposit funds into because the prior wire of funds had not been received.

According to the complaint, based on review of bank records, the detective learned that the bank account number in the first fraudulent email to Victim-1 was registered to Montijo.  The account was opened about June 16, 2016 and closed about June 23, 2016 due to suspected fraud.

The complaint also states that in or about November 3, 2015, Victim-2, an individual in Tennessee, received a fraudulent email purportedly from Victim-2’s real estate agent directing Victim-2 to wire approximately $181,000 to a bank account.  Victim-2 later realized the email address was different by one character from that of the actual real estate agent.  Victim-2 became suspicious and, after contacting the real estate agent, did not wire the funds. That account was also registered to Montijo and was opened about October 3, 2015.

On about November 24, 2015, Victim-3, an individual in Hawaii, received emails purportedly from Victim-3’s escrow officer and real estate agent but which were different from the actual email addresses by one character.  Based on the directives in these fraudulent emails, Victim-3 wired approximately $331,000 to a bank account. That bank account, opened on November 13, 2015, was registered to Fountain Co-Cooperative LLC and was closed December 10, 2015 due to suspected fraud. Montijo was the sold registered agent of Fountain Co-Cooperative, LLC and was registered to an address on Chamoune Avenue in San Diego at which Montijo resided since at least 1993. In November 2015, Montijo wired approximately $181,500 from that account to an account in Malaysia and approximately $118,200 to an account in South Africa.

In about April 2016, Victim-4, an individual in San Francisco, California, received a fraudulent email purporting to be from the real estate agent involved in a real estate transaction for Victim-4 and instructing Victim-4 to wire approximately $127,791 to be held in escrow in an identified bank account.  Victim-4 wired the funds and later discovered the email address was one character different from that of the real estate agent. That bank account was opened about March 31, 2016 and closed April 5, 2016 and was registered to Fountain Co-Cooperative, LLC.

On about April 28, 2016, Victim-5 received a fraudulent email purportedly from Victim-5’s attorney. Victim-5 later learned the attorney’s email account had been compromised or hacked.  At the direction of the fraudulent emails, one of which referenced the sender’s “account secretary Christina Montijo who is a trustee to the trust account” (the fraudulent emails were later traced to an originating IP address in South Africa), Victim-5 wired approximately $250,000 to a bank account. That bank account, opened about March 31, 2016 and closed about May 6 due to fraudulent activity, was registered to Montijo and Fountain Co-Cooperative LLC.   On about May 4, 2016, Montijo attempted to wire funds to another bank account that was jointly registered to Montijo and Albert Montijo (believed to be the name of Montijo’s deceased husband.)   Montijo was informed by bank employees that the wire was potentially fraudulent and Montijo claimed that she had been owed the funds from Victim-5 from a real estate transaction from several years prior and that she had business partners abroad.

On about June 30, 2016, Victim-6, an individual in the Southern District of New York, received a fraudulent email purportedly from Victim-6’s attorney, later learning the attorney’s emails had been compromised or hacked.  Victim-6 wired approximately $240,000 to a bank account, again registered to Fountain Co-Cooperative, LLC. Montijo attempted to wire a portion of these funds to an entity called “Refunds LLC” purportedly for a “refund owed” but actually sent to an account in the name of “Reofunds LLC.”

Montijo registered a company called “All Cover LLC” in the state of California for the purpose of “buying/selling real estate” On about July 14, 2016, Montijo attempted to cash four checks made out to All Cover totaling approximately $46,500.  From discussions with representatives of the three companies that issued the checks, the detective states that he learned that the checks were fraudulent and not written out to All Cover.  The indictment details additional allegedly fraudulent checks that Montijo attempted to cash and which were made out to herself, Fountain Co-Cooperative LLC and a person believe to be Montijo’s mother-in-law.

Michael Allan Johnson, Jr. attorney, Lexington, North Carolina, and Jennifer Willard Turnmire, mortgage loan broker, Thomasville, North Carolina, also known as Jennifer Willard, were indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

The indictment alleges that Johnson, Turnmire and an individual identified as Person A who was an attorney and is now deceased, recruited Luis Francisco Moreno, a licensed real estate broker and real estate developer residing in Greer, North Carolina, who was experiencing financial difficulties in his business ventures, and encouraged him to serve as a loan applicant to take out loans from Wells Fargo Bank and Carolina Bank so that the funds could be diverted to Johnson, Turnmire and Person A so that they could use those funds to pay off an conceal previous fraudulent loans. Materially false information concerning Moreno’s assets and income as well as fraudulent documents, such as bank statements, tax returns and HUD-1 settlement statements, were provided to the financial institutions. The indictment further alleges that Johnson created a fake work estimate from Artisan Construction of Concord Inc. (a company of which Johnson was president) and provided it to a lender in connection with a loan application.  He also created and submitted fake paystubs from White Meadows LLC (a company of which he was the manager/member) to delay foreclosure proceedings. Johnson is also alleged to have created letters on his law firm letterhead falsely indicating that various large sums were being held in the law firm trust and escrow accounts and submitted them the a lender to delay foreclosure proceedings.

The involved properties were 5400 Dorchester Road, Greensboro, North Carolina; a property on Brantley Gordon Road, Denton, North Carolina,

The indictment alleges the conduct occurred from about August 1, 2006 through about December 31, 2010,

David Cevallos, real estate agent, 46, Miami, Florida, and Osbel Sanchez, real estate agent, 45, Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution. Each faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. Sanchez’s sentencing hearing has been set for April 24, 2017, and Cevallos’s sentencing hearing has been set for May 8, 2017.

According to the plea agreements, between summer 2008 and January 2009, Cevallos and Sanchez conspired with each other and others to fraudulently induce lenders into making mortgage loans based upon false information. This conspiracy involved a series of real estate transactions where the parties, including Cevallos and Sanchez, would make or cover up false statements made to the lenders regarding the source of down payments for the real estate transactions, and the manner in which the mortgage funds would be distributed. Most of these transactions involved Tribute Residential, a real estate development company operated by co-conspirator Rebecca Gheiler, as the seller.

Specifically, the parties represented to the lenders that down payments for these properties were being provided by the individuals purchasing the properties, when in fact they were provided by Cevallos or Sanchez. After the transactions had closed and the mortgage funds were released to Tribute Residential, Gheiler would arrange for the post-closing payments of the mortgage proceeds to be provided to Cevallos’s real estate firm, Metro Brokers. These post-closing payments reimbursed Cevallos for the money that he or Sanchez had provided to cover the buyer’s down payments, and to provide post-closing commissions from funds that were supposed to go to the seller. As a result, the lenders were unknowingly funding the down payment for the transactions (as well as undisclosed commissions) from the mortgage proceeds themselves, and were being misled as to the true value of the properties for which they were providing loans.

United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III made the announcement.

The case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vincent S. Chiu and Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

Paul Harold Doughty, 67, Edmond, Oklahoma, the former president and chairman of First State Bank of Altus (“FSB”), was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison after a jury convicted him in July of 2016 of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, misapplication of bank funds, making a false bank entry, and unauthorized issuance of a bank loan in connection with FSB and various loan schemes.  United States District Judge David L. Russell also ordered Doughty to pay $10,120,166.58 in restitution to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”).  Fred Don Anderson, 67, Eagle Point, Oregon, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring with Doughty to commit bank fraud. Anderson partnered with Doughty in several businesses headquartered in Altus, Oklahoma. In July 2009, state banking regulators closed FSB due to the bank’s loan losses, and the FDIC was appointed as the bank’s receiver.

In April 2015, a federal grand jury charged Doughty and Anderson with fraud related to three alleged loan schemes: (1) a series of FSB loans to finance a real estate development in Routt County, Colorado; (2) a series of “senior life settlement loans” from FSB to support an Altus aerospace company; and (3) a $2 million unauthorized loan from FSB to a company under Doughty and Anderson’s control.

On July 1, 2016, after hearing seven days of trial evidence, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict against Doughty on ten counts relating to the three loan schemes. The jury acquitted Doughty on three charges. The jury heard that in 2006 and 2007, Doughty and Anderson recruited buyers for 19 Colorado real estate lots priced at approximately $700,000 each. Doughty approved and issued 14 lot loans to buyers, totaling more than $10,000,000 in loan proceeds for the seller, Mountain Adventure Property Investments, LLC (“MAPI”). MAPI was a Colorado company that Anderson had an indirect ownership interest in and where he served as president and manager. Evidence at trial showed that each loan exceeded Doughty’s individual lending authority at FSB, and most of the loans were issued without approval of FSB’s loan committee, including a $580,000 loan to Anderson’s personal company. The jury heard that Doughty and Anderson presented lots to borrowers as “zero money down” investments, and that the down payments for the purchases were often advanced or refunded to the buyers by Anderson on behalf of MAPI. Doughty and Anderson also assured the buyers that MAPI would make all payments on the loans to the bank. The jury heard that on the few occasions when Doughty presented a Colorado loan to FSB’s loan committee, he misrepresented the source and amount of borrowers’ down payments and the borrowers’ responsibility for making payment on the loans. In connection with these Colorado lot loans, the jury convicted Doughty of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, four counts of bank fraud relating to separate lot loans, and one count of unauthorized issuance of a loan to Anderson’s personal company.

United States District Judge Russell sentenced Doughty to 48 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Judge Russell also ordered Doughty to pay $10,120,166.58 in restitution to the FDIC. Doughty must report to federal prison on Monday, April 3, 2017.

Judge Russell sentenced Anderson to 18 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Anderson was also ordered to pay $3,250,409.12 in restitution to the FDIC. On April 14, 2016, Anderson pleaded guilty to a one-count Information charging him with conspiring with Doughty to commit bank fraud. As part of the plea agreement, the government agreed to dismiss at sentencing the charges against him from the indictment. Anderson testified as a witness for the government at Doughty’s trial.

The sentencing was announced Mark A. Yancey, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.

These convictions are the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – Office of Inspector General. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chris M. Stephens and K. McKenzie Anderson.

I will be the keynote speaker at the 2017 GREFPAC Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on March 7, 2017.  I will be speaking from 11 a.m. to Noon.

Also speaking that day will be Scott Kelly, GREFPAC’s 2017 President; Kevin Ludden, Fraud and Industry Relations Manager for Fannie Mae; Robb Hagber, Freddie Mac, Director – Enterprise Fraud Risk; Scott Hilsen, CFE, Managing Director in Investigations, KPMG Forensic; FBI Special Agent Jay of the Anti-Money Laundering Division; James Scalzo who was convicted of fraud; Arthur Fleming of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta; Eileen Doran, CIS Director of Risk Management for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta; Kevin Shearer, Director of the Quality Assurance Division (QAD), Atlanta Homeownership Center; and Valerie Williams, Director of Processing and Underwriting, HUD.

It promises to be a most interesting conference.  You can obtain more information here:

Hope to see you there!

Miguel Soto, Jr., 46, Miami, Florida; Hector Raul Santana, 38, Miami Lakes, Florida; Miguel Faraldo, 52, Miami, Florida; Barbara E. Zas, 46, Miami, Florida; Maria Rosa Diaz, 45, Miami Springs, Florida; Heberto Elias Gamboa, 31, Miami, Florida; Michael Jose Gonzalez, 31, Miami, Florida; Jenny Nillo, 50, Miami, Florida; Jaime Jesus Sola Avila, 59, Miami, Florida; Jorge Angel Sola, 31, Miami, Florida; Emily Marie Echavarria, 50, Miami, Florida; Eduardo Cruz Toledo, 50, Miami, Florida;  Yanet Huet, 44, Miami, Florida; Carlos Mesa, Jr., 36, St. Petersburg, Florida;  Yipsy Rabelo Clavelo, 45, Pompano Beach, Florida; Jose Salazar, 49, Miami, Florida; and Cynthia Velasquez, 39, Miami, Florida were charged a 17-count indictment with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and various substantive bank fraud offenses.

According to allegations contained in the indictment:

During 2007 and 2008, the defendants conspired to perpetrate a complex mortgage fraud scheme against various FDIC-insured lenders.

The defendants conspired to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans for unqualified buyers of units in two condominium projects on the west coast of Florida: Portofino at Largo, also known as Indian Palms, Largo, Florida; and Bayshore Landing, Tampa, Florida.

Miguel Soto, Jr. was the acting manager of two Florida companies that sold the condominium units to the unqualified buyers: Indian Palms Holdings, LLC, and 5221 Bayshore, LLC. Hector Raul Santana served as the Director of Sales for Indian Palms Holdings, LLC.

Maria Rosa Diaz was the president of Crisvan Investment Group, Inc., a Miami-based mortgage broker business that prepared and submitted the unqualified buyers’ fraudulent loan applications and supporting documents to the lenders.

Miguel Faraldo, Jenny Nillo, Jorge Angel Sola, and Heberto Elias Gamboa operated “marketing companies” that were used to launder the fraudulently obtained loan proceeds and perpetuate the fraud scheme. In particular, Faraldo operated All Florida Marketing, Inc., Nillo and Jorge Sola operated One Stop Consulting Solutions, Inc., and Gamboa operated HHWC Management Group, Inc.

Soto, Santana, Faraldo, Zas, Diaz, Nillo, Jaime Sola, Emily Echavarria, Eduardo Cruz Toledo, and other co-conspirators recruited unqualified buyers to purchase units in Portofino at Largo and Bayshore Landing. These unqualified buyers included Michael Gonzalez, Yanet Huet, Carlos Mesa, Jr., Yipsy Rabelo Clavelo, Jose Salazar, Jorge Sola, and Cynthia Velasquez.

Soto, Santana, Faraldo, Zas, Diaz, Nillo, Jaime Sola, Echavarria, Cruz, and other co-conspirators, made fraudulent statements to unqualified buyers to induce their purchases.

The defendants submitted fraudulent loan applications to induce the lenders to make mortgage loans to the unqualified buyers. The submitted loan applications contained false and fraudulent statements relating to: the borrower’s occupation of, or intent to occupy, the mortgaged property as a residence; the borrower’s employment, income, and assets; the borrower’s liabilities; the borrower’s payment of an earnest money deposit and cash-to-close; the sellers’ payment of kick-backs to the borrowers; and other information that was material to the borrower’s qualifications to borrow money from the lenders and the values of the mortgage properties.

Miguel Soto, Jr., Hector Santana, Maria Diaz and their co-conspirators agreed to submit the unqualified buyers’ fraudulent mortgage loan applications to the lenders through certain mortgage broker firms, including Diaz’s company, Crisvan Investment Group, Inc.

Miguel Soto, Jr. and Hector Santana agreed with one another, and with other co-conspirators, that the settlement agents for the purchase transactions would disburse mortgage loan proceeds for the purchase of condominium units in Portofino at Largo and Bayside Landing, even though the borrowers would not pay the earnest the money deposits and/or cash-to-close required by their loan applications and HUD-1 Settlement Statements.

Miguel Soto, Jr. and Hector Santana agreed with Miguel Faraldo, Jenny Nillo, Jorge Sola, and Heberto Gamboa, and with other co-conspirators, that the settlement agents would use some of the proceeds from certain of the fraudulently obtained mortgage loans to pay a fictitious “marketing fee” to one of the “marketing companies.” Faraldo, Nillo, Sola, and Gamboa would then cause their companies to pay some of those funds to the unqualified buyers as an undisclosed kick-back for buying their units.

If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum term of 30 years’ imprisonment, a $1 million fine, and mandatory restitution, on each count in the indictment.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Timothy Mowery, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agent, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Southeast Region, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Division, and Juan J. Perez, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), made the announcement.

Mr. Ferrer commends the investigative efforts of the FHFA-OIG, FBI and MDPD. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dwayne E. Williams.

Darlene Henderson, 60, Leesville, South Carolina, pled guilty and was sentenced in federal court in South Carolina, for Wire Fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme. United States District Judge Joseph F. Anderson, Jr., of Columbia sentenced Henderson to eight months of home confinement, to be followed by five years of probation. Henderson also was ordered to pay almost $130,000 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Evidence presented at the hearing established that between November 2011 and December 2013, Henderson assisted Michael Yant, who previously pled guilty to the same scheme and was sentenced to five months incarceration, commit mortgage fraud on a number of Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans. Specifically, Yant engaged in a prohibited rent-to-own scheme, and Henderson used her position at the bank to approve these loans, despite suspicious borrower information being relayed to her. A number of these loans are now delinquent or in default.

United States Attorney Beth Drake announced the sentencing.  The case was investigated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Winston Holliday of the Columbia office prosecuted the case.