Mortgage Fraudster Gets 10 Years for Ripping off Elderly Homeowners

Allison Tussey —  January 28, 2014 — Leave a comment

James Lee Lankford, 74, Modesto, California, a former real estate broker, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii to 10 years in prison for orchestrating an 11-year mortgage fraud scam that looted elderly homeowners and lending institutions of close to $10 million dollars.

Lankford’s co-defendant, Jon Vance McDade, 49, formerly of Modesto, California, was sentenced to one year of home detention, to be followed by a five-year term of supervised release, in connection with the same mortgage fraud scam. (McDade and Lankford have married, and McDade is now known as Jon Vance Lankford.) The two were ordered to forfeit their interests in various properties and to pay $1,443,826 in restitution to the victims of the fraud scheme.

According to court documents, Lankford, who operated Century 21-Apollo Realty as a real estate agent and broker, fraudulently induced elderly property owners to sell their homes to him and to provide the financing for the purchase. In return, Lankford agreed to make interest-only payments and to pay the principal at a future date. Lankford fraudulently induced the elderly sellers into believing that their financing was secured by the property itself by filing deeds with the county recorder’s office. Unbeknownst to the elderly sellers, Lankford also obtained mortgages from lending institutions to finance the purchase of the same properties. In order to obtain the mortgages, Lankford would not inform the lending institutions that he had obtained seller-backed financing. Lankford and co-defendant McDade also made other material misrepresentations on the loan applications and, in some instances, submitted falsified documents regarding monthly income to ensure approval for the loans.

In many instances, Lankford then refinanced the properties with another lending institution after filing fraudulent deeds purportedly showing that the elderly property owners had been paid in full. After eliminating the seller’s lien on the property, Lankford would then obtain refinancing and draw out any equity that had accumulated in the property. Lankford, having refinanced the property and, in some instances, having obtained additional financing by reselling the property to co-defendant McDade, would then allow the property to go into foreclosure or would sell it as a short sale.

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the sentence.

This case was the product of an investigation by the FBI, the FHFA-OIG, and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Baker and Michael Tierney prosecuted the case.

“James Lankford preyed on elderly homeowners in the course of his scheme,” U.S. Attorney Wagner said. “The sentence imposed in this case appropriately reflects the cruelty of Lankford’s conduct.”

“James Lee Lankford participated in a fraudulent scheme that preyed on elderly victims and the banking industry, causing millions of dollars in losses to those individuals and to Fannie Mae,” said Michael P. Stephens, Acting Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG). “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to dismantle such schemes and hold all involved accountable, just as Lankford was held accountable.”

“Lankford’s elaborate scheme was damaging not only to individual victims but also to lenders and the local economy,” said Special Agent in Charge Monica M Miller of the Sacramento Division of the FBI. “He used vulnerable, elderly citizens as mere pawns in his elaborate scheme, carelessly and irreparably damaging their financial well-beings while defrauding lenders to elevate his own lifestyle, lining his pockets with ill-gotten gains. This case exemplifies the importance of partnership among federal and local law enforcement agencies for successful investigation and pursuit of justice for victims of financial crime.”

Allison Tussey

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