11 people, as well as a closing attorney, have been indicted on charges that they allegedly conspired to steal nearly $1 million from lenders through a short-sale mortgage fraud scheme.
Andrys Sofia Gomez, 47, Chatham, New Jersey, an attorney, who formerly had offices in West New York and Union City, allegedly played a central role in the conspiracy, in which she and her alleged co-conspirators filed fraudulent mortgage applications, falsified HUD settlement forms and diverted mortgage proceeds, laundering them through her attorney trust account.
The following 11 co-defendants were charged along with Gomez in all three counts of the indictment:
- Pascual E. Aquasvivas, 46, Bloomfield, New Jersey;
- Luis Percy, 45, East Rutherford, New Jersey;
- Maria Percy, 38, (wife of Luis Percy) East Rutherford;
- Fausto Codio, 43, Paterson, New Jersey;
- Jose Vasquez, 46, Paterson;
- Jorge Romero, 36, Passaic, New Jersey;
- Keila Sosa, 35, Passaic;
- Frank Luciano, 48, Wayne, New Jersey;
- Jennifer Ramirez, 39, Wayne;
- Ramon Ramirez, 46, (husband of Jennifer Ramirez) Wayne, and
- Francel Martinez, 35, Passaic.
According to the Indictment, Gomez and her co-defendants allegedly bought three discounted homes – two in Paterson and one in East Rutherford – through short sales. The defendants allegedly used straw purchasers, who in turn sold each home at a much higher price to a co-conspirator or a buyer whose identity was used without full knowledge or authorization. In each case, money was borrowed for the higher-priced sale and the bank was not informed of the short sale, which occurred at about the same time.
Gomez, who handled all of the real estate closings, allegedly used the loan proceeds to pay off the short sale prices and kept the remaining money as profit, sharing the stolen loan proceeds with her co-conspirators. To conceal her involvement in the fraudulent transactions, Gomez posed as another lawyer, using his name on HUD settlement forms and receiving the loan proceeds into his attorney trust account. She then allegedly laundered the money from his trust account through her own attorney trust account. That lawyer, Amedeo Gaglioti, pleaded guilty on Sept. 17, 2012 to second-degree conspiracy to commit money laundering for assisting Gomez in the scheme. He is awaiting sentencing.
The defendants allegedly stole a total of $925,138, which is the total of the loan proceeds obtained through the three fraudulent mortgage applications. Subtracting the amounts used to pay off the short sale prices, the defendants allegedly made an illicit profit of more than $610,000.
Gomez and her 11 co-defendants allegedly defrauded lenders in connection with three loans totaling $925,138.77: (1) a $402,903.70 loan for a home at 21 Jersey Street in East Rutherford, which was purchased in a short sale for $207,507; (2) a $274,274.40 loan for a home at 71-73 Putnam Street in Paterson, which was purchased in a short sale for $54,680; and (3) a $247,960,67 loan for a home at 496 Summer Street in Paterson, which was purchased in a short sale for $52,276.11.
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced the charges.
The Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau obtained the three-count state grand jury indictment charging Gomez and all 11 co-defendants with first-degree conspiracy, first-degree money laundering, and second-degree theft by deception.
Deputy Attorneys General Jillian Carpenter and Mary E. McAnally presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Supervising Deputy Attorney General Michael Monahan, who is Bureau Chief, and Deputy Attorney General Mark Kurzawa, who is Deputy Bureau Chief. Detective Anne Hayes, former Detective Joshua Mathewson, retired Lt. James MacInnes, and Analysts Alison Callery, Rita Gillis and Amy Patterson investigated the case.
First-degree money laundering carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison, including a mandatory period of parole ineligibility equal to one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed, and a fine of up to $500,000. The first-degree conspiracy charge carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Union County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear at a later date for arraignment.
“Mortgage lenders rely on the attorneys and other licensed professionals who handle real estate closings to act with integrity, but this attorney allegedly betrayed her oath and conspired with her co-defendants to steal nearly $1 million in loan proceeds,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “This type of fraud undermines security in the mortgage market and ultimately increases the cost of loans for honest, hardworking home buyers. We will make these offenders pay for their crimes.”
“With so much money on the table, con artists have a big incentive to target mortgage loans and real estate closings with their criminal schemes,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We create a big disincentive for such schemes through prosecutions such as this one, where the defendants face potential sentences of up to 20 years in prison.”