Thirteen defendants have been charged in a superseding indictment in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme that resulted in approximately $16.9 million in fraudulent mortgage loans, and losses of $9.7 million to the lender, Wells Fargo Bank:
Greta Medina, 26, Coral Gables, Florida
Ricardo Estrada, 39, Miami, Florida
Dania Arguelles, 44, Miami, Florida
Fernanda Abrea, 50, Miami, Florida
Obed Hernandez, 38, Miami, Florida
Martin Mere, 42, Port St. Lucie, Florida
Nestor Collantes, 59, Miami, Florida
Alfonso Velasco, 55, Miami, Florida
Adan Vasquez, 40, Houston, Texas
Yohamel Caballero, 26, Miami, Florida
Ana Aviles, 45, Miami, Florida
Leismy Barcia, 33, Miami, Florida
Christian Gomez, 37, West New York, New Jersey
The 18 count superseding indictment was unsealed on April 8, 2010.
The properties charged in the superseding indictment include multiple units at a luxury condominium building on Brickell Bay Drive in Miami, Florida and single family homes in Coral Gables, Florida.
According to the superseding indictment, defendant Greta Medina and other co-conspirators identified eleven properties to be used to defraud Wells Fargo Bank into issuing $16.9 million in mortgage loans. The real estate broker, Margaret Roberts, who previously pled guilty, negotiated the purchases with the sellers. Medina and others paid a Wells Fargo loan officer, defendant Ricardo Estrada, to facilitate the approval of the fraudulent loan applications at Wells Fargo. Medina also paid the title agent to create fraudulent closing documents and to release the lender’s proceeds early to allow the straw purchasers to use the lender’s money to make deposits on the properties and pay their closing costs.
The conspirators recruited straw buyers to purchase the properties. The recruiters, including defendants Dania Arguelles, Fernanda Abrea, Obed Hernandez, and Martin Mere, recruited straw buyers Nestor Collantes, Alfonso Velasco, Adan Vasquez, Yohamel Caballero, Ana Aviles, and Leismy Barcia to submit fraudulent loan applications to the lender. The loan applications included false information about the straw buyers’ salaries and deposits, to create the impression that the straw buyers could qualify for loans in excess of one million dollars for each property.
At closing, the defendants diverted millions in loan proceeds by skimming the difference between the inflated purchase price and the price actually paid to the seller for the property. Greta Medina, Dania Arguelles, Christian Gomez, Alfonso Velasco and Fernanda Abrea received loan proceeds from the title company and paid off their co-conspirators, including the title agent, the loan officer, the recruiters, and the straw buyers. In some instances, the defendants stripped more money out of the properties by taking out home equity lines of credit. Ultimately, the straw buyers defaulted on the loans, causing each of the properties to go into foreclosure and resulting in estimated losses to the lender of more than $9.7 million.
The superseding indictment includes charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, substantive bank fraud and receipt of commissions and gifts for procuring loans. The bank fraud and receipt offenses carry a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment.
Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, commended the investigative efforts of the Federal State Mortgage Fraud Strike Force with special commendation to the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Miami-Dade Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter A. Forand. The superseding indictment was announced by Jeffrey H. Sloman, Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Henry Gutierrez, Postal Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and James K. Loftus, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department.