Charges were announced in two separate mortgage fraud cases involving almost $10 million in fraudulent loans.
1- United States v. Greta Medina, et al. These defendants are charged in a mortgage fraud scheme, which resulted in the approval and disbursement of approximately $7.9 million in mortgage loans. According to the Indictment, to effectuate the scheme, Greta Medina, the alleged organizer of the scheme, identified five properties to be used to defraud a mortgage lender, Wells Fargo Bank. Margaret Roberts, a real estate broker, negotiated the purchase transactions with the sellers of the properties on behalf of Medina. Medina and other recruiters, including Dania Arguelles and Martin Mere, recruited straw buyers Melissa Ann Scher, Alfonso Velasco, Adan Vasquez, Yohamel Caballero, and Alberto Lopera to submit fraudulent loan applications to the lender, and paid off title agents to facilitate the closing of the transactions. Medina and the title agent, Karim Goding, caused the lender to loan more money than it otherwise would have loaned by preparing and submitting to the lender a false HUD-1 Settlement Statement with an inflated purchase price. The defendants then concealed the fraudulent scheme by creating a second version of the HUD-1 Settlement Statement to be provided to the seller reflecting the actual purchase price of the 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.
After closing, the defendants used those loan proceeds to pay off their co-conspirators, including the title company agents, the recruiters, and the straw buyers, and to fund their lavish life styles. In some instances, the defendants stripped more money out of the properties by taking out home equity lines of credit, which they used to conceal the fraud by making mortgage payments, and to further enrich themselves. Ultimately, the straw buyers defaulted on the loans, causing each of the properties to go into foreclosure and resulting in probable losses to the lender in excess of $4.5 million.
The Indictment includes charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and substantive bank fraud. The wire fraud offenses carry a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment.
2- United States v. Julio Llanessa, et al. According to the Indictment, Julio Llanessa and Laura Fernandez a/k/a “Laura Llanessa,” recruited the straw buyer Fausto Guzman to use his identity and credit to buy a property in Miami-Dade County. Guzman received $30,000 for acting as a straw purchaser. Guzman and his co-conspirators sent two mortgage applications, which contained materially false statements as to his income and employment to Countrywide Home Loans, Inc for two loans – one in the amount of $1.5 million and the other in the amount of $100,000. Ryan T. Dosen, the title agent, and his employee, Emma Betancourt, prepared the necessary paperwork to close the loan. Unbeknownst to Countrywide, Dosen and Betancourt participated in the preparation of a false HUD-1 Settlement Statement for the property, which reflected a fraudulently inflated sale price of $2 million. A second HUD-1 Settlement Statement, which the defendants did not disclose to Countrywide, revealed a sales price of $1.68 million. It was based on the represented $2 million sale price that Countrywide approved the $1.6 million in loans.
About ten days later, Guzman was recruited to apply for a $400,000 Home Equity Line of Credit on the same property from Sun Trust Bank, a federally insured financial institution. A fraudulent application was submitted to SunTrust that contained material misrepresentations. The closing for the HELOC was conducted by Dosen and Betancourt, who again sent the false HUD-1 Settlement Statement reflecting the $2 million sale price to the lender. The day after the HELOC closed, Dosen’s title company wired $339,750 to Julio and Laura Llanessa’s personal account.
Defendants Llanessa and Fernandez were charged by complaint and arrested on December 3, 2009. When defendant Fernandez was arrested, she was carrying more than $200,000 in currency, which she failed to declare upon her entry into the U.S. at Miami International Airport.
The defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, two counts of substantive wire fraud, one count of bank fraud and one count of bulk cash smuggling. These charges carry a maximum penalty of thirty (30) years’ imprisonment for the bank fraud and twenty (20) years for the wire fraud.
An Indictment is only an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
On September 27, 2007, Acting U.S. Attorney Sloman announced a joint Federal-State Mortgage Fraud Initiative, designed to combat the growing mortgage fraud epidemic in South Florida. Since its inception, the Mortgage Fraud Initiative has yielded substantial results. Including the cases announced today, approximately 264 individuals have been charged since Sept. 2007 for their involvement in mortgage fraud schemes that have resulted or were intended to result in the approval and issuance of more than $305 million in mortgage loans.
Acting United States Attorney Jeffrey H. Slomancommended the investigative efforts of the FederalState Mortgage Fraud Strike Force with specialcommendation to the U.S. Secret Service, the United States Postal Service, and the Miami DadePolice Department. These case iarebeing prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter A. Forand and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cristina Pérez Soto.