On July 23, 2009, nineteen (19) defendants were charged in a 20-count Indictment for their participation in a mortgage fraud scheme that resulted in approximately $21 million in fraudulent loans:
Mayra Rodriguez, 31; Lucia Peluffo, 29; Nelson Bermudez, 36; Yamile Segurola, 24, all of Miami, Florida; Carlos Rodriguez, 29, Homestead, Florida; Mayelin Salas, 36, Miami Springs, Florida; Nelida Rodriguez, 48, Opa Locka, Florida; Sonya Balmaseda, 35, Hialeah, Florida; Jorge Egeraige, 38, Hialeah, Florida; Jaime Rojas, 39, North Miami Beach, Florida; Alejandro Rabelo, 49, Miami Beach, Florida; Pedro Huezo, 58, Opa Locka, Florida; Jose Arriete, 53; Gerard Wenzel, 50; Elias Fleites, 55; Marcelo Fernandez, 41; Lucy Segurola, 51; Ricardo Segurola, 51; and Jorge Lugo, 46, all of Miami, Florida.
According to the Indictment, defendants Mayra Rodriguez, Mayelin Salas, Nelida Rodriguez, Yamile Segurola, and Lucia Peluffo were employed at companies owned by Magile Cruz (Cruz previously pled guilty and was sentenced in January 2009 to 120 months’ imprisonment for her participation in this scheme). Cruz‘s companies included Star Lending Mortgage, State Mortgage Lending, Sherley Title Services, Doral Title Services, and Professional Title Express, all in Miami-Dade County. Star Lending Mortgage was a mortgage brokerage firm and State Mortgage Lending was a mortgage lender, both licensed in the State of Florida. Sherley Title Services, Doral Title Services and Professional Title Express were title agencies, but were not licensed by the State of Florida.
More specifically, the Indictment alleges that from 2005 through 2007, Cruz, through her companies, would identify residential properties that were for sale. Thereafter, Cruz, and defendants Mayra Rodriguez, Yamile Segurola and Lucia Peluffo would prepare mortgage loan applications on behalf of complicit straw borrowers. These applications included false employment verifications, pay stubs, income and funds on deposit, and IRS Forms W-2. Defendant Nelson Bermudez, an employee of Wachovia Bank during the fraud, assisted the fraud by creating false verifications of deposit for the purported Wachovia accounts of straw borrowers. Defendants Carlos Rodriguez, Mayelin Salas, and others recruited and paid individuals to pose as buyers and borrowers in the transactions. Defendants Sonya Balmaseda, Jorge Egeraige, Ricardo Segurola, Lucy Segurola, Marcelo Fernandez, Pedro Huezo, Jose Arriete, Gerard Wenzel, Alejandro Rabelo, Elias Fleites, Jorge Lugo, and Jaime Rojas, all acted as straw borrowers.
The Indictment describes three methods used by the defendants to execute their scheme. First, the defendants created and submitted to the lending institutions false duplicate HUD-Settlement Statement Forms, which grossly inflated the true purchase price of the properties. At other times, the defendants adopted a shotgun approach to mortgage fraud, through which they obtained near-simultaneous loans for the same piece of property from multiple lenders. Finally, the defendants concocted entirely false real estate sales by stealing the identities of unwitting home owners, forging the sales documents in their names, and using complicit straw purchasers to obtain mortgages, all without the real property owners’ knowledge or consent.
Once the mortgage applications were approved, the lenders wired the loan proceeds to the defendant’s title companies for closing. At closing, Cruz, Mayra Rodriguez and Yamile Segurola would keep the difference between the inflated mortgage loan proceeds and the actual selling price of the property. Moreover, to perpetuate the scheme and avoid detection, the defendants often filed change of address forms with the Postal Service to prevent unwitting home owners from discovering that their property had been sold without their knowledge or consent. The defendants would re-direct the mail to post office boxes opened and controlled by Cruz and Nelida Rodriguez. In addition, to keep the fraud afloat and undetected, the defendants would make payment on the loans until the properties could be resold, often to another straw borrower, repeating the cycle of fraud. When Cruz failed to make payment on the loans, some properties went into foreclosure, resulting in substantial losses to the lending institutions.
The Indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and substantive mail fraud and wire fraud.
Jeffrey H. Sloman, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, announced the indictment.
US Attorney Sloman commended the investigative efforts of the Federal-State Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, with special commendation to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Secret Service, and the State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lois Foster-Steers.