Nicole Dawson, 41, Oakland, California, and Ronald Burris, Jr., 38, Elk Grove, California, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud and making false statements in a loan application.
Dawson and Burris were charged in June 2010 along with eight other defendants in a conspiracy that centered around Liberty Real Estate and Investment Company and Liberty Mortgage Company, two companies owned by co-defendant Hoda Samuel. The companies were instrumental in the purchase of at least 30 homes in the Sacramento area in 2006 and 2007. The purchases were typically accomplished through 100 percent financing, obtained as the result of false information regarding the buyers’ employment, income, and intent to live in the properties.
At the close of the transactions, and unbeknownst to the lenders, cash payments were made back to the buyers out of the loan proceeds. Of the 30 transactions, at least 28 have gone into foreclosure, resulting in a loss to lenders in excess of $5 million.
According to his guilty plea, Burris admitted purchasing three homes in a two-month period, submitting false loan applications to finance the purchases, and receiving approximately $75,000 at the close of these transactions. According to her plea, Dawson admitted purchasing two homes over a two-month period, submitting false loan applications, and receiving approximately $64,000 at the close of the transactions.
The defendants are scheduled to sentenced by United States District Judge John A. Mendez on November 15, 2011. They face a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the guilty pleas.
Mortgage fraud is a priority area for the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information on the task force, visit StopFraud.gov.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Philip Ferrari and Michelle Prince are prosecuting the case.