James Ober, 44, and Wendy Ober, 42, Hudson, Wisconsin, who had pleaded guilty to racketeering in a major mortgage fraud case, were sentenced to 120 months each in prison.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Joseph Klein, in justifying an upward departure in the sentence, found that the Obers, through their Mortgage Partners, Inc. business, had committed a major economic offense, engaged in the fraud with three or more people, used the identities of others and targeted vulnerable people, specifically those who were losing their homes to foreclosure.
According to the criminal complaint filed by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, James Ober and Wendy Ober and their associates would find houses in foreclosure where the bank already had purchased it at a very low price during the sheriff’s sale. Under Minnesota law, the owners have a limited time period to purchase their house back at the lower price. The Obers would use straw buyers to purchase the properties at the low price.
In all cases, they would take out second mortgages on the properties and take kickbacks on their fees. They established elaborate fake employment records, college transcripts or divorce filings to help them get the new mortgages. The fraud was valued at about $6 million.
“We are satisfied with the 10-year sentence the Obers received,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. “They did incredible harm to neighborhoods, to the mortgage finance system, and to innocent victims such as Rosa Ventura.”
Rosa Ventura, traveled from El Salvador to give her victim impact statement through a translator about the harm caused when the Obers stole her identity.
“First, they made me look like a person with bad intentions and I have always tried to do the right thing,” she said.
When the mortgage bills started coming in the mail to their suburban Minneapolis home, she told her husband to go to the police and report it. He did and eventually the police threatened to arrest him because he had access to all her personal information.
“You cannot imagine all the anguish I felt and all the pain because I couldn’t do anything at that moment. They don’t know all the damage they have done with their evil-doing,” Ventura said.
Judge Klein also ordered the Obers to pay more than $500,000 in restitution, which they will be contesting, and also pay a $50,000 fine.
The Obers apologized to Ventura and to others they harmed. Then the deputies led them away in handcuffs while one of their daughters wept.