Alla Samchuk, 45, Roseville, California, was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for a mortgage fraud scheme and obstruction of justice.
A federal jury returned a verdict in August 2016 finding her guilty of six counts of bank fraud, six counts of making a false statement to a financial institution, one count of money laundering, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Samchuk was indicted on February 16, 2012.
According to the evidence presented at trial, from 2006 through 2008, Samchuk, a licensed real estate salesperson, orchestrated a mortgage fraud scheme involving three properties in the Sacramento area using straw buyers. Two of the houses were purchased so that Samchuk herself could occupy them. She lacked the ability to qualify for a loan, so she instead recruited straw buyers to apply for the loans in their names. Samchuk caused the submission of loan applications containing false representations of income, employment, assets, and a false indication that the straw buyers would occupy the homes as their primary residence.
A second objective of the scheme was to obtain HELOC (home equity line of credit) funds. According to evidence at trial, on two of the properties, Samchuk diverted or attempted to divert HELOC funds to her own benefit. Samchuk caused the HELOC loans to fund by submitting false statements and documents to the lender regarding the qualifications of the straw buyers.
The scheme involved two properties in Roseville and one in El Dorado Hills. In 2007, Samchuk filed an application for a HELOC on one of the properties without the straw buyer’s knowledge or consent. To obtain the HELOC, she forged the signature of the straw buyer on a short form deed of trust that she caused to be notarized and recorded. The stated purpose of the HELOC was home improvement, but once the line of credit was funded, Samchuk quickly diverted all of the funds to her own use, spending the proceeds on a Lexus and the repayment of a substantial personal debt.
According to the Government’s Sentencing Memorandum (GSR), Samchuck selected individuals within her Ukrainian church community who did not speak English and who were not familiar with the American mortgage system to act as straw buyer and Samchuck acted as the interpreter at critical meetings. She falsified tax returns, bank statements, mutual fund statements, and pay stubs to create the illusion that the straw buyers were wealthy enough to qualify for the home loans. She also used her own phone number on the documents where she knew there was a chance the lender would follow up. She also used a bank account in her minor daughter’s name to launder the proceeds of the scheme. The GSR also states that Samchuk verbally threatened one of the straw buyers and indicated that she would retaliate if he reporter her criminal conduct by reporting his role in the offense as a straw buyer. It was that straw buyer’s report that resulted in the investigation leading to her conviction. The GSR also states that, while perpetrating the indicted fraud scheme, Samchuk also committed welfare fraud in Sacramento County, falsifying documents and providing false information under penalty of perjury in order to obtain food stamps and other benefits. She lied about her place of residence to obtain the benefits, falsifying a document to indicate she had an address in Sacramento County, when in reality she was living in a Mt. Tamalpais property in El Dorado Hills. At trial, her defense was that she was so wealthy that she did not need to resort to mortgage fraud to afford the homes purchased in the names of the straw buyers.
In arguing that an abuse of position of trust or special skill enhancement should not be applied, Samchuck’s objection to the GSR argued:
“These mortgage fraud schemes were not that complicated and the same is true here. The addition should only apply if she did something no one else could do because she was a real estate agent and we do not see facts to support that application. Using straw buyers or getting Helocs were something any one could simply execute because lenders were throwing themselves at buyers. These things were common knowledge among people involved in a real estate transaction. It does not require the “special skill” of a real estate agent to know such conduct is impermissible. This straw buyer/heloc plan was so commonplace in the mortgage fraud cases and your report reads as if it was somehow unique or unheard of at the time. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Most mortgage fraud cases involved straw buyers/helocs or cash outside of escrow and it does not take a real estate agent to know it was all wrong. The PSR reads as if only a real estate agent could have created this scenario and that is simply untrue. There are literally hundreds of defendants in the ED/CA who were prosecuted for mortgage fraud in the past 5-6 years doing the exact same thing. It was not novel. It was not unique and it did not take a real estate agent to execute it. The lenders were fine with it and the practice was encouraged. Therefore, the +2 levels added for Abuse of Trust should not be included.”
The court’s response?:
“The trial record evinces Samchuk abused her position of trust when she acted as Petro Telenko’s real estate agent and misused and misappropriated his identity information to obtain a HELOC loan without his knowledge or authority.”
Two of the straw buyers were granted immunity for their testimony.
Samchuk received a higher sentence because the district court found that she obstructed justice when she threatened a witness not to report the crime to federal authorities. The court found that Samchuk’s statements to the witness constituted a threat that Samchuk purposefully calculated to dissuade the witness from alerting law enforcement about the fraud. Senior U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. sentenced Samchuk.
The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert. This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey B. Hemesath and Andre M. Espinosa prosecuted the case.