Brandon Shepherd, owner of Freedom Financial, the CORE Foundation, and the Sberna Foundation, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and was sentenced to two years in prison. An employee, Garland Ward, pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted theft and received a six month sentence. Laura Habre George and Jeff Sadler, both appraisers, also pleaded guilty to their roles in the scam.
According to prosecutors, Shepherd arranged for the sale of 24 properties in Summit and Stark counties, Ohio, at prices that were inflated by phony appraisals.
George and Sadler pleaded guilty to charges of Telecommunications Fraud and Falsification, respectively. Many of their appraisals either omitted information regarding the poor condition of the properties or listed improvements to the home that were never actually made.
Most of the homes went into foreclosure and several were torn down.
Wells Fargo and Argent loaned most of the $1 million used to finance the properties. Argent is now out of business.
It is estimated that Shepherd, who kept the majority of the scheme’s profit, made more than $100,000 off the sale of the homes.
George was sentenced to probation, and Sadler will be sentenced at a later late.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the convictions.
The Summit County Mortgage Task Force, which was formed as part of the Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, investigated the case.
“The people who bought these homes had no idea what they were actually buying into,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Suddenly these victims found themselves with rundown properties that they could not sell and loan payments that they could not make.”