Ronnie Edward Duke, 45, Fenton, Michigan, was sentenced to 13 years in prison in connection with a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud conspiracy.
U.S. District Judge Julian Abele Cook, Jr. also sentenced Duke to pay a $1 million fine and $94 million in restitution. Duke led the scheme for close to four years, ending in July 2007 when the FBI executed seven search warrants in metropolitan Detroit and Florida.
The scheme involved more than 450 fraudulent mortgage loans, more than 100 straw buyers, and approximately 180 different residential properties in metropolitan Detroit, Michigan, that were used as collateral for the loans. Most of these loans went into default and foreclosure. The loans ranged from roughly $350,000 to $600,000. Lenders were deceived by counterfeit purchase agreements, fake closing documents, and fictitious title companies that were actually controlled by Duke and his co-conspirators.
The warranty deeds and mortgages associated with the majority of the loans went unrecorded, leaving the lenders completely unsecured. Such loans were commonly referred to as ghost loans by the defendants during the scheme.
Fifteen of Duke‘s co-conspirators were previously sentenced, including:
Ryan Andrew Zundel, 38, Brewton, Alabama — 10 years
Nicole Lynn Rothe (formerly Nicole Lynn Turcheck), 34, Gibraltar, Michigan — 10 years
William Camsell Wells, III, 42, Howell, Michigan — eight-and-a-half years
Wilinevah Richardson, 35, Davison, Michigan — five years
Donna Marie Walbrook, 50, Westland, Michigan — five years
Anthony Edward Peters, 75, Monroe, Michigan — 41 months
Robert Brierley, 46, Westland, Michigan — 33 months.
Duke spent his fraud proceeds to operate a car racing business called Hardcore Racing Inc. He purchased numerous sports cars, race cars, boats, motorcycles, and a helicopter. Duke‘s co-defendants used their proceeds to finance unrelated businesses and to purchase luxury items, including cars, boats, motorcycles, race horses, residential properties, and travel to the Caribbean and other overseas vacation destinations.
Duke‘s criminal history includes embezzlement, credit card fraud, receiving and concealing stolen property, escape, aggravated stalking, and disturbing the peace.
United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced the sentence.
Joining McQuade in the announcement was Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley, III, head of the Detroit Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Erin Shaw and Stephen Hiyama and investigated by the FBI, with the assistance of the U.S. Secret Service.
“Mortgage fraud not only harms lenders, but it also affects all of us when foreclosures lead to vacant homes, which reduce property values and create havens for criminal activity,” McQuade said.
“Those who orchestrate and conduct mortgage fraud schemes that steal millions of dollars from innocent victims will face severe consequences for their crimes,” Foley said. “The FBI remains committed to pursuing and prosecuting anyone who engages in these illegal acts.”