Search Results For "Jacqueline Graham"

Jacqueline Graham, 54, formerly of Antioch, California, and Levittown, Pennsylvania was sentenced today to 132 months in prison in connection with a $38 million fraudulent mortgage debt elimination scheme.

According to the Indictment in the case, the evidence presented at trial, and statements made in public court filings and proceedings, including Graham’s sentencing hearing:

From at least 2011 to at least 2012, Graham partnered with Bruce Lewis, 67, formerly of Alaska and Washington State, and John Ruzza 49, formerly of Mahopac, New York in operating the Valhalla, New York-based Terra Foundation, which held itself out as a business that would investigate and eliminate mortgage loans in exchange for fees, soliciting clients who were having difficulties making their mortgage payments.  In fact, however, Terra engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to defraud clients, county clerks’ offices, and banks.

The fraudulent scheme, which was created by Graham and Lewis, involved Terra performing “audits” of clients’ mortgages, sending pseudo-legal paperwork to the banks and/or lenders holding the mortgages, and ultimately filing purported mortgage discharges with the relevant county clerks’ offices.  As a result, anyone doing a title search for one of Terra’s clients would see that the client’s mortgage had been satisfied.  The mortgages had not, however, been discharged, and the mortgages were eventually reinstated, after the clients paid their fees.

In order to effectuate the scheme, Graham, Lewis, and Ruzza involved others, including Rocco Cermele, 57, Yonkers, New York the director of operations, Paula Guadagno, 62, Verplanck, New York, who filed discharges on behalf of Terra, and Anthony Vigna, 61, Thornwood, New York, a lawyer and CPA who worked in Terra’s offices.  Vigna was formerly an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Yonkers, and a college accounting and law professor, including stints on the faculties of Mercy College, Iona College, SUNY Maritime College, College of Mount St. Vincent, and Westchester Community College.

In total, Graham and her co-conspirators filed over 60 fraudulent discharges in Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York, and in Connecticut.  The fraudulent discharges claimed to discharge mortgages with a total loan principal of nearly $38 million. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Jacqueline+Graham

In addition to her prison term, Graham was sentenced to five years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution to her victims in the amount of $694,450 and forfeiture of $138,941.86.

Lewis was previously was sentenced by Judge Román to seven years in prison, three years of supervised release, and forfeiture of $149,408.

Vigna was previously was sentenced by Judge Román to one year and one day in prison, three years of supervised release, and $250,500 of restitution.

Ruzza was previously pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel to one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud relating to the Terra scheme, as well as one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of bank fraud, two counts of wire fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice.

Cermele and Guadagno previously pled guilty to their participation in the scheme.

Graham previously was convicted in June 2019 after a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Román, who also imposed today’s sentence.

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, made the announcement.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Jacqueline Graham brazenly defrauded vulnerable homeowners during the housing crisis by falsely promising that, for substantial fees, she could make millions of dollars of their mortgage debt disappear.  In reality, she pilfered her victims’ money, leaving them far worse off, and some ended up losing their homes.  Now Graham will spend 11 years in federal prison for preying upon her many victims.”

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Mr. Berman also thanked the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for their assistance in the case.

This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys David Felton, Michael Maimin, and James McMahon are in charge of the prosecutions.

Jacqueline Graham, 53, formerly of Levittown, Pennsylvania was convicted at trial on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, of participating in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud in connection with a fraudulent debt-elimination scheme to defraud homeowners and banks.

According to the Indictment in the case and the evidence presented at trial:

From at least 2011 to at least 2012, Graham partnered with Bruce Lewis, 67, formerly of Alaska and Washington State and John Ruzza in operating the Valhalla, New York-based Terra Foundation (“Terra”) ,which was originally known as the Pillow Foundation, which held itself out as a business that would investigate and eliminate mortgage loans in exchange for fees, soliciting clients who were having difficulties making their mortgage payments.  In fact, however, Terra engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to defraud clients, county clerks’ offices, and banks.

The fraudulent scheme, which was created by Graham and Lewis, involved Terra performing “audits” of clients’ mortgages, sending pseudo-legal paperwork to the banks and/or lenders holding the mortgages, and ultimately filing purported mortgage discharges with the relevant county clerks’ offices, which discharges were signed by Lewis or other co-conspirators, claiming falsely to represent the banks and/or mortgage lenders.  As a result, anyone doing a title search for one of Terra’s clients would see that the client’s mortgage had been satisfied.  The mortgages had not, however, been discharged, and the mortgages were eventually reinstated, after the clients paid their fees.

In order to effectuate the scheme, Graham, Lewis, and Ruzza involved others, including Rocco Cermele, 56, Yonkers, New York , who was Terra’s director of operations and who recruited clients, among other duties; Paula Guadagno, who did real estate title work for, and filed discharges on behalf of, Terra; and Anthony Vigna, 61, Thornwood, New York,  a lawyer and CPA who worked in Terra’s offices.

To profit from their scheme, Graham and her co-conspirators charged various fees to Terra’s clients.

In total, Graham and her co-conspirators filed over 60 fraudulent discharges in Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York, and in Connecticut.  The fraudulent discharges claimed to discharge mortgages with a total loan principal of nearly $38 million.

Graham was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud.  The count carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Lewis pled guilty to one count of wire fraud relating to the Terra scheme, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Vigna pled guilty to one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud relating to the Terra scheme, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Cermele pled guilty to one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit mail, wire, and bank fraud, and one count of wire fraud, each relating to the Terra scheme, each of which carries a maximum potential sentence of 30 years in prison, and three additional counts of wire fraud relating to other crimes, each of which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.

Graham was found guilty of the one count she faced after a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Román.

The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants would be determined by the court.

All defendants are awaiting sentencing.

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, made the announcement.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Jacqueline Graham preyed on vulnerable homeowners who could not afford their mortgage payments during a time of crisis in the housing market.  Because of her greed, these homeowners ended up financially worse off than when they found her.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who victimize the vulnerable.”

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Mr. Berman also thanked the Office of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for their assistance in the case.

This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys David Felton, Michael Maimin, and James McMahon are in charge of the prosecutions.

Bruce Lewis, 65, Jacqueline Graham, 47, Anthony Vigna, 59, Rocco Cermele, 54, and Paula Guadagno, 58, were indicted and charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud in connection with a debt-elimination scheme to defraud homeowners and banks.

The Indictment alleges that in 2011 and 2012, Lewis, Graham, and an unindicted co-conspirator were partners in a business that they called the Pillow Foundation or the Terra Foundation (collectively, “Terra”).  Terra held itself out as a business that would investigate and eliminate mortgage debt in exchange for a fee.  Terra solicited clients who were having difficulties making their mortgage payments.

Vigna was a lawyer who worked in-house at Terra and provided legal services to it and its clients.  Cermele was Terra’s director of operations who recruited clients, among other duties.  Guadagno was a real estate title professional who performed real estate title work for Terra.

Lewis, Graham, Vigna, Cermele, Guadagno, and others at Terra told potential clients that Terra could eliminate their mortgage debt in exchange for a fee.  In reality, Terra filed fraudulent discharges of mortgages at local county clerk’s offices in Westchester and Putnam Counties, New York and in Connecticut.  These fraudulent documents made it appear as if Terra’s clients’ mortgages had been discharged, when in fact they had not.

To profit from their scheme, Terra and the defendants charged monthly fees that they said covered, among other things, audits of the clients’ properties that they often failed to perform.  Terra and the defendants also encouraged their clients to take out second or reverse mortgages on the properties for which Terra had claimed to have discharged the first mortgages.  Once the clients had taken out these second or reverse mortgages, Terra and the defendants retained substantial portions of the proceeds.  Some of these second or reverse mortgages were made under HUD’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage Program.

In total, Terra and the defendants filed nearly 60 fraudulent discharges in Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York and in Connecticut.  The fraudulent discharges claimed to discharge mortgages with a total loan principal of over $33 million.  In reality, the Terra clients for whom the fraudulent discharges were filed were often left with both a second or reverse mortgage and their original mortgage that had not actually been discharged.

Vigna, Cermele, and Guadagno were taken into federal custody.  Lewis and Graham remain at large.

Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and mail fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jennifer Beidel, Michael Maimin, and James McMahon are in charge of the

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Christina Scaringi, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the unsealing of the Indictment.  Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and HUD-OIG.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the Westchester and Putnam County District Attorney’s Offices and the Cheshire Police Department in Cheshire, Connecticut, for their ongoing assistance in the case.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated:  “The defendants allegedly preyed on vulnerable homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments and, with their greed, victimized them further.  When the defendants were done with the victims, after falsely promising to reduce or even eliminate their mortgage debt for fees, these homeowners were left much worse off, in even greater debt.  With the charges today, and thanks to the investigative work of the FBI and HUD, the defendants now face federal fraud charges.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney stated:  “As charged, the defendants exploited a program designed to help cost-burdened individuals enjoy the privilege of affordable housing.  Crimes of this nature not only hurt their victims financially, but often force upon them other forms of anguish while harming the financial integrity of the very programs established to help them. We urge everyone to protect themselves against this type of fraud and abuse.  If something doesn’t sound right, trust your instincts and do some checking. If you think you may be or have been a victim of mortgage fraud, we urge you to contact your nearest FBI office.”

HUD-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Christina Scaringi stated:  “HUD’s reverse mortgage program was created to help our senior citizens find greater financial security through FHA-insured loans.  The defendants’ alleged scheme to unjustly enrich themselves through the victimization of our senior citizens is a shameful act that will not be tolerated by the HUD OIG.  We will continue to aggressively pursue those who would prey on America’s senior citizens and encourage anyone having knowledge of such schemes to contact our HUD hotline.”