Fraudster Guilty of Straw Buyer, Double Escrow Scam

Allison Tussey —  March 7, 2012 — Leave a comment

Brett Depue, 38, Gilbert, Arizona, following a seven-day jury trial, was convicted of conspiracy and wire fraud charges for his involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme involving straw buyers and false mortgage loan applications.


Depue, formerly of Las Vegas, Nevada, was convicted of conspiracy (to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud), seven counts of wire fraud, and criminal forfeiture. Depue faces up to 240 years in prison and $8 million in fines, and is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roger L. Hunt on June 15, 2012.

During 2005 to 2007, Depue operated a number of Nevada businesses in Las Vegas, including, ABS Investments Group, LLC, and Liberty Group Investments, LLC. From about February 1, 2005, to May 31, 2007, Depue participated in a conspiracy with about 13 others to defraud federally insured banks. The conspiracy consisted of recruiting straw buyers, typically friends or family members with good credit, to purchase homes that they had no intent to occupy and which Depue would control.

Depue paid the straw buyers about $5,000 to put houses in their name, sometimes up to five houses. Depue then directed co-conspirators to prepare mortgage applications containing false and fraudulent information, so that the straw buyers could qualify for the loans. Depue put renters in the properties, and after a period of time, he sold them for a profit. During the beginning of the scheme, Depue orchestrated simple straw buyer transactions in which the straw buyers purchased properties using 100 percent financing.

The properties were purchased at a price above the asking price, and the difference was disbursed at closing to one of defendant’s entities. Later, Depue began using “double escrows” in which a buyer purchased a property and soon thereafter resold it to a straw buyer at an inflated price, often on the same day.

Using this scheme, Depue and his co-conspirators obtained mortgage loans for 110 homes in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, between April 2005 and April 2007, and it is estimated that Depue defrauded the involved financial institutions of more than $20 million.

Ten co-conspirators were also convicted for their roles in the offense.

Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada, announced the conviction.

“Since the inception of our mortgage fraud program in the spring of 2008, we have charged 197 persons with mortgage fraud crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “To date, 143 of those individuals have been convicted, and the rest are pending trial. Today, Brett Depue joins this list of convicted fraudsters.”

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and other agencies of the Southern Nevada Mortgage Fraud Task Force, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Secret Service, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, and Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian Pugh and Sarah E. Griswold.

This law enforcement action is sponsored by President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

Allison Tussey

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