Dea Character, 51, Shaker Heights, Ohio, an Attorney, pleaded guilty to Engaging in a Pattern of Corrupt Activity, or RICO, a first degree felony, and five counts of Theft by Deception and five counts of Money Laundering. Co-defendant Tyrone Cody, 38, Shaker Heights, is scheduled for trial on Monday, June 8, 2009. Character’s sentencing is scheduled for June 30, 2009.
Dea Character was indicted with eight defendants and six companies in a 60-count indictment for mortgage fraud offenses involving seven houses located in Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Lyndhurst, Moreland Hills and Pepper Pike. The seven houses totaled approximately 3 million dollars in fraudulent loans. Co-defendants Gregory Lewis, Valerie Shields and Bertha Clark have also pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud offenses including Theft by Deception, Money Laundering, and Mortgage Broker Act.
Dea Character, Tyrone Cody and their companies, Time Reveals, New Image, Skywater Investment Group and Network and Sign Joint Ventures orchestrated the criminal enterprise. Their scheme started with smaller homes in Cleveland during the years of 2003-2005. Realizing the payoff, they moved on to more expensive houses in Lyndhurst, Pepper Pike and Moreland Hills.
Character and Cody duped buyers into purchasing houses and then provided false information on the buyers and their assets, income, bank accounts and overall ability to secure credit and repay the terms of the loan. They also created fictitious and fraudulent invoices for legal fees and rehab work to deceive the title companies; and perpetuated a down-payment scheme to deceive the lender, which included inflating the sale price at closing.
Time Reveals, New Image, Skywater Investment Group and Network, and Sign Joint Ventures were companies set up by Character and Cody to falsify invoices and steal money out of each property. Fabricated invoices were submitted to the title companies, whom provided them the money from the closing disbursements. Greg Lewis, 46, South Euclid, who owned GLG Inc. with Character, also submitted fraudulent invoices on rehab work done on the houses in Lyndhurst and Pepper Pike. At the direction of Character and Cody, the money from the title company was never deposited. Instead, Character, Cody, and Lewis stole a combined $630,000 through this title scheme for their own personal use.
Empire Equity dba First Metropolitan Mortgage and Bertha Clark, 53, Warrensville Heights, an unlicensed loan officer, were the loan originator for 4 houses (3 in Cleveland and 1 in Cleveland Heights). They facilitated the fraudulent loan application scheme. They also accepted fraudulent rental leases from individuals who either did not exist or never rented the properties in the lease.
Howard Morman, 33, Cleveland, and Roy Williams Jr., 59, Wickliffe, were straw buyers who falsified their assets, income and bank account information. Valerie Shields, 47, Cleveland, who was a licensed realtor, was the seller of the property on Clarkstone in Cleveland. She participated in the enterprise by accepting a second mortgage from the buyer and within 30 days signed off on the note, but never collected money on the note and had no intention to pay it back.
Khadijah Chapman, 44, Moreland Hills, received $7,000 from Cody through Time Reveals on the Mapleside Ave. house. She cashed the check and purchased an official check for $5,653.66. She submitted the official check at closing and fraudulently indicated the funds were from the buyer, Williams.
County Prosecutor Bill Mason and the Cuyahoga County Mortgage Fraud Task Force made the announcement.
The Cuyahoga County Mortgage Fraud Task Force operates in conjunction with Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray’s Organized Crime Investigations Commission. The Task Force is comprised of 16 federal, state, and local enforcement agencies.
Task force members are: Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, Cleveland Heights Police Department, Solon Police Department, Cleveland Police Department, Pepper Pike Police Department, HUD, Cuyahoga County Auditor, Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office, Cuyahoga County Treasurer, Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Financial Invest, F.B.I., U.S. Attorney’s Office, and U.S. Postal Inspector.