Archives For Stephanie Abbott

Cherie Anne Washburn, 44, Lynchburg, Virginia, a former attorney who specialized in elder law and estate planning, was charged today with ten counts of wire fraud, two counts of making a false statement to a mortgage lender, and one count of mail fraud.

According to court documents, from around 2015 and continuing until 2018, Washburn engaged in a scheme to defraud and obtain money or property by fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises from elder victims C.A. and D.F. Washburn is alleged to have used the ill-gotten monies to enrich herself, including purchasing real estate and making donations to charities.

In or around March 2018, the indictment alleges, Washburn purchased a residence in Lynchburg, Va., for approximately $219,000 using monies belonging to victim C.A. and a mortgage lender. In order to complete the purchase, on or about April 22, 2018, Washburn submitted a letter to Quicken Loans falsely stating that victim C.A. provided Washburn with a gift of $40,000 for the purchase of 111 Wyndsong Place. The gift letter also falsely stated that victim C.A. was Washburn’s great-aunt. The next day Washburn deposited $45,000 from victim C.A.’s SunTrust Account to Washburn’s Wells Fargo account.

In 2015 and 2016, a senior care management service company referred victims C.A. and D.F. to Washburn for the purpose of obtaining elder legal services. Washburn subsequently entered separate Power of Attorney (POA) agreement with both victims. Under the terms of both POAs, Washburn was entitled to reasonable compensation and reimbursement for reasonable expenses for services rendered but could not use the personal property of the client to benefit the attorney.

The indictment alleges that despite the agreement, Washburn wrote multiple checks from victim C.A. and victim D.F.’s accounts to herself for personal benefit. These checks ranged in value from $4,200 to $40,000.

Additionally, the indictment alleges that in 2017, Washburn attempted to improperly make herself the beneficiary of two investment accounts held by C.A.. At the time, these accounts had a combined approximate value of $288,000.

Throughout 2017, the indictment alleges that Washburn made charitable donations using money fraudulently obtained from victims C.A. and D.F. These donations were made without the consent of the victims.

If convicted, Washburn faces up to 30 years in federal prison.

Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar and David W. Archey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division made the announcement today following the defendant’s initial court appearance.

The investigation of the case was conducted by Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Lynchburg City Police Department. Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar, Assistant United States Attorney Michael Baudinet, and Special Assistant United States Attorney and Commonwealth Attorney for the City of Lynchburg Bethany Harrison are prosecuting the case for the United States.

An indictment is merely an accusation.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Mary Beyer Halsey, 59, Rising Sun, Maryland, the former President and Chief Executive Officer of Cecil Bank, was sentenced today for charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, receipt of a bribe by a bank official, and false statement in bank records, in connection with the straw purchase of a home in Rising Sun, Maryland, upon which Cecil Bank had foreclosed.

According to her plea agreement, from 2012 to 2013, Halsey conspired with Daniel Whitehurst, 36, Bel Air, Maryland, an employee of a real estate development company that did business in Maryland, to defraud Cecil Bank and another bank to purchase a home through false pretenses, representations and promises.  Specifically, on March 28, 2012, Halsey and Whitehurst met at a restaurant in Cecil County.  Whitehurst asked Halsey if she could help him and a business partner get a $500,000 line of credit from Cecil Bank.  Halsey agreed to help Whitehurst to obtain a line of credit from Cecil Bank, in exchange for Whitehurst agreeing to serve as the straw purchaser of 127 Ebenezer, Rising Sun, Maryland on behalf of Halsey.  Halsey suggested that she increase the line of credit for Whitehurst to $650,000 to include the funds needed to buy the house.  Whitehurst agreed to Halsey’s request to secretly buy 127 Ebenezer on Halsey’s behalf.  On May 9, 2012, Halsey participated in a loan committee meeting at Cecil Bank that considered and approved a $650,000 line for credit for Whitehurst and a $500,000 line of credit for his business partner.

Halsey admitted that at her request, on May 14, 2012, Whitehurst visited 127 Ebenezer and provided Halsey with an estimate of the costs to update the house.  Whitehurst determined that beyond replacing the kitchen sub-flooring at a cost of about $1,000, there were no significant repairs needed.  Whitehurst provided a letter of intent to purchase the home from the bank for $150,000 for Halsey to review.  Halsey suggested lowering the price to $145,000 to allow room to increase the offer later.  Halsey knew that an exterior-only appraisal of the property ordered by Cecil Bank on November 9, 2011, showed a market value of $263,000.  A full appraisal on September 10, 2012, reflected a market value of $295,000.  To support the below-market price that Halsey wanted to pay, Whitehurst included in the letter of intent a list of lower-priced home sales in the same area that were not comparable to 127 Ebenezer and therefore was not reflective of the property’s actual market value.

As detailed in the plea agreement, on May 23, 2012, Whitehurst e-mailed Cecil Bank his offer to purchase 127 Ebenezer for $145,000.  On the same day, during a meeting of the Cecil Bank Board of Directors, Halsey advised the Board that Whitehurst had made a purchase offer of $140,000 for 127 Ebenezer, $5,000 less the actual offer.  To support the below-market price of $140,000, Halsey falsely characterized the property as having “structural deficiencies [that] will require significant repairs.”  Halsey did not disclose her personal interest in the property, nor Whitehurst’s role as her nominee to acquire the property on her behalf.  The Board authorized Halsey to “negotiate the best price.”  Thereafter, Whitehurst submitted a contract for him to purchase 127 Ebenezer from Cecil Bank for $150,000, which Halsey signed on August 17, 2012 on behalf of Cecil Bank.

According to the plea agreement, subsequent to authorizing the sale of 127 Ebenezer, Halsey told Whitehurst that he should not use his line of credit from Cecil Bank to purchase the house, but should instead get the funds from a different source.  Whitehurst applied for and obtained a $100,000 loan from another bank to purchase 127 Ebenezer, fraudulently claiming that he was purchasing the property for himself and that the down payment was from an investment account.  On October 31, 2012, prior to 127 Ebenezer going to settlement, Halsey wired $75,000 to Whitehurst’s bank account to cover the cost of the down payment as well as closing costs and upgrades to the property that Halsey directed Whitehurst to arrange.  To conceal the true purpose of the wired funds, Whitehurst sent Halsey a fictitious real estate contract purporting to show that the $75,000 was the down payment for a different property that Whitehurst owned in Havre de Grace, Maryland.

On November 21, 2012, the settlement of 127 Ebenezer was held with Halsey representing Cecil Bank as the seller, and Whitehurst as the purported purchaser, selling the property to Whitehurst for $150,000.  Both signed the HUD-1 form which falsely represented that Whitehurst had paid approximately $52,566 at settlement, when in fact, the down payment and all related closing costs were paid from the $75,000 Halsey had wired to Whitehurst’s bank account beforehand.  From October 31, 2012 through March 29, 2013, Halsey transferred an additional $60,000 to Whitehurst to cover the cost the upgrades to the house that they had previously discussed, as well as to reimburse Whitehurst for mortgage payments he made on the property.  Halsey and Whitehurst also made plans to transfer title of the property to Halsey by selling the house to her at a price that would minimize the tax consequences of the sale for Whitehurst.

In December 2012, in response to a question from a bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond inquiring about the sale of the property to Whitehurst, Halsey falsely stated that she was “not totally familiar with [that] property” and that the bank had difficulty marketing the property and had not listed it with a realtor because of “issues with the county over the bonds outstanding.”

In April 2013, federal agents began interviewing employees and other borrowers about banking irregularities at Cecil Bank.  Title to 127 Ebenezer was never transferred to Halsey.  Halsey never told the bank that she was the true purchaser of 127 Ebenezer, nor did the bank know that Halsey and Whitehurst had orchestrated the sale of the foreclosed property at the fraudulent price of $150,000, instead of the appraised pre-renovation price of $295,000.

As a result of Halsey’s misrepresentations and omissions, the bank lost approximately $145,000.

Whitehurst pleaded guilty under seal to the federal charge of mail fraud on April 6, 2018.  Whitehurst faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud.  Judge Chasanow has not scheduled a date for Whitehurst’s sentencing.

Halsey pleaded guilty on July 31, 2020, Judge Chasanow also ordered Halsey to forfeit her interest in the home in Rising Sun and to pay restitution in the amount of $145,000.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Mark P. Higgins of Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Mid-Atlantic Region; Special Agent in Charge Patricia Tarasca of Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC/OIG), New York Region; Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); and Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware of the Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General (SBA/OIG).

Mary Beyer Halsey will now serve time in federal prison after she used her position as President and CEO of Cecil Bank for her personal benefit, causing a loss to the bank, which had already received federal taxpayer funds as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.  “Corrupt bank officials undermine the public’s trust in our financial system.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) is committed to investigating allegations of fraud committed by officers of financial institutions which are members of the 11 Federal Home Loan Banks (FHLBanks) because their crimes strike at the heart of the FHLBank System,” said Mark Higgins, Special Agent in Charge of the FHFA-OIG’s Mid-Atlantic Region. “We are proud to have partnered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and our law enforcement partners on this case.

Today the former CEO of Cecil Bank was sentenced to prison, becoming the 78th banker sentenced to prison resulting from a SIGTARP investigation,” said Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero. “Treasury wrote off $11 million from its TARP investment in Cecil Bank.  We commend U.S. Attorney Hur and his team of prosecutors in standing with SIGTARP to combat fraud that hurt banks during critical times.”

Cecil Bank, located in Elkton, Maryland, had received $11,560,000 in federal taxpayer funds in 2008, under the Capital Purchase Program, as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.  On April 20, 2011, Cecil Bank initiated the foreclosure of a single-family house located at 127 Ebenezer Church Road in Rising Sun.

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FHFA-OIG, Mid-Atlantic Region; FDIC/OIG; SIGTARP; and SBA/OIG for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martin J. Clarke and Harry M. Gruber, who are prosecuting the case.

 

Vontia Jones, 39, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2,319,278 in restitution for engaging in real estate fraud by purporting to sell properties to buyers using fraudulent documents and obtaining the personal identifying information of people and using that information to file more than 900 fraudulent tax returns with the IRS, netting her over $2,319,000 in fraudulent refunds.

The defendant pleaded guilty in August 2019 to more than 30 fraud charges, including conspiracy to make false claims to the IRS; making, and aiding and abetting the making of false claims to the IRS; wire fraud; and aggravated identity theft. Jones operated a business that she identified by various names including “Jones Tax Service,” “Earned Income Credit Unit,” “EIC Unit,” and “Eelysium,” out of her home in the 1400 block of West Cayuga Street, Philadelphia for a period of roughly seven years.

Jones also organized and operated a scheme to file phony deeds for multiple residential properties in Philadelphia, purporting to transfer ownership of the houses in order to sell them for a profit. The defendant would research homes on real estate websites, typically targeting those where the owner had died or moved away, and would charge several thousand dollars to sell someone else one of these houses that she “deeded up.”

Together with her co-conspirators, Jones solicited the personal information of individuals and their dependents under the guise of getting them “tax money,” even if they never worked. Jones designed flyers advertising her services that stated: “Don’t you deserve some income tax money too? $750 [per child] welfare social security unemployment disability even if you never had a job.” Each of the returns submitted to the IRS was submitted by the defendant or her conspirators as self-prepared, as if it had been done by the individual taxpayer whose information had been stolen.

Together, they filed or directed others to file over 900 fraudulent tax returns claiming fictious self-employment income resulting in tax refund payouts by the IRS of more $2,319,000.

United States Attorney William M. McSwain made the announcement.

In addition to the tax return scheme, “Jones’ greed impacted the lives of many hundreds of victims, and her shameful actions had severe consequences for these innocent people,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Not only did she and her co-conspirators steal personal information in order steal tax return money from the government, but also she sold people’s houses right out from underneath them to other people who believed that they were buying property from her legitimately. For her actions, she will now spend the better part of a decade in prison.”

The degree to which Vontia Jones and her co-conspirators went in order to perpetrate this scheme is astounding,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Thomas Fattorusso. “Not only did Vontia Jones steal the identities of unwitting individuals, she also stole millions of dollars from the US government; and ultimately US taxpayers. Today, she stands a convicted felon who will spend years in federal prison.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony J. Wzorek.

Casey David Crowther ,35, North Fort Myers, Florida has been charged in a superseding indictment with two counts of bank fraud, two counts of making a false statement to a lending institution, and three counts of illegal monetary transactions.

According to the superseding indictment, as part of his scheme, beginning in June of 2020, Crowther submitted false and fraudulent Uniform Residential Loan Applications (URLA) to a mortgage broker and mortgage lender, causing the lender to disburse approximately $640,381 in loan funds. Specifically, Crowther intentionally misrepresented his liquid assets in the URLAs and created false and fraudulent bank statements which purported to show he had more assets than he actually had.

If convicted, Crowther faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison on each bank fraud and false statement count, and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for each illegal monetary transaction count.

The indictment also notifies Crowther that the United States intends to forfeit a 2020 40-foot catamaran, real property in St. James City, Florida, and $2,098,700, which are alleged to be proceeds of the offenses; the real property is also subject to forfeiture because it was involved in the illegal monetary transaction.

A federal grand jury had previously indicted Crowther for COVID relief fraud on September 23, 2020. The superseding indictment contains additional counts charging Crowther with mortgage fraud.

A superseding indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Trent Reichling.

Mohammad Shabazz Khan, Bourbannais, Illinois was indicted yesterday on four counts of making false claims to obtain federal mortgage assistance funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program’s billion-dollar component Hardest Hit Fund (HHF), which was provided to Indiana’s housing finance agency to help unemployed and underemployed homeowners stay in their homes. The indictment alleges the defendant took assistance but did not live in his home.

Khan received $29,926.46 in mortgage assistance to which he was not entitled.

The Hardest Hit Fund was meant to help Indiana families stay in their homes in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. The Hardest Hit Fund program in Indiana is administered by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. In order to receive this mortgage assistance, an applicant was required to be an Indiana homeowner; own only one home; and reside in that home.

If convicted, any specific sentence to be imposed will be determined by the Judge after a consideration of federal statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Molly Kelley. SIGTARP was created as an independent law enforcement agency to investigate fraud, waste, and abuse related to the TARP bailout. To date, SIGTARP investigations have resulted in the recovery of over $11.2 billion, 389 criminal convictions and 305 defendants sentenced to prison.

The United States Attorney’s Office emphasizes that an Indictment is merely an allegation and that all persons are presumed innocent until, and unless proven guilty in court.

United States Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II, made the announcement.

I commend the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana for standing with SIGTARP to combat fraud against homeownership preservation programs,” said Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General.

To report a suspected crime related to TARP, call SIGTARP’s Crime Tip Hotline: 1-877-SIG-2009 (1-877-744-2009). To receive alerts about reports, audits, media releases, and other SIGTARP news, sign up at www.SIGTARP.gov/pages/press.aspx. Follow SIGTARP on Twitter @SIGTARP.

Dean Rossi, 55, Warrington, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to five years in prison, four years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $2.85 million in restitution and $1.38 million in forfeiture for devising and participating in schemes to defraud three financial institutions out of millions of dollars.

Rossi was convicted at trial in March 2018 on seven charges: one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud; one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution; three counts of bank fraud; and two counts of loan fraud.

From at least December 2006 until about March 2012, Rossi and his co-conspirators participated in schemes to defraud Nova Bank, First Cornerstone Bank, and Leesport Bank, which later became VIST Financial Bank, out of more than $4.15 million in connection with multiple real estate closings for small residential properties in working class neighborhoods in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. In each scheme, the defendant conspired with others to obtain fraudulent mortgage loans and made misrepresentations regarding the disbursement of those funds and his income. The defendant also falsified numerous documents, including tax returns and HUD-1 settlement sheets. Although the banks were able to mitigate some of their fraud losses, the banks and their insurers still suffered losses exceeding $2.85 million. Rossi personally pocketed a total of $1.38 million.

United States Attorney William M. McSwain made the announcement.

The scope and duration of Rossi’s fraud are simply stunning,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “He stole millions of dollars from bank lenders and preyed upon residential neighborhoods – and then attempted to cover his tracks with lies. That sort of white collar crime deserves significant prison time, which is what Rossi has earned.”

“Dean Rossi lied on mortgage applications starting in 2006, his lies and greed helped to contribute to the financial meltdown in 2008,” observed Damon Wood, Inspector in Charge of the Philadelphia Division of the Postal Inspection Service.  “Over ten years later, after being found guilty at trial, he has finally been sentenced to five years in jail.  I want to thank the Postal Inspectors and the Assistant United States Attorneys who stayed with this case for nearly a decade.  The Postal Inspection Service has long history of investigating frauds schemes, and we will continue to lead and support investigations into fraud schemes that use the mail.

The case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark Dubnoff and Elizabeth Ray.

Anthony T. Williams, 49, Pineville, Louisiana was sentenced today in federal court to 240 months’ imprisonment for wire fraud and mail fraud in connection with a fraudulent mortgage relief scheme.

Williams marketed a fraudulent mortgage debt reduction scheme to distressed homeowners, who were mostly non-native English speakers in the Filipino immigrant community in Hawaii. Williams created two companies, Mortgage Enterprise Investments (MEI) and Common Law Office of America (CLOA), neither of which was licensed to service or modify mortgages. Through MEI, Williams made conflicting promises to clients that he could eliminate their existing mortgage obligations to their lenders, or reduce their mortgage obligations by half. Through CLOA, Williams promised legal representation in mortgage-related litigation and foreclosure proceedings. To give himself the appearance of credibility, Williams told prospective clients he was a “private attorney general” and brandished an official-looking law enforcement badge and credentials, despite not having a law license or any affiliation with law enforcement.

Williams falsely promised victims that he could eliminate their existing home mortgage obligations by filing bogus documents with the Hawaii Bureau of Conveyances. These documents included new MEI mortgages and notes obligating homeowners to make monthly payments to MEI. Williams then advised homeowners to stop making their mortgage payments to their lenders and to pay him instead.

Between 2012 and 2015, Williams enlisted 112 victims in Hawaii into his MEI program and fraudulently obtained over $230,000 from his victims, without providing any legitimate services. Several victims testified at trial that they had relied upon Williams’s representations and went into foreclosure or bankruptcy. Two victims testified that they lost their homes as a result of Williams’s scheme.

For several years, Anthony Williams actively preyed upon distressed homeowners within the Filipino community here in the State of Hawaii. His scheme financially devastated his victims, forcing some into bankruptcy and homelessness. As a result of this prosecution, Williams’s scheme has come to an end and Williams will be incarcerated for 20 years. My office will continue to protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” said U.S. Attorney Price.

Williams knowingly targeted and preyed upon citizens of our Filipino community” said Eli Miranda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Honolulu Division. “He took advantage of this vulnerable and in need population, delivering empty promises. He drained their finances leaving many penniless. The FBI cannot, and will not stand by. We will continue to maximize our efforts with partner agencies to bring these perpetrators to justice and hold them accountable for their crimes.

A federal jury convicted Williams on March 3, 2020 of 32 counts of wire fraud and mail fraud after a four week trial.

In addition to a term of imprisonment, the Court also imposed three years of supervised release, and restitution. The Court’s sentence of imprisonment is to run consecutively to a fifteen-year sentence of imprisonment that another court had handed down earlier to Williams for similar fraudulent conduct in the State of Florida.

The investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth M. Sorenson and Gregg Paris Yates handled the prosecution.

 

Mohammed Shahbaz Khan, 45, Bourbonnais, Illinois was indicted for making false claims in connection with his receipt of money from the Hardest Hit Fund, a federal mortgage assistance initiative offered by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

According to the indictment, the purpose of the Hardest Hit Fund was to help stabilize communities in states, like Indiana, that were “hardest hit” by the 2008 economic and housing market downturn.  The Hardest Hit Fund program in Indiana is administered by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.  In order to receive this mortgage assistance, an applicant was required to be an Indiana homeowner; own only one home; and reside in that home.

The indictment alleges that Khan knowingly submitted false statements about his residency in order to obtain Hardest Hit Fund mortgage assistance on an Indiana property, while living elsewhere.  Over 18-months, Khan allegedly received $29,926.46 in mortgage assistance, to which he was not entitled.

U.S. Attorney Kirsch made the announcement.

Today, an Illinois man was charged with defrauding a long-term federal economic stability program, intended to help people stay in their homes, knowing that he did not qualify,” said Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Program (SIGTARP).  “We commend the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana for standing with SIGTARP to combat fraud against homeownership preservation programs.

The United States Attorney’s Office emphasizes that an Indictment is merely an allegation and that all persons are presumed innocent until, and unless proven guilty in court.

If convicted, any specific sentence to be imposed will be determined by the Judge after a consideration of federal statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP).  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Molly Kelley.

 

 

Joseph A. Gonzalez, 46, Henderson, Nevada, pleaded guilty today for his role in a scheme to use bogus information and simultaneous loan applications at multiple banks – known as “shot-gunning” – to attempt to obtain home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

From 2010 through 2018, Jorge Flores and Simon Curanaj, a real estate broker in the Bronx, New York who has previously pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing, ran a mortgage fraud scheme in which they applied for more than $9 million in HELOCs from banks on residential properties in New Jersey and New York.

Gonzalez and Flores used a property in Jersey City, New Jersey, as part of the scheme. Gonzalez had been allowed by the owner of the property to live there in exchange for management services, but neither he nor Flores owned the property. Gonzalez also recruited an individual with good credit to act as a straw buyer (Individual 1). Unbeknownst to the owner of the property, a “quitclaim” deed – which contains no warranties of title – was prepared transferring the property to Individual 1. The signatures on the deed were forged.

Gonzalez and Flores then applied for two HELOCs from multiple banks using the Jersey City, New Jersey property as collateral in Individual 1’s name. They concealed the fact that the property offered as collateral was either already subject to senior liens that had not yet been recorded, or that the same property was offered as collateral for a line of credit from another lender. The applications also contained false information concerning Individual 1’s income, which was stated to be higher than his actual income. At the time the applications were made, the value of the property was less than the amount of the HELOC loans for which Gonzalez and Flores applied.

The victim banks eventually issued loans to Individual 1 in excess of $500,000. After the victim banks funded the HELOCs and deposited money into Individual 1’s bank account, Individual 1 disbursed almost all of it to Gonzalez, Flores, and others. Gonzalez used $43,000 of the illicit proceeds to buy a luxury car. Individual 1 eventually defaulted on both HELOC loans.

The conspiracy to commit bank fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million or twice the gross pecuniary gain to the defendants or twice the gross pecuniary loss to others, whichever is greater. Sentencing is scheduled for February, 10, 2021.

Gonzalez is the sixth person to plead guilty as part of the scheme.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert Manchak; and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.

The government is represented by Senior Trial Counsel Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Health Care Fraud Unit in Newark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory of the FHFA, Office of the Inspector General.

 

Dana Q. Roush, 40, and her husband Michael “Bubba” Roush, 56, both of Greenville, South Carolina were sentenced to a total of seventeen years in federal prison and ordered to pay back more than $2.5 million after a jury found them guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and equity skimming.

Evidence presented at trial showed that Dana and Bubba Roush owned and operated Kingdom Connected Investments, LLC (“KCI”).  They marketed their company as a Christian organization and promised to create “win-win” situations for home sellers and buyers. They sought homeowners who often owed more on their home than the property was worth, and buyers who lacked good credit and thus could not obtain a conventional mortgage.

KCI promised to relieve the homeowner from the burdens of mortgage payments by “buying” the home and placing a new buyer in the home who would rent-to-own.  KCI promised to make all the sellers’ mortgage payments.  KCI misled sellers to believe that they would be immediately removed from the property’s title and that they were no longer responsible for the original loan.

KCI promised the buyers an easy road to homeownership.  In exchange for the down payment (typically ten percent of the purchase price), the buyers were told that they were renting-to-own and building up equity.  KCI further concealed from the buyers that a third party – the seller – had an existing mortgage on the property that KCI was responsible for paying.

Rather than using the down payments and rents received from the buyers to pay the sellers’ mortgage payments, Bubba and Dana Roush used the money for personal expenses and to expand their real estate business.

The sellers, many of whom believed they were off the title and note, received foreclosure notices.  They learned that KCI, despite having a renter in the home, had stopped paying on the mortgage.  Buyers often learned they had no real ownership interest when the home was purchased by a third-party at a foreclosure sale and the new owner started eviction proceedings.

Victims of the scheme suffered myriad injuries including loss of money, shattered dreams, and ruined credit.  Special Agent Matt Jacobson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) testified that KCI received $2.6 million from buyers and only paid $1.4 million in mortgage payments.  Approximately 130 properties were involved in the scam and Agent Jacobson testified that in only two instances did a buyer actually become a homeowner and a seller not face foreclosure and ruined credit.

Mrs. Roush was sentenced to more than eleven years, while her husband was sentenced to six and a half years.

United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy, Jr., made the announcement.

These defendants here stole more than money. They robbed their victims of the American dream,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “For so many South Carolinians, times are tough right now. That these two defendants exploited that difficulty to line their own pockets is reprehensible, and this office will not tolerate it. I appreciate the jury’s verdict and the sentence handed down by the judge. I am especially thankful for the hard work form our federal partners in this case.”

The fraud perpetrated by the defendants allowed them to steal millions of dollars from people who could not afford to lose any money,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Jody Norris.  “The victims were robbed of their life savings, their homes, and the futures they had planned.  The Special Agents from the FBI and the investigators from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) who brought these defendants to justice, should be commended for their dedication and demonstration of our resolve to fully investigate these fraudulent schemes in South Carolina.

The core of our mission is to protect the Department of Housing and Urban Development from those that would seek to defraud its programs for the sole purpose of enriching themselves at the government’s expense,” said Wyatt Achord, Special Agent in Charge, HUD Office of Inspector General (OIG). “We remain committed toward working with the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue any individual who attempts to defraud the government.

United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain sentenced Mrs. Roush to 136 months in federal prison, to be followed by a three-year term of court-ordered supervision. Judge Cain sentenced Mr. Roush to 78 months in federal prison, to be followed by a three-year term of court-ordered supervision. There is no parole in the federal system. Judge Cain also ordered the defendants to pay $2,664,796.69 in restitution.

The case was investigated by the FBI and HUD OIG. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Watkins