Robert Moreno, San Diego, California, a banker who sold mortgages on behalf of GMAC, admitted receiving more than one million dollars in bribe payments while working on behalf of GMAC. In return, Moreno used his position and influence to ensure that his customers won their bids to purchase mortgage notes.
Moreno took the bulk of these bribe payments from San Diego businessman Israel Hechter, who pled guilty in September 2014, and admitted paying $1,000,000 in bribes to Moreno and others. Moreno also accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from another customer based in Woodland Hills, California.
Moreno initially accepted the bribes in cash and personal checks, so that he could conceal the payments from the IRS and avoid paying taxes on the illegal income. Several times in 2012, Hechter’s father, Zeev Hechter, met Moreno in New York City at the car wash he owned, where he delivered “laundered” cash payments totaling $330,000. Moreno traveled around the country, including Las Vegas, New York City, and Scottsdale, Arizona, arranging hand-to-hand cash deliveries of the bribes from Zeev Hechter and others. He also accepted personal checks from Israel’s brother Amir Hechter and their business associate Jack Prober.
Moreno and Israel Hechter later set up a sham “Consulting Agreement” and a phony consulting business, Phoenix Asset & Acquisition, Inc., to disguise the bribe payments and make them look like legitimate consulting fees unrelated to Moreno’s work with GMAC. Moreno then copied this sham contract and used it with other customers who paid him bribes, all to cover up the payments. Moreno took in over $500,000 in bribe payments under these bogus contracts.
The mortgages Moreno sold on behalf of GMAC were mostly non-performing or distressed second mortgages. The investors made money when borrowers made payments, sold the properties, or after foreclosure and re-sale.
Moreno was arrested on July 15, 2014, for his role in the conspiracy. He entered his guilty plea today before United States Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin. Moreno is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Roger T. Benitez on January 19, 2015, at 9:00 a.m.
The swift resolution of these bribery and tax charges was the result of coordinated investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.