Archives For Mortgage Fraud

Judge Jessica O’Brien, a small-claims judge in Cook County, Illinois, was indicted on allegations that she lied and concealed relevant facts from lenders to obtain more than $1.4 million in mortgages on two South Side investment properties that she purchased and sold between 2004 and 2007.

Source: Cook County judge indicted on mortgage fraud charges – Chicago Tribune

Kimberlee E. Himmell, 62, Massillon, Ohio, is alleged to have defrauded financial institutions out of more than $2 million by having escrow funds on home purchases deposited into her personal account.  Himmell was charged with 18 counts of bank fraud and one count of theft of government funds.

Himmell owned and operated Netwide Title Agency, Inc., located at 3711 Lincoln Way East, Massillon, Ohio. General Title Insurance Company, located in Cleveland, Ohio, was Netwide’s underwriter and responsible for auditing Netwide, according to the information.

Netwide, at the direction of Himmell, began in 2007 instructing all lenders doing business with Netwide as a title agency and utilizing its escrow services to wire all incoming lending proceeds to Himmell’s personal account, instead of Netwide’s corporate account, according to the criminal information filed in the case.

Himmell then used the deposited funds for her own personal use and for Netwide’s operational expenses without disclosing to lenders that she was not holding the funds in escrow, as she represented she would, according to the information.

Himmell closed at least 19 real estate transactions in 2013 and 2014 wherein Netwide received escrow funds and failed to pay or release the funds to the prior owner’s pre-existing mortgage. This causes financial losses to lenders and/or sellers of homes in Richmond Heights, North Canton, Willowick, Concord, Strongsville, Newbury, Brunswick, Wadsworth, Medina, Painesville, Parma, Akron, Twinsburg, Brecksville and Millersburg, Ohio according to the information.

Netwide’s underwriter, General Title, was contractually obligated to make lenders whole. The loss to General Title as a result of Himmell’s conduct was at least $2,111,014, according to the information.

The case was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark S. Bennett following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sanjiv Kakkar, 55, Saratoga, California, was sentenced to 48 months in prison and ordered to pay $4,208,565.36 in restitution to the victim for wire fraud and making misstatements to a bank.  Kakkar was concited after a twelve-day jury trial ending with a guilty verdict on all counts.

The evidence at trial demonstrated Kakkar presented false information to a bank in connection with refinancing a hotel property he owned in Boulder Creek, California.  In November of 2008, Kakkar sought to secure a $6 million loan to refinance the Brookdale Inn and Spa.  In connection with the loan, he submitted bogus documents to a bank, including falsified income information and tax returns, which overstated his business income.  Kakkar also did not comply with his continuing obligation under the terms of the loan to provide the bank with updated financial records and further tax documents.  Further, between January and June 2009, Kakkar submitted false and fraudulent documents to an escrow company.  Kakkar induced the escrow company to advance hundreds of thousands of dollars in wire progress payments that were earmarked for reimbursement of construction costs.

A federal grand jury issued a superseding indictment against Kakkar on June 2, 2016, charging him with one count of making misstatements to a bank, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1014, and six counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.  On November 8, 2016, a jury found Kakkar guilty of all the charges presented in the superseding indictment.

In addition to the prison term, and restitution, Kakkar was ordered to pay a $20,000 fine and to serve three years of supervised release.  Kakkar currently is released on bond and has been ordered to surrender on or before June 22, 2017, to begin serving his sentence.

The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Edward J. Davila, U.S. District Judge.  U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Jill Snyder announced the sentence.Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amie Rooney and Maia Perez are prosecuting the case with assistance from Nina Burney and Elise Etter.  The case is the result of an investigation by the ATF.

Jason J. Keating, 38, Toledo, Ohio, was sentenced to nine years in prison and Christopher J. Howder, 40, Perrysburg, Ohio, was sentenced to seven years in prison in after  stealing more than $1.1 million from hundreds of people through a fraudulent loan-modification scheme,

Keating was ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution while Howder was ordered to pay $561,000 in restitution.

Both pleaded guilty last year to charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and multiple counts of mail fraud and wire fraud.

Keating and Howder worked at Making Home Affordable USA (MHAUSA) from 120 10th Street, Toledo, Ohio where Keating was self-described president and Howder was the self-described underwriting manager.

According to court documents filed in the case:

The company used various names but homeowners were told MHAUSA had a very high rate of success and that customers could achieve modified interest rates as low as 2 percent.

Prospective participants were told there was a flat fee for service, generally between $495 and $795. Participants were told to stop making monthly mortgage payments to their lenders and instead to pay a percentage of their mortgage to MHAUSA.

Participants were told MHAUSA would hold these payments in a “stimulus reserve” account to demonstrate the participants could reliably make payments, and that once the loans were modified, the money would be turned over to the lenders.

The money obtained through the fraud was spent on concessions at professional sports venues, restaurants, cash withdrawals, gentlemen’s clubs, a tanning salon, a Las Vegas hotel, a jewelry store and a lingerie store.

These defendants took more than $1 million from people struggling to hold onto their homes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja for Ohio.

They used money obtained through fraud to pay for expensive restaurants and vacations,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office.

The investigating agency in this case is the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General. The case was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Gene Crawford.

Alejandro E. Mayendía-Blanco was sentenced to serve 21 months of imprisonment for mortgage fraud, five years of supervised release, pay a fine of $50,000, and ordered to pay restitution of $98,666.  Mayendía-Blanco pled guilty on August 12, 2016.

Mayendía-Blanco was arrested on May 29, 2015, on charges of defrauding First Equity Mortgage Bankers, Inc. (FEBMI) in connection with a loan application. On October 3, 2008, the defendant participated in a real estate transaction as the seller of real property located in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As part of the transaction, the defendant, along with co-defendant Orlando Mayendía represented that Orlando Mayendía was going to contribute $48,381.10 towards the purchase of the property. At the time that the defendant and Orlando Mayendía made this representation to FEBMI they knew it to be false, since the defendant had agreed to contribute the $48,381.10 to the purchaser, Orlando Mayendía, after the sale. Thus, the proceeds of the contribution from the borrower, Orlando Mayendía were the sales proceeds provided to Alejandro Mayendía.

We are committed to bringing to justice those involved in federal financial crimes in Puerto Rico,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Velez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, in announcing the sentence. “The US Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate and prosecute financial crimes and ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate them, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.”

Mayendía-Blanco was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Francisco A. Besosa. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Cannon and Mariana E. Bauzá prosecuted the case.

Joseph Atias, 52, Great Neck, New York, and Sofia Atias, 47, Great Neck, New York were convicted of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and Medicaid fraud by a jury in federal court in Central Islip., New York. The fraud was designed to, and did, defraud Bank of America of over half a million dollars.  The defendants face penalties of up to 35 years’ imprisonment, the forfeiture of $560,000, and restitution of over $700,000.  After the verdicts, Joseph Atias was remanded to custody pending sentencing by United States District Judge Denis R. Hurley.

The defendants were convicted of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with the sale of property adjacent to Sacred Heart Academy for $925,000, after the defendants had sold the property in a short sale for $480,000 to discharge their mortgage debt.  In the short sale process, the defendants and a co-conspirator, an attorney who pleaded guilty and testified against the defendants at trial, concealed the offer from Sacred Heart Academy from Bank of America.  In the short sale process, the defendants submitted a fraudulent contract of sale and other documents with false statements to Bank of America, and obtained approval of a short sale, wherein the proceeds from the sale of the property were less than the total amount of the mortgages on the property.  The defendants submitted these documents to Bank of America, falsely representing that there were no funds to pay the mortgages when, in fact, the defendants knew that Sacred Heart Academy, a high school in Hempstead, New York, had offered to buy the property for an amount sufficient to cover the mortgages on the property.  To accomplish the fraudulent short sale scheme, the defendants used a relative as a straw buyer of the property to create the appearance of an arms-length sale.  Shortly after that sale, the defendant’s straw buyer sold the property to Sacred Heart Academy for approximately half a million dollars in profit.

Regarding the Medicaid fraud count conviction, the jury found the defendants guilty of theft of government funds in connection with their receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in Medicaid funds from 2009-2015.  The defendants concealed their self-employment from Medicaid, as well as their available cash resources, including trust fund monies, an inheritance and the $465,000 in proceeds from the above bank fraud, in order to continue on Medicaid, which paid the defendants approximately $2,500 per month.

The convictions were announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.

Through a web of lies and false documentation, these defendants stole more than half a million dollars from Bank of America and from Medicaid, which they used to line their own pockets,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde.  “The fine work of the FBI to bring these defendants to account for these crimes sends a clear message to anyone who contemplates engaging in mortgage fraud or Medicaid fraud: Do not even attempt it, because you will be caught and held responsible.”  Ms. Rohde extended her grateful appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agency responsible for leading the government’s investigation.

The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Charles P. Kelly and Burton T. Ryan, Jr. of the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division.

Tommy Rudy Habibe-Arias was charged in a one count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico, with making false statements in an application for a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage loan (commonly known as a “Reverse Mortgage”).

According to the indictment, from on or about September 2009 until on or about November 2009, defendant Tommy Rudy Habibe-Arias knowingly made or caused to be made material false statements to a mortgage lending institution named Master Mortgage Corporation, for the purpose of influencing the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to insure a Reverse Mortgage loan. Specifically, the false and fraudulent information indicated that said property was the defendant’s principal residence, when at no time since September of 2009, or at any other time, the defendant occupied the property as his “primary residence.” The defendant procured $203,605.55 from a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage loan, which he received illegally.

If convicted, the defendant faces a possible penalty of 30 years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000,000.

Mortgage fraud is a serious issue that affects not just financial institutions but ordinary citizens who may have invested in such financial institutions or who hope to purchase, sell or refinance a home by honestly setting forth their finances,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, in announcing the indictment. “Mortgage lenders provide capital so people can purchase homes, not enrich themselves illegally.”

The U.S. Department Housing & Urban Development- Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) is conducting the investigation.

The FHA reverse mortgage program enables elderly people to withdraw some of their home’s equity to give them greater financial security and allow them to afford to stay in their home,” said Nadine Gurley, HUD-OIG’s Special Agent-in-Charge for the Atlanta Region. “However, the public needs to be aware that to be eligible for these reverse loans, homeowners must be at least 62 years of age or older; own the property outright or have paid down a considerable amount; and must occupy the property as a principal residence. Our agency encourages anyone with information about waste, fraud or abuse against this program to confidentially report it by calling our San Juan Field Office at (787) 766-5868 or via e-mail at HOTLINE@HUDOIG.GOV (link sends e-mail)

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott H. Anderson.

Jasmin Polanco, 37, Methuen, Massachusetts, a real estate closing attorney, and Vanessa Ricci, 40, Methuen, Massachusetts. a mortgage loan officer, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with a sweeping conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies by engaging in sham “short” sales of residential properties in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts.

Separately, a real estate broker from Methuen, Greisy Jimenez, 49, Methuen, Massachusetts, was indicted on two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with the same alleged scheme. In addition, U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel sentenced Hyacinth Bellerose, 51, a real estate closing attorney from Dunstable, Massachusetts, to time served and one year of supervised release to be served in home detention after pleading guilty to participating in the same conspiracy.

The charges arise out of an alleged scheme to defraud various banks via bogus short sales of homes in Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen, Massachusetts, in which the purported sellers remained in their homes, with their debt substantially reduced.

The alleged conspiracy began in approximately August 2007 and continued through June 2010, a period that included the height of the financial crisis and its aftermath. Home values in Massachusetts and across the nation declined precipitously, and many homeowners found themselves suddenly “underwater” with homes worth less than the mortgage debt they owed. As part of the alleged scheme, Jimenez, Polanco, Ricci, Bellerose and others submitted materially false and misleading documents to numerous banks in an effort to induce them to permit the short-sales, thereby releasing the purported sellers from their unpaid mortgage debts, while simultaneously inducing the purported buyers’ banks to provide financing for the deals. In fact, the purported sellers simply stayed in their homes, with their debt substantially reduced.

The charging documents allege that as part of the conspiracy:

The conspirators falsely led banks to believe that the sales were arms-length transactions between unrelated parties, when in fact, the transactions were not arms-length; the buyers and sellers were frequently related, and the sellers retained control of (and frequently continued to live in) the properties after the sale;

The conspirators submitted phony earnings statements in support of loan applications that they submitted to banks in order to obtain financing for the purported sales; and

The conspirators submitted phony “HUD-1 Settlement Statements” to banks that did not accurately reflect the disbursement of funds in the transactions.

The charge of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.

U.S. District Court Senior Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled Ricci’s sentencing for June 22, 2017. Polanco’s sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, New York Field Office; and Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen E. Frank, Deputy Chief of Weinreb’s Economic Crimes Unit is prosecuting the cases.

A recent comment from Brandon on the blog post Mortgage Mod Case Results in 10+ Year Sentences stated:

“Couple of small pawns in a much larger game.kristen is a 32 year old first time,non violent offender mother of three.sentanced to over 12 years.not sure how these so called heros sleep at night .Wake The @%*&  Up !!!”

Kristen Michelle Ayala was sentenced to 135 months – 11 years and 3 months –  in prison in connection with a mortgage modification scheme. She is not currently in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons but that site does confirm that she is 32 years old and that her anticipated release date is March 9, 2025.  In the federal prison system, a defendant must serve at least 85% of their sentence which means that Ms. Ayala will serve at least 114 months, over 9 years, in prison.

So, what is it about this particular “white collar” crime that resulted in such a long prison sentence?  I have been writing about these cases for many years and there are a number of factors that influence sentencing that may not be readily apparent to readers.  So, let’s look at Ms. Ayala’s case.

Ms. Ayala pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud which carries a maximum potential sentence of 30 years in prison. The maximum sentence is not, however, what the defendant will actually receive at sentencing.  The court works off sentencing guidelines which are advisory, not mandatory.  It uses these guidelines to add or subtract from the “base level” of the offense and then comes up with a “guideline range” and the sentence is generally within that range.

Many of the defendants that I have written about have either been convicted of or pled guilty to a significant number of counts and have been sentenced to less than ten years.  Ms. Ayala only pled guilty to one count so, again, what makes this situation different from those?

The sentencing process starts with a Presentence Investigation Report which is prepared by a probation officer.  The defendant is generally interviewed as part of this process. The Presentence Investigation report identifies the potentially applicable guidelines, calculates the offense level and criminal history category, identifies factors relevant to the appropriate kind of sentence or appropriate sentence within the guideline range and identifies any basis for departing from the applicable range (Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32).  It may also address the defendant’s history and characteristics along with the impact of the crime on the victim. The Presentence Investigation Report is generally sealed by the Court – which means we do not have access to it to review what the probation officer found or recommended.  In Ms. Ayala’s case, the Presentence Investigation Report was sealed and we do not have access to it.

The defendant can then submit an objection to the Presentence Investigation Report.  The objection might include arguments that the Presentence Investigation Report is incorrect, bring up items of information that were not included and that might reflect positively on the defendant or might argue with the recommended departures or guideline range conclusions or contain letters from character witnesses.  Ms. Ayala filed an objection to the Presentence Report but that document was sealed by the court so it is not possible for us to review the issues and arguments that she raised.

In this case, the government filed a “Position on Sentencing” which laid out its position on the sentence that should be imposed.  It is the only document that gives some insight into the sentence which is not sealed.  Although we cannot view the Presentence Investigation Report or Ms. Ayala’s objections, the Position on Sentencing addresses issues raised in both.

In its Position, the government refers to Ms. Ayala’s plea as related to a “ruthless and pervasive home mortgage modification scheme.” And goes on to state that Ms. Ayala’s actions “targeted extremely vulnerable individuals” and that the victims were “selected for the sole reason that they were in dire financial straits, desperate and literally on the verge of losing their homes.”   The Position states that the government had, at the time it filed the Position, identified 405 victims with a loss amount of approximately $3.8 million.  According to the Position, the victim impact statements showed that the scheme destroyed the lives of the victims, causing divorce, serious health issues and extreme despair to children, parents, combat veterans and people who were struggling.

The Position goes to state that Ayala and her co-conspirators analyzed the victims finances and arrived at a number that was designed to take their very last dollars. According to the Statement of Facts filed with the plea agreement, after the victim responded to a mass mailing that purported to be from a government related entity by calling a toll free telephone number and providing their financial information, another representative would call the homeowner back and tell them that their application for mortgage modification had been approved and that they needed to pay a “reinstatement fee” of thousands of dollars along with three trial payments.  These payments were diverted to the defendants.  No work was ever done to modify the mortgages.  The defendants also impersonated a legitimate federal program – HAMP, which was part of TARP and designed to help distressed homeowners. By doing so, they duped homeowners into thinking the program was legitimate.

The Position states “[w]e know from the investigation that Defendant and the co-conspirators would congratulate one another and demean the recently defrauded victims for their naiveté and stupidity in parting with their money.”

As to the history and characteristics of the defendant, the Position states that Ms. Ayala made poor choices in her early years but got her life together, gained an employable skill, started a family and lived a law abiding life.  However, when her marriage started to deteriorate, she started an affair with her co-defendant, Joshua Sanchez.  Once she was introduced to the scheme, she came on board as a full participant and was extremely helpful in convincing distressed homeowners that the scheme was legitimate.

The Position states that Ms. Ayala’s lack of a criminal history should be taken into account and therefore recommended a sentence of 160 months in prison – at the lower end of the guideline range.

Because the fraud scheme had a devastating effect on the lives of the victims, the Position also includes outtakes from some of the victim impact statements, some of which follow:

“My husband fought in two wars protecting all U.S. Citizens and assuring freedom remains in these United States, including for [Defendant]. He sacrificed his sight, most of his hearing and the ability to walk for this great Nation. I can’t find the words for the atrocities and the pain and suffering that [Defendant] have caused a man who already gave so much for all, even [Defendant].”

“They stole my money [and] I am 83 years old. I cannot many (sic) anymore income. My son & his family became homeless as a result of their actions & we lost the family property.”

“As a result of this crime, me and my children were homeless for a while…My daughter had to be admitted to a pediatric psychiatric unit for two weeks because she was affected when her friends saw all our belongings on the front lawn and we had no place to go….”

“Because of their actions, I went into a deep depression. I had to quit my job because of the stress I was going through….My marriage is not a marriage anymore, because my husband cannot forgive me for this. My family fell apart….The damage they did is unforgivable, I hope justice is done.”

The minute entry from the sentencing hearing indicates that Ms. Ayala requested a reduction for her minor role in the offense, requested a variance sentence of 12 months and 1 day, and requested the court take into account her background and history. The court rejected the request for a reduction based on a minor role and adopted the Presentence Investigation Report.  While Sanchez was sentenced to 151 months, Ms. Ayala received a sentence of 135 months.

In my years of reporting on mortgage fraud, I have discovered a few factors that really impact sentencing.  The first and probably most significant is the existence of real human victims whose lives were destroyed.  When the victim is a financial institution, unless the dollar amount is very high, there is a pattern of convictions or a wide-ranging scheme involving a lot of conspirators, the sentence is generally in the one to five year range.  And it seems, in those cases, that personal difficulties faced by the defendant have a significant impact on the sentence. Cooperation with authorities (pleading guilty, testifying against co-conspirators) also weighs heavily.

But where, as here, lives are permanently and irrevocably impacted as a result of an abuse of trust and confidence and the victims selected are vulnerable and in need of protection, the personal issues and prior ‘good character’ of the defendant seem to be given less weight.  Is it heartbreaking that a 32-year old mother of 3 will spend twelve and a half years in prison?  Yes.  But it is also heartbreaking to the victims.  In the end, it was Ms. Ayala’s decision to enrich herself by engaging with others to take over a million dollars from vulnerable homeowners who thought that they were applying for government assistance through HAMP.

When you stay with a company after you figure out that they are, in fact, a fraudulent scheme and are essentially stealing money from vulnerable people, you make a choice. At that point, you become part of a conspiracy to defraud and you become responsible for the results. It was this decision that ruined the lives of hundreds of people, whether she was doing it for the money, to impress her new boyfriend, because her “success” at her “job” felt good to her, because she needed her paycheck to live, or for any one of a hundred other reasons that people use to justify the purposeful decision to defraud others.  In the end, crime is a choice and Ms. Ayala made that choice.

What is the result when you place, on one side of the scales of justice, the weight of the result of her voluntary choice on her own life and, on the other side of the scales of justice, the weight of the effect of that choice on the 405 victims of her conduct?  Unfortunately for Ms. Ayala, the scales tip rather significantly toward eleven years.

*Ms. Ayala was also ordered to pay $1,217,411.45 in restitution to 404 victims.

 

Martin Calzada, 29, Norwalk, California was found guilty by a federal jury after a four-day trial, of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and eight counts of mail fraud affecting a financial institution.

According to evidence presented at trial, Calzada conspired to defraud homeowners facing foreclosure. Calzada and other employees of Star Reliable Mortgage, which had offices in Bakersfield, Visalia, and Salinas, California, targeted distressed homeowners with a fraudulent “loan elimination” scheme. Between approximately August 2010 and October 2011, Star Reliable charged clients an upfront fee for its services – ranging from $2,500 up to $4,500 – as well as monthly fees, based on false promises that the clients could own their homes “free and clear” as a result of Star Reliable’s services. Clients paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Star Reliable and at least $300,000 was transferred from Star Reliable into Calzada’s bank accounts. In furtherance of the scheme, Calzada and other employees at Star Reliable filed at county recorders’ offices fraudulent documents on behalf of the homeowner-clients, which purported to replace the legitimate property trustees with fictitious trusts affiliated with the defendant and Star Reliable, all in an effort to “cloud title” and halt or stall the foreclosure process. Additionally, Calzada, and other employees working at his direction told Star Reliable clients to stop paying their mortgages. They also falsely represented that Star Reliable clients had one million dollars in a U.S. government account that could be used to pay-off a homeowner’s mortgage.

Calzada was remanded into custody following the announcement of the verdict. In a related case in December 2014, co-conspirators Juan Ramon Curiel, 38, Visalia, California and Santiago Palacios-Hernandez, 47, Salinas, California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Curiel additionally pleaded guilty to one count of bankruptcy fraud. They are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge O’Neill on April 10, 2017.

Calzada is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge O’Neill on June 5, 2017. Calzada faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced the verdict. The trial was held before United States Chief District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher D. Baker and Patrick J. Suter are prosecuting the case.