Archives For Mortgage Fraud

Paul Manafort, 69, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, was indicted today for a yearlong residential mortgage fraud scheme.

Manafort and others falsified business records to illegally obtain millions of dollars. Manafort is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment filed on March 7, 2019, with Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree, Attempted Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree, Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree.

A copy of the indictment is available here.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. made the announcement.

No one is beyond the law in New York,” said District Attorney Vance. “Following an investigation commenced by our Office in March 2017, a Manhattan grand jury has charged Mr. Manafort with state criminal violations which strike at the heart of New York’s sovereign interests, including the integrity of our residential mortgage market. I thank our prosecutors for their meticulous investigation, which has yielded serious criminal charges for which the defendant has not been held accountable.”

The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant D.A. and Senior Investigative Counsel Peirce Moser and Assistant D.A.s Sean Pippen, James Graham, Lisa White, and Kevin Wilson under the supervision of Assistant D.A. Christopher Conroy (Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau) and Executive Assistant D.A. Michael Sachs (Chief of the Investigation Division). Trial Preparation Assistants Caroline Adelson, Sophie Hoblit, and Alexander Petrillo, as well as Investigator Daniel Schoenfeld and Forensic Accountant Investigator Jeffrey Leap, assisted with the investigation.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court.

Michael S. Davenport, 50, Santa Barbara, California, the former bass guitar player for the rock band, The Ataris, was sentenced on Wednesday for defrauding thousands of would-be renters and home-buyers throughout the United States from 2009 to 2016.

Davenport’s Santa Barbara-based business changed names several times but was known variously as MDSQ Productions LLC, Housing Standard LLC, Anchor House Financial, American Standard, American Standard Online, and Your American Standard. Court documents simply refer to the business as “American Standard.”

As part of his guilty plea, Davenport admitted that American Standard posted ads on Craigslist listing certain houses for sale or rent at very favorable prices, when, in fact, the houses described in the ads didn’t exist. Consumers who responded to the ads were told they would have to purchase American Standard’s list of houses before they could see any additional information. Consumers were also told that the houses on American Standard’s list were in “pre-foreclosure,” that they could purchase the properties by simply taking over the homeowners’ mortgage payments, and that the deeds to the homes would then be transferred into the customers’ names. The $199 fee that American Standard charged to access the list was purportedly to cover the cost of title searches and deed transfers. No matter what area of the country the consumer lived in, American Standard salespersons told them that the list contained numerous pre-foreclosure properties available in their area.

After consumers paid the $199 fee, they learned that the houses on American Standard’s list were not actually available for purchase. A substantial number of the addresses contained on the list were fictional, or there were simply no houses at those locations. In numerous other instances, the houses were not in pre-foreclosure or any financial distress and were not available to be purchased at below-market prices. If an American Standard customer asked for more information about a specific house advertised on Craigslist, the company’s customer service department always told them that the house was no longer available.

Davenport’s conspiracy and scheme to defraud operated from approximately January 2009 through at least October 5, 2016, over which time American Standard defrauded more than 130,000 people to the tune of more than $25 million. The victims were located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Over 100 victims of the scam were located within the Southern District of Illinois, spread across 22 counties, with multiple victims in both St. Clair and Madison counties. American Standard’s list included 534 houses located in Southern Illinois.

Four of Davenport’s former employees have also been charged with participating in the American Standard fraud conspiracy. On Wednesday afternoon, just hours after Davenport’s sentencing, Cynthia L. Rawlinson, 52, Santa Barbara, California was sentenced by Judge Yandle to five years of supervised release. Rawlinson was a salesperson who also served as a manager for American Standard for a brief period of time. Earlier this year, two other American Standard sales representatives from Santa Barbara, California, Mark A. Phillips, 50, Semjase E. Santana, 37 were also sentenced to serve five years of supervised release. And last June, Carlynne L. Davis, 34, Lompoc, California, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with her participation in American Standard. Davis’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 5, 2019.

In handing down the seven-year sentence at the federal district courthouse in Benton, Illinois, United States District Judge Staci M. Yandle chastised Davenport for what she characterized as a crime of simple greed. “You were intoxicated with making all this money,” she told the ex-rocker. “You did horrible things.”

As part of his sentence, Davenport was ordered to forfeit $853,210.11 in fraud proceeds that were recovered from his credit card processing accounts, as well as $79,000 in cash that was seized from him at the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Davenport pled guilty last September to a one-count federal indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

This case is part of an ongoing investigation by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service. The Office of the Honorable Joyce E. Dudley, District Attorney for Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Maria Office of the FBI have provided substantial assistance in the investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott A. Verseman.

 

Geo Geovanni, 50, Moultrie, Georgia has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Geovanni worked as a real estate broker who owned his own brokerage firm based in Orlando, Florida. Between May and August 2008, Geovanni sold condominium units at The Landing, Altamonte Springs, Florida. Geovanni engaged in a conspiracy to conceal from mortgage lenders sales incentives that he provided to the buyers. These undisclosed incentives included making the buyers’ down payments and paying kickbacks after closing. As a result of his actions, Geovanni helped cause the loss of approximately $736,000 to the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac), and JP Morgan Chase Bank when the mortgages involved in the fraudulent transactions went into foreclosure. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Geo+Geovanni

As part of his sentence, the court also entered a money judgment of $56,984.34, the proceeds of the fraud scheme. A federal jury found Geovanni guilty on November 29, 2018.

This case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorneys Chris Poor and Joseph Capone.

Rodrigo Pardo, 46, Argentina, and Lorena Medina, 46, Ecuador, a South American couple were each sentenced today for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud.

According to court documents, Pardo and Medina, defrauded homeowners in Northern Virginia and mortgage lenders by promising the homeowners to assist them in obtaining loan modifications. As part of the scheme, Pardo and Medina agreed to negotiate with the homeowners’ lenders for a reduced monthly payment. Pardo and Medina then instructed clients who were current on their mortgages to stop making payments to their lenders as they had in the past, and instead make payments into accounts controlled by Medina, Pardo, or COFS, a company they controlled. At the same time, Pardo and Medina represented to their clients’ mortgage lenders that COFS was authorized to negotiate loan modifications, but concealed from the mortgage lenders that they were receiving mortgage payments from the victims. As a result, Pardo and Medina received over $140,000 in payments from their victims, which they used for personal expenses. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Rodrigo+Pardo

Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office, and Robert Manchak, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, made the announcement after sentencing by Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly R. Pedersen and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlie Divine prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:18-cr-181.

Patrick Lee, 46, formerly of Canton and Easton, Massachusetts,  a dual United States-Irish citizen was sentenced yesterday on charges arising out of a multi-year mortgage fraud scheme.

Between July 2005 and May 2007, Lee engaged with others in a mortgage fraud scheme. Specifically, Lee or a relative bought five multi-family buildings in Dorchester and South Boston, Massachusetts financed those purchases with fraudulently obtained mortgage loans, and quickly converted the buildings to condominiums which facilitated the resale of individual units in the buildings to straw buyers. The straw buyers were recruited for this purpose and their purchases were financed with fraudulently obtained mortgage loans. The straw buyers were assured that they would not have to put any money down or pay the mortgages, and that they would get a fee at closing and/or a share of the profits when the properties were sold. The loans were funded with interstate wire transfers from the mortgage lenders to the closing attorneys’ conveyancing accounts, and the proceeds were then distributed to Lee and/or a family member, the recruiters, and others involved in the scheme. According to the government, mortgage lenders suffered losses of about $3.9 million. Many of the lenders are no longer in business or no longer hold the fraudulent loans at issue. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Patrick+Lee

Lee was sentenced to four years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution of $842,552 to victim lenders. Lee will also be subject to asset forfeiture, in an amount to be determined later.

In November 2018, Lee pleaded guilty to wire fraud and making an unlawful monetary transaction. He was extradited from Ireland in 2017 to face the charges, marking the first extradition from Ireland to the United States since 2012.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; Stephen A. Marks, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Boston Field Office; and John Gibbons, U.S. Marshal for the District of Massachusetts, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra S. Bower and Christine Wichers of Lelling’s Criminal Division prosecuted the case.

David Plunkett, 53, Lynn, Massachusetts pleaded guilty today to assisting a multi-year mortgage fraud scheme by creating fraudulent tax returns and submitting fraudulent letters to lenders.

George Kritopoulos, 46, Salem, Massachusetts, one of the alleged leaders of the mortgage fraud scheme, was indicted in September 2018, and has pleaded not guilty. Co-conspirator, Joseph Bates III, 38, of Lynnfield, Massachusetts pleaded guilty in October 2018 to one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, and two counts of bank fraud.

According to the charging documents, from 2006 through 2015, Bates and others engaged in a scheme to defraud banks and other financial institutions by causing false information to be submitted to those institutions on behalf of borrowers, people recruited to purchase properties, located primarily in Salem, Massachusetts. The properties were usually multi-family buildings with two-to-four units, which the co-conspirators then converted into condominiums. The co-conspirators recruited other borrowers to purchase the individual condominium units, which were also financed by fraudulent mortgage loans.

The false information submitted to lenders included, among other things, representations concerning the borrowers’ employment, income, assets, and intent to occupy the property. Specifically, the false employment information included representations that borrowers were employed by entities that were, in fact, shell companies used to advance the fraudulent scheme. The employment information included false representations about the income that the borrowers received from the entities, when, in fact, the borrowers received little or no income from them.  Furthermore, the income asserted on the borrowers’ loan applications substantially overstated their true income. The false information also included representations that the recruited borrowers intended to live in the properties that they were purchasing, when the borrowers, in fact, did not intend to do so.

Plunkett assisted the scheme by preparing tax returns for some of the borrowers that contained false and inflated income. Some of those tax returns were submitted to lenders in support of the fraudulent loan applications. Plunkett also signed letters falsely representing that his CPA firm had prepared corporate tax returns for one of the shell entities, when in fact no such returns had ever been prepared or filed.

Because the borrowers did not have the financial ability to repay the loans, in many instances, they defaulted on their loan payments, resulting in foreclosures and millions of dollars of losses to the financial institutions. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=David+Plunkett

Plunkett plead guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of aiding in the submission of false tax returns.

The charge of bank fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a fine of $1 million, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of aiding in filing a false tax return provides for a sentence of no greater than three years in prison, one year of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns scheduled sentencing for June 25, 2019.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Northeastern Regional Office; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark J. Balthazard and Sara Miron Bloom of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 

Christopher Vaughan and Jon Gregg Goodhart Jr. were each sentenced today for their role in a conspiracy to rig bids, in violation of the U.S. antitrust laws, at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Southern Mississippi.

Vaughan and Goodhart Jr., were sentenced to serve four months in prison, with Vaughan receiving a fine of $20,000. Both defendants were ordered to pay restitution. Separately, but as a result of the same investigation, Jason Boykin, Shannon Boykin, Kimberly Foster, Kevin Moore, Chad Nichols, Ivan Spinner, and Terry Tolar were each sentenced to a term of four months in prison on January 17, 2019, and were ordered to pay fines ranging from $20,000 to $48,000 and restitution to victims of their crimes.

At various times between 2009 and 2017, according to court documents, these defendants and others conspired not to bid against each other for properties sold at public real estate foreclosure auctions.  Instead, they designated a winning bidder for the property and made and received payoffs in exchange for their agreement not to bid.  When properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with any remaining proceeds paid to the homeowner.  These conspirators paid and received money in connection with their agreement to suppress competition, which artificially lowered the price paid at auction for such homes.

The Department of Justice made the announcement.

Those who subvert the competitive process will be held accountable and violations of the nation’s antitrust laws will be taken seriously,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The Division has prosecuted more than 100 individuals across the country for bid rigging at real estate foreclosure auctions, and we will continue our efforts to prosecute and deter this conduct.”

These types of crimes affect all Americans, because when individuals rig bids at auction, it ultimately damages our economy and hurts individuals,” said Christopher Freeze, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Mississippi. “We want to send a clear message to those participating in this type of corruption: the FBI and Department of Justice will investigate and prosecute anyone betraying the trust of our country’s economic foundation.”

There is a simple lesson from these cases – if you rig bids, you will be caught and you will be punished.  These are not victimless crimes, as we all suffer when people violate our antitrust laws.  I want to thank the FBI and the Antitrust Division for rooting out this corruption in our foreclosure auctions here in Mississippi. We will remain vigilant against these and other types of crimes as we move forward in protecting the public,” said United States Attorney Mike Hurst for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The sentences announced today resulted from an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section and the FBI’s Gulfport Resident Agency, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division prosecutors in the Washington Criminal II Section at 202-598-4000, or visit https://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.

 

Prakashumar (“Kash”) Bhakta was sentenced today for operating a mortgage fraud scheme throughout Southern California and the Inland Empire that preyed on homeowners facing foreclosure.

The fraud scheme stretched through San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles, counties, in California. Defendants convinced distressed homeowners that they could provide legal assistance to help save their home. They persuaded victims to pay them $3,500 to start; then $1,000 monthly; and separate fees for filing legal documents. Defendants filed and recorded numerous fraudulent documents, including false bankruptcies and false court filings. The scam defrauded lenders and other owners of their rightful possession of the residential properties. Meanwhile, the defendants took thousands of dollars from homeowner victims to perform fraudulent services. Bhakta, who was an integral part of the scheme, falsely notarized numerous fractional interest grant deeds without the presence of the person whose signature was being notarized. Bhakta, the last defendant to admit fault, pled guilty on November 28, 2018, to 113 felony charges, including conspiracy, grand theft, and filing false or forged documents.   http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Prakashumar

Mr. Bhakta was sentenced to seven years and eight months in state prison. Restitution will be ordered in the amount of $256,000. Co-defendants Jacob Orona, Aide Orona, John Contreras, Marcus Robinson, and David Boyd previously pled guilty. They were sentenced to state prison terms ranging from four years to seven years and four months.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra made the announcement.

We have zero tolerance for scam artists who cheat vulnerable families by stealing their life savings and shattering their dreams of owning a home,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Today’s sentence should serve as a reminder: if you prey on hardworking Americans and betray their trust, my office will hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

The guilty pleas and sentences result from a joint investigation by the California Department of Justice, Fraud and Special Prosecutions Section; the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of the Inspector General; and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office.

Edward E. Bohm, 41, Nissequogue, New York, President of Sales and an undisclosed owner of Long Island mortgage lender Vanguard Funding, LLC (Vanguard), pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit wire fraud and bank fraud in connection with the illegal diversion of more than $8.9 million of warehouse loans that Vanguard had obtained to fund mortgages.

According to court filings and the facts presented at the plea proceedings, between August 2015 and March 2017, Bohm engaged in a scheme in which he and others obtained warehouse, or short-term, loans for Vanguard by falsely representing that Vanguard would use the proceeds of those loans to fund mortgages or provide mortgage refinancing for Vanguard’s clients.  Once Vanguard received the loans, however, Bohm, along with others diverted the monies to pay personal expenses and compensation, and to pay off loans they had previously obtained with fraudulent loan submissions for improper purposes.  http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Edward+E.+Bohm

The guilty plea was entered before United States District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein.  When sentenced, Bohm faces up to 30 years in prison, as well as restitution, criminal forfeiture and a fine.

Earlier, in 2018, Vanguard’s Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer entered guilty pleas in connection with this fraud and were sentenced to terms of incarceration.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, and Linda A. Lacewell, Acting Superintendent, New York State Department of Financial Services, announced the guilty plea.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Whitman G.S. Knapp and Elizabeth Losey Macchiaverna are handling the prosecution with assistance from Assistant United States Attorney Laura Mantell of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture Section.

 

Jordan Horsford, 29, East New York, Brooklyn was indicted today for allegedly stealing and attempting to sell the home of his 85-year-old neighbor, a diabetic man for whom the defendant was a part-time caretaker.

According to the investigation, in August 2016 the defendant, who was known to do odd jobs in the neighborhood, began helping the victim as needed, including carrying his wheelchair up steps and helping him get in and out of vehicles; he was paid for each task by the victim’s family.

In April 2017, it is alleged, the victim’s family began paying the defendant $400 a week to accept Meals on Wheels deliveries and set them out for the victim, to make sure he took his medicine and to check in on him at night.

Between June 19, 2017 and November 1, 2017, the defendant allegedly convinced the victim to sign away the deed to his home on Barbey Street, East New York, Brooklyn. The defendant allegedly told the victim he risked losing his home if he did not sign a document, and had the document notarized by a notary. The defendant then allegedly realized he needed another document notarized, but the notary refused so the defendant allegedly copied and cut and pasted her original signature. He then recorded the deed, which had been signed over to him.

Finally, it is alleged, the defendant attempted to sell the house almost immediately after securing the deed, but a title company suspected foul play and refused to insure the home. The would-be purchaser then reached out to the 85-year-old victim’s family. At around the same time, the victim’s daughter, while going through her father’s mail, found a letter from the Department of Finance notifying them about documents filed relating to the property. The daughter pursued the matter with the DOF and the case was ultimately referred to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for further investigation and prosecution.

Additionally, the defendant allegedly used the victim’s credit card to buy two gold bars online, one in September 2016 and another in August 2017.

Horsford was arraigned yesterday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on a 12-count indictment in which he is charged with second-degree grand larceny, third-degree grand larceny, first-degree identity theft, first-degree falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing, criminal possession of a forged instrument and fraudulently obtaining a signature. He was released without bail, ordered to surrender his passport and to return to court on March 6, 2019. The defendant faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

District Attorney Gonzalez said “This case should serve as another warning that rising property values in Brooklyn make homeowners, especially the elderly, the target of unscrupulous predators trying to steal their homes from under them. I urge all homeowners to be especially careful about signing documents relating to their property without trusted legal advice.”

The case was investigated by Detective Sheriff Kevin Acon, of the Criminal Investigations Bureau, New York City Department of Finance.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Karen Turner of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gavin Miles, Counsel to the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.