Surjit Singh, 71, Dublin, California and his son, Rajeshwar Singh, 43, Pleasanton, California were each found guilty of four counts of mail fraud, four counts of bank fraud, and four counts of false statements on loan and credit applications. Anita Sharma, 55, Gilroy, California was found guilty of two counts of mail fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and two counts of false statements on loan and credit applications. The three were convicted for crimes relating to their involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme.
According to court documents, in 2006 and 2007, Surjit Singh recruited individuals with good credit to act as straw buyers for residential properties owned by his family members and associates. Rajeshwar Singh, a licensed real estate agent, assisted in the scheme by submitting loan applications for the straw buyers. Anita Sharma, a dental assistant at the time, was one of the straw buyers. Because Sharma and the other straw buyers could not afford the homes based on their true incomes, the Singhs submitted fraudulent loan applications and supporting material to lending institutions that included false statements about the straw buyers’ income, employment, liabilities, and intent to occupy the homes as their primary residences.
At least 14 properties were involved in the scheme. Anita Sharma alone purchased five homes in San Jose, San Ramon, Elk Grove, Sacramento, and Modesto, California. Other straw buyers purchased or refinanced properties in Stockton, Modesto, Patterson, Lathrop and Tracy, California. All of these homes were ultimately either foreclosed upon or sold in a short sale where the bank lets homeowners sell their homes for less than is owed on the mortgage.
Sharma was paid for her involvement in the scheme. Rajeshwar Singh received financial benefits through broker commissions for the transactions and as the seller of seven of the properties. He also continued to occupy the San Ramon, California property at a time when Anita Sharma should have been living there. Surjit Singh benefited through payments out of escrow directed to shell companies, such as SJR Investments and BK Investments, associated with his daughter and significant other, whose initials are SJR and BK respectively. These payments were purportedly for contracting services, which did not occur. He also benefited through rental payments made to him and his significant other by the renters of the homes, as the straw buyers were not living in the homes. In addition, many of his family members received money by selling properties and had money directed to them out of escrow. According to court documents and evidence produced at trial, the defendants were responsible for the origination of more than $9.3 million in fraudulently procured residential mortgage loans.
The defendants are scheduled for sentencing on January 26, 2018. They face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million 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. The court remanded Surjit Singh into custody.
U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert made the announcement.
“Today’s verdict is yet another step in the efforts taken by this office and our partners at the FBI to bring to account those whose fraudulent activities contributed to the financial decline which had such a tremendous impact on our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Talbert. “We are gratified by the verdict and thankful for the hard work and dedication of our investigative partners.”
“One of the FBI’s top priorities is to combat major white-collar crimes such as mortgage fraud,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “Mortgage fraud has negatively impacted entire communities in our region by artificially influencing home values and threatening the investments of lawful buyers. To ensure a bright future for our region, identification and investigation of mortgage fraud schemes is imperative. We will continue to investigate such crimes to both deter would-be fraudsters from acting and ensure those who commit fraud face justice.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Lee S. Bickley and Kelli L. Taylor are prosecuting the case.