William “Ondra” Joel, 32, Oxford, Florida, and Maurice Vernon, 33, Tampa, Florida, were found guilty by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and making false statements on loan applications submitted to FDIC-insured financial institutions. Both Joel and Vernon face a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each of the eleven counts of wire fraud and mail fraud.
For each of the two counts of making false statements to an FDIC-insured financial institution, they each face a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. Sentencing hearings for both Joel and Vernon are scheduled for April 16, 2012.
On February 23, 2011, a federal grand jury returned a thirteen-count indictment charging Joel, Vernon, and their co-conspirator, Elton Lassiter, with a mortgage fraud scheme perpetrated on ten different lenders. The evidence presented at trial showed that in early 2006, operating under the auspices of Joel‘s company Investor’s Outlet, Inc., Joel and Vernon recruited co-conspirator Jill Jackson to purchase ten residential properties during a ten-week period of time. Joel and Vernon recruited Jackson, in part, because she had a good credit rating.
However, Jackson‘s weekly take-home pay of $300 to $400 as a call-center supervisor was insufficient to justify the purchase of one property, much less ten properties that, collectively, cost more than $1.8 million. Notwithstanding Jackson‘s financial inability to afford these ten properties, Joel and Vernon enlisted the assistance of Lassiter, who was a loan processor. Lassiter facilitated the acquisition of loans from ten different lenders for each of the ten properties.
The loan applications sent to the lenders included false information ranging from Jackson‘s gross monthly income to her intent to occupy all of the homes as her primary residence. Joel profited from this fraud scheme by arranging payoffs to Investors Outlet, Inc., at closing, for phantom repairs to the properties. Joel admitted, to investigators, that no repairs were ever done to these properties. After or contemporaneous with the closings, Joel kicked-back fraud proceeds to Vernon and Jackson either through Investors Outlet, Inc. or by authorizing the title agents to send funds directly to them. Ultimately, Vernon drained Jackson’s bank accounts of the fraud proceeds she had obtained for her participation in this scheme. Vernon used these funds to purchase a luxury car and clothing.
Both Elton Lassiter, 45, Oxford, Florida, and Jill Jackson, 35, St. Petersburg, Florida, previously pleaded guilty for their participation in this scheme. Lassiter was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison. The sentencing hearing for Jackson is scheduled for February 7, 2012.
U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announced the jury verdict.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Simon Gaugush and James Muench.