11 individuals have been charged for their role in a mortgage fraud case that spanned Florida counties: Flagler, Volusia and Lake Counties, involved 23 homes and resulted in more than $9 million in losses. Four people are still wanted in relation to this case. All individuals are charged with one count of criminal racketeering and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering, both first-degree felonies.
The following individuals were arrested:
Jonathan Bravo, 33, Miami, Florida;
Cristian Diaz, 34, Doral, Florida;
Jamie De La Roche, 42, Lake Worth, Florida;
Carlos Esteller, 43, Miami;
Edith Esteller, 51, Miami;
Patricia De La Espiella, 49, Miramar, Florida;
Carmen Ganem, 30, Miami;
Claudia Ganem, 36, Miami;
Argenis Lugo, 33, Doral;
Adrian Pena, 34, Miami; and
Linda Kasper, 64, Flagler Beach, Florida.
The following individuals are still being sought by authorities. Individuals with information about their location should contact their local authorities.
Nieves Alvarez, 50, Miami;
Nelson Pinzon, 48, Delray Beach
Cruz Urbano, 44, Hialeah, Florida; and
Randy Ly, 45, Seattle, Washington.
The two-year investigation, named “Operation Fast Cash Kickback,” focused on a complex scheme involving home buyers, real estate agents, appraisers, and mortgage brokers. Investigators allege the charged individuals artificially raised home prices, falsified appraisals, and pocketed large amounts of cash by facilitating a series of fraudulent home sales. The scam involved using “straw buyers” to purchase a home. The straw buyer’s real estate agent then asked the seller to raise the price of the home in order for the difference to be provided back to the straw buyer for alleged “renovations.” The appraiser would then inflate the price of the home to meet the contract sales price. At closing, a designated third party individual or shell company received the proceeds for “renovations,” which ranged from $25,000 to $320,000 for each sale. The third party recipient then returned a majority of the funds back to the straw buyer via check or wire transfer. No renovations were ever conducted on the homes and each of the properties foreclosed a short time after the sale. The estimated loss to date is approximately $9 million.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, the Office of the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrests.