Final Defendant Sentenced to Prison in Multi-Million-Dollar Real Estate Scheme

Allison Tussey —  April 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

Ronald Benjamin, 49, Los Angeles, California, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Y. Daniel to serve 14 months in federal prison for wire fraud and aiding and abetting in providing materially false information to lenders to procure loans.

Following his prison sentence, Benjamin was ordered to spend three years on supervised release. Judge Daniel also ordered him to pay over $870,000 in restitution to the victims of his crime.

Benjamin along with six other co-defendants, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on September 1, 2011. Benjamin pled guilty on January 22, 2015 before Judge Daniel. According to the indictment as well as his plea agreement and the plea agreements of his co-conspirators, the scheme began 2006. Benjamin was related by marriage to a member of a business group based out of Culver City, California called Synergy. Synergy was made up of Dale Johnson (President & Chief Executive Officer), Donald Beverly (Vice President of New Business Development), Ronald Benjamin (Regional Manager and Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing), Jimmy Hutchinson (Chief Financial Officer), and Vincent Jackson (Vice President of Marketing).

In early 2006, Dale Johnson began to present fellow Synergy members with a number of properties available for purchase in Colorado. By early 2006, Johnson had begun to develop business relationships with various real estate professionals in Colorado, to include, Jerry Minney (real estate broker) and Scott Goldberg (mortgage broker). Both Minney and Golderg assisted Synergy members in the purchase of various homes in Colorado.

Starting in 2006, Benjamin and Synergy members began traveling to Colorado where they started purchasing multiple residential properties. The homes were typically purchased in the individual member’s own name, using the member’s personal credit history to qualify for the purchases. Johnson and others typically identified the property and helped arrange for the purchase by a Synergy member.

As part of the scheme, Synergy members with the assistance of Goldberg, and other persons, submitted uniform residential loan applications to lenders in connection with qualifying for home loans. In a number of such loan applications, Synergy members and other buyers provided, or assisted in providing, materially false statements, representations, and omissions to real estate lenders, or the lenders’ agents. The materially false information provided to the lenders occurred in the loan application process and concerned such things as the borrowers’: income, assets, debts, employment history and/or intent to occupy the home as a primary residence.

They also arranged for a portion of lender funds from home purchases to be paid to Synergy members as kickbacks, which were concealed from lenders. Kickbacks were concealed from lenders by routing payments through third parties posing as property management companies, such as “5280 Denver Real Estate” and “Willow Property Management”, and through real estate agent commissions paid to Broker One Real Estate.

From approximately May 1, 2006, through September 22, 2006, Benjamin purchased at least 12 homes as part of the scheme. Various falsehoods were found in the loan applications and supporting documents connected with such purchases.

Dale Johnson was sentenced to 34 months in federal prison on March 19, 2014. Donald Beverly was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison on June 17, 2014. Jimmy Hutchinson was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison on March 4, 2014. Vincent Jackson was sentenced to 60 months of probation on October 17, 2012. Jerrold Minney was sentenced to five years of probation on August 5, 2014. Scott Goldberg was sentenced to five years of probation on June 17, 2014.

This case was investigated by agents with Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the U.S. Secret Service.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tim Neff.

Allison Tussey

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