Megan Balod, Bakerfield, California, pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme involving Crisp & Cole Associates, also known as Crisp & Cole Real Estate. As part of her plea agreement, Balod has agreed to cooperate in the government’s ongoing investigation.
Balod admitted in her plea agreement that she along with certain individuals at Crisp & Cole and Tower Lending executed a scheme to defraud mortgage lending institutions, by submitting false and fraudulent statements in mortgage loan applications and related documents.
In pleading guilty, Balod admitted that during the period from May 2004 to May 2006, at the direction of one of the owners of Crisp & Cole, she purchased 11 properties with a total purchase value at the time of approximately $5.4 million and obtained loans to finance such purchases. In almost all of the loan applications, she knowingly made misstatements or omitted relevant information. Balod admitted that she knew that the lenders relied on such misstatements and omissions in approving the loans. She gave false information concerning her employer, the number of years employed, and her position with the employer, her income, and outstanding liabilities (including her liabilities with respect to other properties) She also claimed that she would use certain properties as owner-occupied homes when in fact she had no intent to reside in the properties.
Balod, in her plea, admitted that she and others involved in the scheme committed these acts to deceive lending institutions into funding mortgage loans on the basis of the false information. A number of the properties purchased with the loan proceeds were subsequently foreclosed upon after loan payments were not made when due.
As previously reported on Mortgage Fraud Blog, three other persons, including Balod’s parents, Kevin and Leslie Sluga, and Jerald Teixeira, a former officer for Crisp & Cole’s lending affiliate, Tower Lending, have previously pleaded guilty in related cases.
Balod is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wanger on July 12, 2010 at 1:30 p.m. The maximum statutory penalty on the wire fraud charge is 20 years in prison, and a criminal fine of $250,000. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables and any applicable statutory sentencing factors.
United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner stated, “The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to vigorously pursue those responsible for mortgage fraud schemes that have contributed to causing devastation in real estate and financial markets.”
To further the prosecution of mortgage fraud cases arising out of the southern half of the Central Valley, in 2009 the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI created the San Joaquin Valley Mortgage Fraud Task Force in Fresno, comprising both federal and local law enforcement agents and prosecutors.