Rita Gosselin, 58, and her husband, Richard Gosselin, 62, a fugitive couple accused of defrauding dozens of people in a massive real-estate Ponzi scheme, were each arraigned on one charge of racketeering, a 30-year felony, and five counts of obtaining money under false pretenses, a 10-year felony, before Judge James Kersten at 33rd District Court in Woodhaven, Michigan. Judge Kersten imposed a $3.5 million dollar bond for each. The couple will return to court for a Preliminary Exam on Tuesday, November 23, 2010, at 1:30P.M.
Rita Gosselin also faces additional charges filed by the Michigan Attorney General in December 2009: One count of racketeering and three counts obtaining money under false pretenses. Rita Gosselin had already been scheduled for trial to face these charges when she cut a court-ordered tether device on April 7, 2010, and fled the state with her husband.
Once the couple fled the state, investigators from the Attorney General’s office launched an investigation to track down the fugitives. Electronic billboards were posted throughout Michigan with the fugitives’ photos and vehicle descriptions. Investigative leads ultimately located the couple in Humbolt, Tennessee. Investigators from the Attorney General’s office enlisted the efforts of the U.S. Marshalls Service and the Humboldt Tennessee Police Department to apprehend Rita and Richard Gosselin on October 29, 2010. The couple waived extradition and arrived in Michigan on Monday, November 15, 2010.
Rita Gosselin is accused of orchestrating a real-estate investment ponzi scheme in metro-Detroit, Michigan, between April 2007 and September of 2008. Rita allegedly enticed investors with claims they were able to purchase foreclosed and distressed properties in bulk and renovate the homes to sell at a profit. Gosselin allegedly promised investors regular monthly payments. As security for these investments, she allegedly provided investors with promissory notes.
Few investors received any of the payments promised and all lost some, if not all the money they invested. The scheme may have taken in as much as a half-a-million dollars from as many as 20 victims.
During the course of the scheme, Rita together with Richard allegedly obtained at least five mortgages on property they owned by supplying fraudulent income and employment information to lenders. On the loan applications, they claimed anywhere from $11,000 to $20,000 monthly income, whereas their tax records indicate as little as $3,000 to $6,000 annual income. On most of the loans, Richard was the primary borrower with Rita being the secondary borrower. On approximately two of the loans, Richard was the sole borrower; however, the loan files include fraudulent information provided to the lender by Rita.
Attorney General Mike Cox announced the return and arraignment of the fugitives.
“Financial predators should consider themselves on notice,” said Cox. “Taking advantage of struggling Michigan families will not be tolerated.”
Attorney General Cox has made prosecuting mortgage and real-estate fraud a priority for his office. In 2008, Cox created a mortgage fraud unit and teamed up with the Michigan State Police and other law enforcement agencies to tackle the problem. Cox’s office has also held seven mortgage foreclosure forums to help families stay in their homes during these difficult times.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.