Lee Howlett, 45, Portland, Oregon, pled guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Jones to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Sentencing is set for May 5, 2009.
As previously reported on Mortgage Fraud Blog, Howlett was initially charged as part of Operation Malicious Mortgage, a nation-wide mortgage-fraud sweep involving over 400 defendants.
The Information, filed in June 2008, alleged that between 2002 and 2006, Howlett conspired with others to purchase real property in the name of co-conspirators. He caused false information to be given to mortgage lenders in applications for mortgage loans by the co-conspirators to induce lenders to approve mortgage loans. He allegedly created false appraisal reports for certain properties used in the conspiracy and signed the reports using the name and license number of a licensed appraiser without the appraiser’s knowledge or authority. Appraisals on some properties were inflated, and the higher value was used to apply for larger loans.
According to court records, between approximately 2003 and 2006, Howlett, both individually and through his company, Taylor Made Mortgages, together with others, made false statements in applications for mortgages on approximately 16 transactions involving seven properties and financing totalling around $3.7 million.
Howlett took the excess funds for his own use and/or to share with his co-conspirators. The properties were either sold or went into default. The Information also charged that Howlett caused interstate wire transfers of mortgage proceeds and that he deposited those funds into accounts he controlled.
Howlett faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and between two and three years of supervised release following his release from prison.
This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kent Robinson.