Avinie Maurice Bates, III, 41, Miramar, Florida; Jill Beth Newman Zuravel, 47, Boynton Beach, Florida; Alan Jay Nathan, 60, Boca Raton, Florida; Meredith Lelann King, 38, Destin, Florida; and Joann V. Walter, 56, Parkland, Florida, have been charged in a one-count indictment charging wire fraud, based on a mortgage-fraud scheme in Bay County, Florida.
The indictment alleges that the defendants fraudulently obtained over $8.7 million in mortgages to purchase nine properties in Panama City and Panama City Beach in 2006, all of which have since been subjects of foreclosure actions.
The indictment alleges that Bates, owner of a real-estate investment company in Miami obtained the services of a real estate agent to assist him in finding properties to purchase in the Panama City Beach, Florida area. Once Bates found properties, he entered into sales contracts with his business as the buyer.
The indictment further alleges that Zuravel, a Boca Raton attorney; Nathan, the owner of a mortgage company in Boca Raton; and Walter, a mortgage broker, then recruited straw buyers for the properties, The straw buyers were “assigned” the sales contracts at a substantially higher sales price than the original sales price, obtained mortgages for the properties at the inflated sales price, and purchased the property in the straw buyer’s name, on behalf of the defendants. The indictment alleges that the straw buyers did these acts in exchange for payment.
The indictment also alleges that Nathan and Walter made false representations in the mortgage loan applications concerning the straw buyers’ incomes and intent to occupy the properties. Further, the indictment alleges that King, an escrow agent with a Panama City Beach title company, conducted closings on the properties and disbursed the lender funds, paying the seller the original sales price and paying the difference between the original and inflated sales price, referred to in the indictment as the “equity strip,” to defendants Bates, Zuravel, and Nathan through various companies owned by them.
Bates and Zuravel were arraigned before Magistrate Larry A. Bodiford at the U.S. Courthouse, 30 West Government Street, Panama City (“U.S. Courthouse – Panama City”), January 4, 2012, at 1:30 p.m.
Walter is scheduled to be arraigned before Magistrate Larry A. Bodiford at the U.S. Courthouse – Panama City on January 10, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.
Nathan is scheduled to be arraigned before the Honorable Richard Smoak at the U.S. Courthouse – Panama City on January 18, 2012 at 9:30 a.m.
King was arraigned before Magistrate Larry A. Bodiford at the U.S. Courthouse – Panama City on December 12, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. and entered a plea of not guilty.
Trial has been set to begin on February 6, 2012, at 8:30 a.m., before the Honorable Richard Smoak at the U.S. Courthouse – Panama City.
For their conduct, each defendant faces a maximum of twenty years’ imprisonment, three years of supervised release, a $1,000,000 fine, or a fine in twice the amount of the gross gain/loss, and a $100 special monetary assessment.
The case was investigated by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation – Bureau of Financial Investigations, the Florida Department of Financial Services – Division of Insurance Fraud, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gayle Littleton.
An indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the Government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.