Indictments in Mortgage Elimination Scheme

Rachel Dollar —  December 1, 2016 — 2 Comments

Bruce Lewis, 65, Jacqueline Graham, 47, Anthony Vigna, 59, Rocco Cermele, 54, and Paula Guadagno, 58, were indicted and charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud in connection with a debt-elimination scheme to defraud homeowners and banks.

The Indictment alleges that in 2011 and 2012, Lewis, Graham, and an unindicted co-conspirator were partners in a business that they called the Pillow Foundation or the Terra Foundation (collectively, “Terra”).  Terra held itself out as a business that would investigate and eliminate mortgage debt in exchange for a fee.  Terra solicited clients who were having difficulties making their mortgage payments.

Vigna was a lawyer who worked in-house at Terra and provided legal services to it and its clients.  Cermele was Terra’s director of operations who recruited clients, among other duties.  Guadagno was a real estate title professional who performed real estate title work for Terra.

Lewis, Graham, Vigna, Cermele, Guadagno, and others at Terra told potential clients that Terra could eliminate their mortgage debt in exchange for a fee.  In reality, Terra filed fraudulent discharges of mortgages at local county clerk’s offices in Westchester and Putnam Counties, New York and in Connecticut.  These fraudulent documents made it appear as if Terra’s clients’ mortgages had been discharged, when in fact they had not.

To profit from their scheme, Terra and the defendants charged monthly fees that they said covered, among other things, audits of the clients’ properties that they often failed to perform.  Terra and the defendants also encouraged their clients to take out second or reverse mortgages on the properties for which Terra had claimed to have discharged the first mortgages.  Once the clients had taken out these second or reverse mortgages, Terra and the defendants retained substantial portions of the proceeds.  Some of these second or reverse mortgages were made under HUD’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage Program.

In total, Terra and the defendants filed nearly 60 fraudulent discharges in Westchester and Putnam Counties in New York and in Connecticut.  The fraudulent discharges claimed to discharge mortgages with a total loan principal of over $33 million.  In reality, the Terra clients for whom the fraudulent discharges were filed were often left with both a second or reverse mortgage and their original mortgage that had not actually been discharged.

Vigna, Cermele, and Guadagno were taken into federal custody.  Lewis and Graham remain at large.

Each defendant is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and mail fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jennifer Beidel, Michael Maimin, and James McMahon are in charge of the

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Christina Scaringi, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the unsealing of the Indictment.  Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and HUD-OIG.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the Westchester and Putnam County District Attorney’s Offices and the Cheshire Police Department in Cheshire, Connecticut, for their ongoing assistance in the case.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated:  “The defendants allegedly preyed on vulnerable homeowners struggling with their mortgage payments and, with their greed, victimized them further.  When the defendants were done with the victims, after falsely promising to reduce or even eliminate their mortgage debt for fees, these homeowners were left much worse off, in even greater debt.  With the charges today, and thanks to the investigative work of the FBI and HUD, the defendants now face federal fraud charges.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney stated:  “As charged, the defendants exploited a program designed to help cost-burdened individuals enjoy the privilege of affordable housing.  Crimes of this nature not only hurt their victims financially, but often force upon them other forms of anguish while harming the financial integrity of the very programs established to help them. We urge everyone to protect themselves against this type of fraud and abuse.  If something doesn’t sound right, trust your instincts and do some checking. If you think you may be or have been a victim of mortgage fraud, we urge you to contact your nearest FBI office.”

HUD-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Christina Scaringi stated:  “HUD’s reverse mortgage program was created to help our senior citizens find greater financial security through FHA-insured loans.  The defendants’ alleged scheme to unjustly enrich themselves through the victimization of our senior citizens is a shameful act that will not be tolerated by the HUD OIG.  We will continue to aggressively pursue those who would prey on America’s senior citizens and encourage anyone having knowledge of such schemes to contact our HUD hotline.”

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Rachel Dollar

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2 responses to Indictments in Mortgage Elimination Scheme

  1. too bad you don’t post Lewis and Graham’s pictures for realtors to take note of. just in case they show up in another state with similar ploys.

  2. A FORGERY OF MY NAME and a Mock Appeal in Bankruptcy Court was held by some-one pretending to be me (without my knowledge) & I need HELP-PLEASE. I found out a few weeks ago when I went to pick-up my dismissal on the 2015 bankruptcy… This all because of an “ILLEGAL-FORECLOSURE” that took place on 05-05-15. I Sued the Mortgage Company for an “ILLEGAL-ASSEMBLAGE & PREDATORY PRACTICES, ETC.” & THEY CANCELLED THE DEBT IN NOV.2014 THEN FORECLOSED 7-MONTHS LATER ON MAY 05, 15. THE HOME & SEPARATE “OWNER-FINANCED” LAKE-FRONT LAND LOTS COMBINED, WERE FREE & CLEAR which NESTED OVER 16-20 BALD EAGLES & OTHER RARE BIRDS… THEN THE P.O.A TOOK MY FENCE, CHOPPED DOWN ALL VIRGIN TIMBER, RESURVEYED MY LOTS, GIVING A PORTION TO NEIGHBORS WITHOUT LAKEFRONT OWNERSHIP (because I owned the entire CUL-DE-SAC on the LAKE & taking out original pins) THEN, REZONED IT ALL AS ONE LAKE FRONT LOT, COMMERICAL INDUSTRIAL—GIVING ROYALITIES TO THE BLOCK . MESSAGE LINE ONLY 404-319-9548. CELL 470-778-7695 but not secure line pls v.m
    I’M IN NEED OF A LEGAL TEAM… AS OIL WAS FOUND BUBBLING OUT OF MY LAKEFRONT LAND LOTS AND I CAN’T SEEM TO FIND LEGAL REPRESENTATION. THEY ANSWERED IN DEFAULT AFTER I SUED PROSE….& I WAS TOLD BY THE STATE PROSECUTOR, THAT I HAVE CONTINGENT CASES BECAUSE IT ENCUMBERED MY DIVORCE/ PLEASE HELP 470-778-7695.
    POAFRACKINGPLUSVACATEOFFINAL@GMAIL

    My husband and I had back to back closings in 2006. Our First Closing was a Financed Lake Front Home with a 1st & 2nd mortgage. We then Owner Financed a combined (two build able Lakefront Land Lots) The Entire Cul-De-Sac on the Lake-(until the End of the Lake / with over an Acre on the lake) adjacent to the home we just financed, as “The Owner Financed Lakefront Land Lots”, was Our Second Closing.

    Shortly after the purchase, our neighbors next to our home informed us that 40+ Years Ago They started a Bird-Watching EAGEL-SANTUARY on the Double Lake Front Land Lots and to please, Preserve the “Over an Acre of Virgin Timber Woods That Housed Over 16-20 BALD EAGLES and Other Rare Birds” Of course we became THE BEST OF NEIGHBORS and AGREED TO PRESERVE THE EAGLES THEIR NEST AND SANCTUARY.

    In late 2009-2010 my husband abandoned me and the Martial Properties; however, he’d already Deeded Me Ownership for the Home in 2006 and the Lake Front Land in 2008. The Property Owners Association (P.O.A), then Started Trespassing, Squatting, And Conducting Adverse Possession By Prescription. Living alone then & now HOMELESS. I called the police numerous Times, & the Trespassing Continued, then my neighbors on the side of the Lake Front Land Lots ( With-Out Lake-Front OWNERSHIP) started collaborating with the (P.O.A) doing the same thing as I called the police on them as well. My neighbor who started the EAGLE- Sanctuary informed me of the P.O.A meetings deliberately without me (but mainly everyone else on the Block), started holding meetings to Take-Over-My Lake Front Land (and make it into a Park etc., and My Home into a Registration) because I own until the end of the Lake and the Property Owners and Time-shares Can’t Access the Lake With-Out Trespassing and they was going to start charging people to fish on the lake. Since my husband abandoned me and I could not maintain my Properties they would not Pay An Easement, to access the lake, but would take it over shortly through abandonment adversely.

    My neighbor who started the EAGEL-SANTUARY OVER 40 YEARS AGO pleaded with me to go to the “FORESTRY TO GET A GRANT TO SAVE THE TREES WHICH ARE FEDERALLY PROTECTED AS WELL AS THE EAGLES AND OTHER RARE BIRDS” but I had to explain to her that my MOTHER was now in STAGE-4 OF CANCER DYING, and I had to leave Now, but as soon as I bring my mother back, We would go together to the Forestry to get the Grant…

    Unfortunately, I could not Move My Mother she was TOO far gone with the Cancer, so I stayed with
    her for 4-5 months coming home after Burying My Mother to ” THE DESECRATION OF THE LAKE FRONT LAND AND THE HOME BROKEN INTO, ALL MY MAIL RETURNED TO SENDER, AND THE P.O.A’s MAIL IN MY MAIL-BOX AT MY HOME AND THE NEIGHBORS TOOK OVER MY MAIL-BOX TO THE LAKE FRONT LAND” (when I left their home was Valued at 78kwas NOW-198k (even though I placed A Vacation Hold Request At The Post Office. The Mail-Man Usurped It To ABANDONMENT).
    AND THE HEADQUARTERS AT POST OFFICE SAID THEY WOULD PAY RESTITUTION for their Mail- Man Illegally Usurping “MY VACATION REQUEST” to “ABANDONMENT”. I told them I needed to get an Attorney to find out my damages… (I have it on tape).
    1.) THE P.O.A DESECRATED THE LAKE FRONT LAND LOTS CHOPPING DOWN OVER AN ACRE OF VIRGIN-TIMBER-WOODS WERE EAGLES & OTHER RARE BIRDS NESTED.
    2.) THE P.O.A REZONED MY PROPERTY COMMERCIAL INDUSTRIAL.
    3.) THE P.O.A AND NEIGHBORS WITH-OUT A LAKE FRONT HOME, RESURVEYED MY LAKE FRONT LAND LOTS (pulling out original pins).
    4.) THE P.O.A STOLE TOOK MY FENCE.
    5.) TOOK OVER MY MAIL-BOXES.(ADMITTED TO EVERYTHING IN THE POLICE REPORTS) JUST LOST A CLASS-ACTION LAW SUIT FOR THEIF OF PROPERTY, TIMESHARES & HARRASSMENT. THIS ENCUMBERED MY MORTGAGE & DIVORCE AS THE MORTGAGE WAS CONTACTED BY THE P.O.A & THEY TOLD THEM THEY OWNED THE LAKE FRONT LAND LOTS & MY HOME SINCE I HAD ABANDONED BOTH PROPERTIES. I HAD RECEIVED THE P.O.A & MY MTG. COMPANY LETTER ADDRESSED TO THE P.O.A & MYSELF FOR FORECLOSURE. & THE MTG. COMPANY RAN BOTH PARCELS TOGETHER, WHICH CREATED AN “”ILLEGAL ASSEMBLAGE”” & THEY WERE FORECLOSING ON BOTH (EVEN THOUGH THE LAND WAS OWNER-FINANCED & IS A SEPARATE PARCEL ADDRESS, ID-DESCRIP- TION ETC.,) AND WERE “FREE AND CLEAR” THEY PUT THE SECOND(2nd) NOTE AS THE OWNERSHIP OF THE LAKEFRONT LAND LOTS AT 60k & THE HOME AS THE FIRST(1st) NOTE AT 232k. I THEN SUED THE MTG. COMPANY, THEY FORGAVE THE DEBT IN NOV. 2014 AND FILED THE “CANCELLATION-OF-DEED” ONLY TO ATTEMPT TO FORECLOSE FOUR (4) WEEKS LATER IN DEC.2014, A CHURCH ATTORNEY CONFERENCED THE CALL TO THE MTG.ATTNY WITH ME ON THE LINE AND THE ATTORNEYS APOLOGIZED FOR ATTEMPTING TO FORECLOSE ON A CANCELLATION OF DEED AND STILL INCLUDE THE LAKE FRONT LAND LOTS, THEY SAID THEY WOULD TAKE IT OUT OF THEIR SYSTEM “”INDEFINITELY””NEVER TO FORECLOSE AGAIN, ONLY TO WAIT- 4-5MONTHS LATER AND FORECLOSED STATING:

    ((THEY MADE ANOTHER MISTAKE AND “CANCELLED THE DEED FOR ONLY THE 2nd NOTE BUT WERE NOW- FORECLOSING ON THE 1st NOTE BECAUSE IT WAS IN-FACT 4-MONTHS BEHIND. THE MTG . CO. ATTORNEYS DID-NOT RECOGNIZE THEIR ILLEGAL ASSEMBLAGE (still including my OWNER-FINANCED / FREE & CLEAR lake front land lots) MY BANKRUPTCY FILING A DAY FILED BEFORE THEIR FORECLOSURE OR MY ACTIVE LAW – SUIT FOR THEIR ILLEGAL ASSEMBLAGE AND PREDATORY LENDING PRACTICES, ETC., OR THERE FAILURE TO (as I have on recorder) PROVIDE 1% OF THE DURATION OF THE LOAN, SINCE THE LOAN HAD SANCTIONS WRITTEN AGAINST IT ALREADY ON A MILITARY SOLIDER AT 9-10%. THEY FORECLOSED ANYWAY MAY 05, 2015..)) AND WYNDHAM RESORT HAD JUST LOST A CLASS ACTION LAW SUIT FOR THIEF OF PROPERTIES, TIMESHARES AND HARASSMENT. TALKING TO THE SENIOR PARTNER, HE TOLD ME THAT I WAS 2-MONTHS TO LATE THEY’RE SETTLING. MY HUSBAND WHO LATER FILED DIVORCE A FEW MONTHS BEFORE I FILED MY LAW SUIT WAS ORDERED TO TO PAY THE HOUSE NOTE TO CURRENT (from abandoning me) MAKING SURE THE HOME DID-NOT GO INTO FORECLOSURE–P.O.A DUES, MY ATTORNEY’S FEE’S AND MAKE APPOINTMENT TO IMMEDIATELY RESTORE / RE-INSTATE MY MILITARY BENEFITS THAT HE WAS FOUND GUILTY OF DIVERTING TO HIS EX-WIFE (girl-friend) FRAUDULENTLY AT THE V.A. HE AGREED BUT NEVER COMPLIED AND WAS ARRESTED NEVER RESTORING (&/OR) REINSTATING MY FEDERAL- MILITARY-BENIFITS ETC., *INSTEAD HE JUST PAID MY ATTORNEYS FEES* THEN MY ATTORNEYS ASSISTED HIM IN GETTING OUT OF JAIL WITHOUT PURGING HIMSELF or BEING INCOME-DEDUCTED,SO 2-OF THE 3 WORKING TOGETHER-contingent, “WITHDREW-THEIR-COUNSEL” but HE NEVER WAS INCOME-DEDUCTED TAKING THEIR FEE’S OFF TOP, AS THEY STATED HE WOULD BE. MY HUSBAND FIRED HIS ATTORNEY & HIRED MY ATTORNEY COUSIN. ALL WHILE IN JAIL—AND, WHILE MAKING OVER $16k MNLY IN RETIREMENT. I RECEIVE $160.00 DOLLARS MONTH. WITH OUT ” THE RESTORATION OF MY DIVERTED BENEFITS” THE NEW JR. HIS NEW ATTORNEY REQUESTED WHEN HE GOT OUT OF JAIL THREW OUT THE- FRAUD—ORDER FROM THE “SENIOR-JUDGE-BASED-ON-FRAUD” & HELD AN ILLEGAL FINAL HEARING, EVEN AFTER THE JUDGE TOLD ME IN HIS CHAMBERS—THAT HE WOULD””NOT””” HOLD THE FINAL HEARING (AS I GAVE HIM MY INTERLOCERY APPEAL) STAMPED IN ALL 3 COURTS & WITH NOTHING ELSE DONE IN THE CASE. Message 404-319-9548.- Cell Phone 470-778-7695.

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