Nancy Wolf-Fels, 57, Toms River, New Jersey; Dwayne Onque, 46, Belleville, New Jersey; and Mashon Onque, 43, East Orange, New Jersey, were convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to defraud financial institutions as part of a $15 million mortgage fraud scam that used phony documents and straw buyers to make illegal profits on overbuilt condos.
The jury returned the guilty verdicts after five hours of deliberation following a four-week trial before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden federal court. The defendants were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Dwayne Onque was also convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to the documents filed in this condominium mortgage fraud case and the evidence at trial:
The defendants and their conspirators schemed to defraud financial institutions by locating oceanfront condominiums overbuilt by financially distressed developers and negotiating a buyout price with the sellers. They then caused the sales prices for the properties—located in Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood, New Jersey, other locations in New Jersey and in Naples, Florida—to be much higher than the buyout price to ensure large proceeds. Other defendants helped conceal the true sales prices of certain properties through inflated sales contracts and finder’s fee agreements.
From 2007 through mid-2008, Wolf-Fels served as a loan officer at the Forked River Branch of the mortgage company, Mortgage Now. She and her conspirators originated six loan applications for unqualified buyers that contained false and fraudulent information. Working with her conspirators—including one who manufactured fake bank statements, retirement account statements and pay stubs to support the false loan applications—Wolf-Fels assembled the loan applications and sent them to victim financial institutions, which lent the unqualified buyers mortgage funds. From late 2006 through mid-2007, Dwayne Onque served as a straw buyer of five properties in Middletown, New Jersey, and Wildwood, New Jersey. For each of the five properties, he signed false and fraudulent loan applications and closing documents that resulted in the release of more than $2 million of mortgage funds.
During 2006 and 2008, Mashon Onque served as a title agent at Tri-State Title Agency, Montclair, New Jersey. She acted as the closing agent for fraudulent mortgage loans orchestrated by her conspirators, including Timothy Ricks and her brother, Dwayne Onque. The conspirators put together buyers and sellers in real estate transactions, and then filed false and fraudulent loan applications containing inflated income figures for the borrowers. After the mortgage lenders approved the loans, Mashon Onque prepared and signed fraudulent settlement statements that falsely claimed that the borrowers had made down payments to close the loans.
The wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Wolf-Fels and Dwayne Onque are scheduled to be sentenced on January 29, 2015. Mashon Onque is scheduled to be sentenced on January 30, 2015.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced the convictions and credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading the convictions.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew T. Smith and Jacqueline M. Carle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.