Jayson Peter Costa, 41, Bakersfield, to 78 months’ imprisonment United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill sentenced for his role in an extensive mortgage fraud scheme that ran from January 2004 to September 2007. Costa was ordered to self-surrender by May 5, 2014.
As previously reported by Mortgage Fraud Blog, David Marshall Crisp and Carlyle (Carl) Lee Cole owned and operated Crisp & Cole Real Estate (CCRE), a real estate brokerage, and Tower Lending, an affiliated mortgage brokerage. Between January 2004 and September 2007, these defendants and others at CCRE and Tower Lending carried out a conspiracy to defraud mortgage companies and federally-insured financial institutions. They used straw purchasers to acquire properties at inflated prices with funds borrowed from lenders, often using 100 percent financing and based on false and fraudulent loan applications. The conspirators frequently resold the properties from one straw buyer to another, each time at an inflated, higher price in order to extract the purported increased “equity” from the property for their benefit. Ultimately, most of the properties were foreclosed upon after the defendants failed to make the mortgage payments when due.
According to his plea agreement, Costa worked as a loan officer at Tower Lending but was not properly licensed and therefore could not legally process any of the loan applications as he did. Co-defendants Crisp and Cole, and others at CCRE and Tower Lending, knew that Costa was not properly licensed but nonetheless allowed Costa to continue acting as a loan officer. Costa admitted that while at Tower Lending he submitted numerous false and fraudulent loan applications to lenders for co-conspirators and other straw buyers, and also purchased properties as a straw buyer, all in furtherance of the conspiracy. When the California Department of Real Estate investigated CCRE and Tower Lending during the period of the conspiracy, Costa, co-defendants Crisp and Cole, and others concealed that Costa was working as an unlicensed loan officer for Tower Lending. The defendants falsified the loan paperwork on loans prepared and handled by Costa to make it appear that co-defendant Cole had been the loan officer on those loans. Costa admitted in his plea agreement that he caused lenders losses of at least $7,580,019 due to his role in the conspiracy.
On February 24, 2014, Carl Cole was sentenced to 17 years and seven months in prison. Caleb Lee Cole was sentenced to five months in prison. Sentencing dates for the remaining defendants are as follows: David Marshall Crisp and Jennifer Anne Crisp on March 31, 2014; Michael Angelo Munoz on April 7, 2014; Jeriel Salinas on May 12, 2014; and Sneha Mohammadi on June 9, 2014. Robinson Nguyen has completed his 27-month sentence. A trial for another co-defendant is set for April 8, 2014, and the charges are only allegations as to that defendant; she is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In 2009 and 2010, five separate cases were brought against five defendants who pleaded guilty to charges relating to this scheme. Scheduled to be sentenced on May 27, 2104 are: Kevin Patrick Sluga (1:10-cr-001, four counts of wire fraud for false verification of employment letters), and Leslie Sluga (1:10-cr-002, two counts of wire fraud for acting as a straw buyer) Scheduled to be sentenced on June 2, 2014 are: Jerald Allen Teixeira (1:09-cr-375, one count of wire fraud for making false statements on loan documents), Megan Balod (1:10-cr-016, four counts of wire fraud for acting as a straw buyer), and Christopher Lance Stovall (1:10-cr-271, four counts of mail fraud for making false statements on loan documents).
The maximum statutory penalty for mail fraud is 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum statutory penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the sentence.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kirk Sherriff, Henry Carbajal III, and Christopher Baker are prosecuting the case.