James Merrill Roberts, Cedar Hills, Utah, pleaded guilty to counts 3 and 8 of an indictment charging him with a scheme to identify residential properties, recruited straw buyers, and, through false statements on loan applications, falsely inflated the apparent value of the properties to induce lenders to grant loans for amounts in excess of their fair market value.
As previously reported by Mortgage Fraud Blog, Roberts and his codefendants Christopher Ethington and Janet H. Ethington, both of Riverton, Utah, were charged with mortgage fraud in a 12-count indictment.
According to the indictment, Roberts formed Amerifinance Group, LLC, a company which promoted residential real estate transactions in Utah. Christopher Ethington worked for Amerifinance and recruited individuals to become involved in real estate purchases and loans arranged through the company. Janet Ethington, an unlicensed loan officer, was employed at a home loan brokerage company.
The indictment alleges that although Amerifinance was originally formed to purchase foreclosed homes, repair them, and sell them at a profit, it soon became a framework for identifying residential properties, recruiting straw buyers and, through misrepresentations on loan applications and other documents in loan packages, falsely and deceptively inflating the apparent value of the properties in order to induce lenders to grant loans for amounts in excess of their fair market value.