Mortgage Fraud Money Used to Fund Marijuana Grow Houses

Allison Tussey —  February 14, 2012 — Leave a comment

Roberto Caro, 41, Miami-Dade, Florida, has pled guilty to one count of money laundering in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme and one count of conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute marijuana.  Caro also pled guilty to a related charge of bond jumping, arising from his failure to appear in court in January 2011 on the original charges.

Sentencing has been scheduled for April 17, 2012, at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez.  Caro faces maximum possible prison sentences of up to 40 years for the drug conspiracy, 10 years for the money laundering, and a consecutive sentence of up to 10 years for the bond violation.

Defendant Caro was first charged on July 15, 2010.  According to court documents and testimony, this investigation began in May 2006 when law enforcement discovered marijuana grow house operations in numerous homes in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  During the investigation, many of those homes were linked to co-defendant Manuel Caro, father of Roberto CaroManuel Caro was charged in 2006 for his participation in the marijuana grow house operation, but fled after being released on bond and remains a fugitive.

Continued investigation led to the discovery of additional marijuana grow houses in St. Lucie, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida.  According to a second superseding indictment, most of these homes were bought with funds obtained through mortgage fraud committed by co-defendant Hugo Oliva, a mortgage broker, through his company, MBA Mortgage Services, Inc., and his co-defendants, including Roberto Caro.  To execute the scheme, the defendants submitted loan applications to mortgage lenders that contained false information, including false bank statements, W2 forms, pay stubs, verifications of deposit and verifications of employment.

The defendants in the mortgage fraud scheme were charged with various counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, drug charges, and laundering drug-related money through the purchase of the homes.  On December 13, 2010, defendant Sergio Caro, 37, was sentenced to 37 months in prison and the Court ordered him to pay $671,166.36 in restitution to victim mortgage lenders.  On March 29, 2011, mortgage broker and co-defendant Hugo Oliva was sentenced to 87 months in prison and ordered to pay $886,418.97 in restitution.  Two additional co-defendants, Ilan Reyes, 37, and Orlando Dominguez, 44, both of Miami, Florida, pled guilty and were each sentenced to probation for a term of 5 years. 

Defendant Roberto Caro had been arraigned and released on bond for the original mortgage fraud and money laundering charges in September 2010.  In January 2011, Caro failed to appear for a scheduled court hearing and thereby violated conditions of his bond.  He remained a fugitive from justice until he was found and detained in Miami in October 2011.  In the interim, the federal grand jury had separately indicted Caro for the additional crime of violating his bond conditions.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), and Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, announce the guilty plea.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and the DEA.  Mr. Ferrer also thanked the Port St. Lucie Police Department, the St. Lucie County Sheriff s Office, and the U.S. Marshals Service for their work on this investigation.  The case arose from the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) long-term investigation.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore Cooperstein.    

Allison Tussey

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