Brett Depue, 36, Gilbert, Arizona, formerly of Las Vegas, Nevada, Brian Barney, 36, Fairfield, California, and Maria Ornelas, 32, Las Vegas, Nevada, are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud, and criminal forfeiture.
The Indictment alleges that from about February 1, 2005, to May 31, 2007, in Nevada and elsewhere, the defendants participated in a mortgage fraud conspiracy in which they used “third party disbursements” and “double escrow” methods to fraudulently obtain monies from the financial institutions.
Brett Depue operated a number of Nevada businesses including, ABS Investments Group, LLC, Liberty Group Investments, LLC, and a number of other companies registered with the Nevada Secretary of State. Depue employed Brian Barney, Maria Ornelas, and a number of others who allegedly assisted in the mortgage fraud conspiracy. The defendants recruited home owners in the Las Vegas, Nevada area and elsewhere who agreed to sell their property at a price substantially above the asking price. The home owners were told that the difference would go to Depue for improvements. The defendants then recruited straw buyers to apply for mortgage loans to purchase the homes using false and fraudulent information concerning the straw buyers’ income, assets, employment, and intent to occupy the homes. In some instances, the defendants had the straw buyers apply for mortgages for more than one house at a time and concealed from the lenders that they were purchasing more than one property.
The Indictment specifically discusses 17 homes in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada which were purchased fraudulently between April 2005 and April 2007 at the direction of and for the benefit of the defendants.
Warrants have been issued for the arrests of Depue and Barney. Ornelas was summoned, and is scheduled for an initial appearance before a United States Magistrate Judge in Las Vegas, Nevada on Friday, March 26, 2010, at 8:30 a.m.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine on each count, and may be required to forfeit up to $8.5 million in properties or proceeds from the crimes.
This investigation is being led by and the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation, and other agencies of the Southern Nevada Mortgage Fraud Task Force, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Secret Service, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, and Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brian Pugh.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.