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Benjamin Bland, 41,  Richmond, Virginia, was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and social security fraud.

According to evidence presented at his five day trial, Bland was the owner and registered agent of a company headquartered in Richmond, Virginia that hosted a website that purported to provide individuals with a legal means to start a new credit file through the issuance of a “secondary credit number.” Bland falsely told his customers that these “secondary credit numbers” were “100% legal” and issued “by lawyers.” However, Bland had invented the term “secondary credit number,” there were no lawyers involved with his business, and the “secondary credit numbers” were actually social security numbers that had been previously issued to other individuals, predominantly children.

According to the trial evidence, one of the primary purposes of the fraud scheme was to obtain bank loans, private loans, auto loans, and lines of credit using the stolen social security numbers, counterfeit social security cards, and personal identity information (“PII”) of actual persons to create a false (improved) credit score.

The trial evidence also established that Bland obtained and sold the misappropriated social security numbers to Michael Westbrook and at least 20 others located throughout the country, whom Bland called his “affiliates.” These “affiliates” in turn sold those numbers to buyers. For an additional fee, Bland would provide fraudulent social security cards bearing the stolen number and the name of the “buyer.” Bland also provided fraudulent driver’s licenses to the “customers.” These items were provided so that “customers” could defraud banks and other lenders by drawing upon lines of credit using the stolen social security numbers.

According to the trial evidence, Bland compromised the social security numbers of at least 1,500 people during the conspiracy. The majority of the stolen social security numbers belonged to children all over the United States.

A co-conspirator, Michael Westbrook, also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He is awaiting sentencing.

Bland faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the wire fraud counts and a maximum of 10 years in prison on each of the social security fraud counts. Senior U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz has scheduled sentencing for July 14, 2017 at 10:00 am.

The conviction was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended HSI Baltimore for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lauren Perry and Aaron Zelinsky, who are prosecuting the case.

Nathan E. Hardwick IV, 50, formerly of Atlanta, Georgia, and Asha R. Maurya, 40, Atlanta, Georgia, were indicted on charges of with conspiracy, wire fraud, and related crimes in connection with Hardwick’s alleged theft of over $20 million from the attorney escrow accounts and operating accounts of Morris Hardwick Schneider and LandCastle Title, an Atlanta-based law firm and title agency in which Hardwick and Maurya once served as top executives.  In addition to charges against Maurya for assisting with Hardwick’s theft, the indictment also charges Maurya with stealing approximately $900,000 from the firm’s accounts to pay her own personal expenses. Continue Reading…

Michael Nazarinia, 41, San Diego, California, was sentenced to 9 months in custody for his role in a fraudulent mortgage loan modification business that duped hundreds of struggling homeowners.

The business, known as “Haffar & Associates,” owned by figurehead attorney Mohamed Haffar, recruited new customers using telemarketers who lied to clients in order to induce more than 1,000 people to sign up to pay more than $3.5 million in total.

Nazarinia’s co-conspirator Charles Rose managed a call center staffed with as many as 30 telemarketers, whose job was to recruit new clients.  Rose trained the telemarketers, wrote telemarketing scripts for use on calls with potential clients, wrote form letters for the salespeople to send to potential clients, and recorded his own sales calls for telemarketers to emulate.  Rose pleaded guilty in July, admitting that he and his business partners, including Nazarinia, trained telemarketers to make statements to potential clients that were false, such as the following: Continue Reading…

Mazen Alzoubi, real estate investor, 32, Rancho Cucamonga, California, pled guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud and identity theft, admitting that he orchestrated a scheme to steal title to Southern California homes and then sell the properties to unsuspecting buyers before the true owners could put a stop to the sale.

Alzoubi admitted that from May 2012 through August 2014, he and several co-conspirators fraudulently sold or attempted to sell at least 15 homes worth more than $3.6 million. On at least ten occasions, Alzoubi admitted, he was successful—earning illicit proceeds of nearly $2.2 million, which he then laundered and diverted to overseas bank accounts to ensure that the fraudulently-obtained proceeds could never be recovered. Continue Reading…

Fryar, mother seek new trial or reversal

Before former NFL star Irving Fryar and his mother are sentenced next month for their roles in a $1.2 million mortgage scheme, a New Jersey judge will rule on their lawyers’ motions asking for either a verdict reversal or a new trial.

Fryar, a wide receiver who played for the Eagles and other teams during his 17-year NFL career, and his mother, Allene McGhee, 74, formerly of Willingboro, were convicted of conspiracy and theft by deception Aug. 7. Each faces five to 10 years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines on Oct. 2 when state Superior Court Judge Jeanne T. Covert is expected to sentence them.

Fryar, mother decline to take stand

The lawyers defending former Eagles player Irving Fryar and his mother, Allene McGhee, against mortgage fraud charges rested their case in a Mount Holly courtroom Tuesday without calling any witnesses.

Fryar, 52, of Springfield Township, Burlington County, and McGhee, 74, a retired school bus driver from Willingboro, both decided against taking the stand to testify after the prosecution completed its case and the jury trial entered its third week. The two are charged with conspiracy and theft by deception in connection with a $1.2 million mortgage scheme involving six banks and one lending company in South Jersey and Philadelphia between October and December 2009.

Six individuals have been charged with violations of federal law in what the indictment alleges was a scheme to market and sell home loan modification services to distressed homeowners trying to save their homes from foreclosure following the financial crisis of 2008. Investigators believe the alleged scheme involved more than 10,000 victims in nearly every state in the country with losses of more than $33 million.

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Theresa Sanders, 56, most recently of Westerville, Ohio, pleaded guilty to residential mortgage fraud, in the second degree, and grand larceny, in the second degree, in Onondaga County Court, New York, before Judge Anthony Aloi.

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Eliyahu Weinstein, 39, Lakewood, New Jersey, who was previously sentenced to 22 years in prison for running a real estate investment fraud scheme that caused $200 million in losses, admitted that he also defrauded investors in connection with the Facebook IPO and several additional real estate deals and then laundered the proceeds of the scheme.

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Christopher Shawn Linton, 35, Alabaster, Alabama, was sentenced to five years and 11 months in prison for his role in an investment fraud scheme through which he submitted a fraudulent loan application to Iberia Bank for a $908,650 loan, and took more than $2.8 million from 12 investors spending the funds on a lavish home, private jets, championship football trips and island vacations.

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