Christopher Coburn, 33, Winter Garden, Florida was indicted today on six counts of bankruptcy fraud. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.

According to the indictment, Coburn solicited homeowners whose mortgages were in default and offered to rescue their homes from foreclosure. In order to prevent the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and multiple financial institutions holding mortgages from lawfully foreclosing on homeowners’ properties, Coburn engaged in a bankruptcy fraud scheme whereby he filed or caused to be filed fraudulent bankruptcy petitions in the name of homeowners, without their knowledge or consent, just prior to the scheduled foreclosure sale dates. These fraudulent bankruptcies triggered the automatic stay provision of the bankruptcy code, preventing Fannie Mae and the financial institutions from conducting lawful foreclosure sales and obtaining title to the properties. The fraudulent petitions enabled Coburn to collect fees and allowed him to refer the properties to real estate agents in order to obtain ill-gotten referral fees.

United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez made the announcement.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General. The Office of the United States Trustee for the Middle District of Florida (Orlando Division) also provided substantial assistance. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

 

Abolghasseni “Abe” Alizadeh, 59, Granite Bay, California was sentenced today to four years and eight months in prison.  Alizadeh pleaded guilty on January 12, 2018 to wire fraud, bank fraud and making false statements to a federally insured financial institution.

According to court documents, Alizadeh, a Sacramento-area commercial real estate developer, restaurateur and owner of Kobra Properties, came up with a scheme to fraudulently purchase land that he planned to develop. Banks usually loan up to 60 to 65 percent of the loan to-value ratio (LTV) on undeveloped commercial property. (LTV ratio is the comparison between the amount of the loan and the value of the property.) To circumvent the banks and fraudulently get a higher level of financing, Alizadeh submitted altered purchase contracts to the banks that greatly inflated the purported purchase price. The banks, which competed for Alizadeh’s business, were unaware that the purchase prices were inflated and sometimes loaned well in excess of the loan-to-value ratio. By concealing the true purchase price from the banks, Alizadeh received substantial amounts of cash, sometimes millions of dollars, at the close of escrow and avoided making the full down payment or, in some instances, any down payment.

Alizadeh was assisted in this scheme by co-defendant Mary Sue Weaver, 64, currently of Scottsdale, Arizona and formerly of Lincoln, California, who was employed at a local title company. According to the plea agreement, Alizadeh would write checks for the down payment, but because he lacked funds to cover the checks, he would call Weaver and ask her to delay depositing the checks until after escrow closed. Once escrow closed, Weaver disbursed funds from the title company’s escrow trust account to Kobra Properties. Kobra Properties then used those funds to cover its down payment and other costs. In this way, it appeared as though Alizadeh was making a substantial down payment when in fact he was not.

On April 29, 2005, Alizadeh submitted a fraudulent purchase contract to Central Pacific Bank, which induced the bank to lend him nearly $4 million for the purchase of 10.3 acres of property. This loan represented over 96 percent loan-to-value ratio. Similarly, on October 21, 2005, Alizadeh received over $22 million in funding and loans to purchase the Turtle Island property, when in actuality, the original purchase price was $10 million. In March 2006, Alizadeh also falsely claimed to Bank of Sacramento that he was paying $36 per square foot for a piece of property where he intended to build a TGI Friday’s restaurant. In reality, Alizadeh was paying only $21 per square foot. This resulted in a $650,000 inflation of the true purchase price. Alizadeh’s entire scheme, involving no fewer than six properties in the Sacramento area, resulted in a loss to various financial institutions of over $22 million.

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. also ordered Alizadeh to pay $15,879,945 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.

On December 15, 2017, Weaver pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of bank fraud and is scheduled for sentencing on June 22, 2018. She faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison on each count and a $1 million fine. The actual sentence, 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.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott.

The defendant used his reputation as a local business leader to perpetrate a complex fraud scheme to enrich himself at the expense of others,” stated U.S. Attorney Scott. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work diligently with its law enforcement partners to expose schemes like this and bring criminals like the defendant to justice.

The scope of the fraud is staggering,” said Michael T. Batdorf, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “As a well-known real-estate developer, title companies and banks competed for Mr. Alizadeh’s business. He submitted altered purchase contracts that greatly inflated the purchase price. This scheme cost financial institutions over $22 million. While this sentence cannot reverse the damage caused by Alizadeh and his co-defendant, it highlights the ongoing commitment of IRS-CI to hold accountable those involved in these types of crimes.

Today’s sentencing holds defendant Alizadeh accountable for causing more than $22 million in losses to the financial institutions, by corruptly inflating the value of property to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent bank loans,” stated FDIC Inspector General Jay N. Lerner. “This case is a powerful example of law enforcement cooperation to combat fraud and bring such swindlers to justice.”

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael D. Anderson and Heiko P. Coppola are prosecuting the case.

Terrell Hampton, 37, was sentenced today to 119 months in prison for defrauding the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and innocent owners and purchasers of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania real estate.

Terrell Hampton, along with his father Kenneth Hampton and other family members, stole vacant homes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that belonged to people who could not afford to defend their properties. Kenneth Hampton was convicted and sentenced to 200 months in prison in November.

At the direction of his father, who was in prison at the time, Terrell looked for vacant properties to target, created and filed fraudulent deeds, sought buyers for the stolen properties, and kept Kenneth apprised of scheme developments. They communicated through phone calls, emails, and letters, as well as through Kenneth’s fiancée, co-conspirator Roxanne Mason.

The participants in the scheme moved into the stolen properties under the cover of fake leases that purported to grant them the right to occupancy.  They then found ways to profit from the stolen properties, either by selling the homes to good faith purchasers, by saddling them with debt, or by taking advantage of government programs designed to aid legitimate homeowners.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain.

This defendant stole from people who didn’t have the resources to fight back, often resulting in victim battling against victim, homeowner against good faith purchaser,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “He lived up to the low example set by his father, and I am proud that the talented case team has put both of them behind bars.”

The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security – Office of the Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of the Inspector General, City of Philadelphia.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Paul G. Shapiro and Sarah M. Wolfe

On May 18, 2018,  Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Kirkland and Portland, Oregon based Real Estate Investment Network, LLC (REIN), a company accused of scamming foreclosed homeowners out of equity in the form of surplus funds from the foreclosure sale to halt its deceptive practices while the state’s lawsuit progresses. REIN had been charging up to 67 percent of surplus funds it recovers for homeowners following a foreclosure sale. These fees amounted to tens of thousands of dollars for each homeowner.

With the real estate market booming, foreclosure sales can bring in more money than is owed on the mortgage. Homeowners can often recover these “surplus funds” through a relatively simple process with the court.

REIN approached foreclosed homeowners soon after the foreclosure sale, before they receive notice that surplus funds are available.

REIN’ misrepresented  the process for recovering surplus funds, telling consumers the process could take up to a year and will be near impossible without their help. REIN then offered to help the consumer recover the funds in exchange for a fee, but presented documentation giving REIN all the rights to the surplus funds. Although REIN returned a percentage of the recovered surplus funds to the consumer, REIN’s cut often exceeded 50 percent of the total recovery and was sometimes as high as 67 percent.

REIN omitted any information about the amount of surplus funds available, which can exceed $100,000. In one instance, the foreclosure sale led to $134,000 in surplus funds, and under the terms of its contract, REIN would recover around $90,000 for its services. In another case, REIN’s contract allowed it to recover about $88,000 of more than $141,000 in surplus funds.

My office is a watchdog for homeowners facing foreclosure,” Ferguson said. “I will hold companies that prey on homeowners facing foreclosure accountable.”

Judge Catherine Moore, a King County Superior Court judge granted an agreed order for a preliminary injunction, which, among other restrictions, prevents REIN from collecting more than the 5 percent allowed by law.

The order prevents REIN from:

  • Making misrepresentations or material omissions to consumers about surplus funds;
  • Charging homeowners more than 5 percent of recovered surplus funds plus reasonable costs not to exceed $225; and
  • Failing to disclose all the information REIN knows about a consumer’s foreclosed property, including the foreclosure sale price, liens on the property and the amount of recoverable surplus funds.

One victim told KING 5 news that when he learned the true amount of the surplus funds available, he thought, “We were getting scammed. Totally.”

Dean Rossi, 49, Warrington, Pennsylvania, was found guilty by a federal jury yesterday of bank, mail and loan fraud in connection with a mortgage scheme.

Rossi, who owned numerous low-income properties throughout the Philadelphia area, misappropriated more than $643,000 from real estate closings. Specifically, after obtaining bank loans to purchase or refinance residential properties, Rossi teamed up with corrupt title/closing agents to divert a substantial portion of the loan proceeds, and then he pocketed cash from the settlements which should have been used to pay off prior mortgages and tax liens. In addition, to prevent the scheme from being detected, Rossi continued to cause payments to be made on the prior existing mortgages years after those loans were supposed to have been paid in full.

Rossi faces a maximum possible sentence of 120 years’ imprisonment, five years of supervised release, and a $4 million fine.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain.

Our investigators and trial team did a phenomenal job of following a trail of evidence that goes back more than a decade,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “The defendant went to great lengths to cover his tracks, but due to the hard work of our agents and prosecutors, his long-running scheme was exposed.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joel Goldstein.

Vanessa Ricci, 41, Methuen, Massachusetts, a mortgage loan officer, was sentenced yesterday in federal court in connection with a sweeping conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies by engaging in sham “short” sales of residential properties in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts.

Ricci was sentenced to six months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $963,730. In March 2018, Ricci pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Vanessa+Ricci

Co-defendants Jasmin Polanco, 37, a real estate closing attorney, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 21, 2018;  Greisy Jimenez, 50, pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 6, 2018; Hyacinth Bellerose, 51, a real estate closing attorney, was sentenced in March 2017 to time served and one year of supervised release to be served in home detention after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The charges arose out of a scheme to defraud various banks via bogus short sales of homes in Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen, Massachusetts in which the purported sellers remained in their homes, with their debt substantially reduced. A short sale is a sale of real estate for less than the value of any existing mortgage debt on the property. Short sales are an alternative to foreclosure that typically occur only with the consent of the mortgage lender. Generally, the lender absorbs a loss on the loan and releases the borrower from the unpaid balance. By their very nature, short sales are intended to be arms-length transactions in which the buyers and sellers are unrelated, and in which the sellers cede their control of the subject properties in exchange for the short-selling bank’s agreement to release them from their unpaid debt.

The conspiracy began in approximately August 2007 and continued through June 2010, a period that included the height of the financial crisis and its aftermath. Home values in Massachusetts and across the nation declined precipitously, and many homeowners found themselves suddenly “underwater” with homes worth less than the mortgage debt they owed. As part of the scheme, Jimenez, Polanco, Ricci, Bellerose and others submitted materially false and misleading documents to numerous banks in an effort to induce them to permit the short-sales, thereby releasing the purported sellers from their unpaid mortgage debts, while simultaneously inducing the purported buyers’ banks to provide financing for the deals. In fact, the purported sellers simply stayed in their homes, with their debt substantially reduced.

The conspirators falsely led banks to believe that the sales were arms-length transactions between unrelated parties; in fact, the buyers and sellers were frequently related, and the sellers retained control of (and frequently continued to live in) the properties after the sale. The conspirators also submitted phony earnings statements in support of loan applications that were submitted to banks in order to obtain new financing for the purported sales. In addition, the defendants submitted phony “HUD-1 Settlement Statements” to banks that did not accurately reflect the disbursement of funds in the transactions. (HUD-1 Settlement Statements are standard forms that are used to document the flow of funds in real estate transactions. They are required for all transactions involving federally related mortgage loans, including all mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration.)

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, New York Field Office; and Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, made the announcement.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen E. Frank, Chief of Lelling’s Economic Crimes Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara Miron Bloom and Victor A. Wild, also of the Economic Crimes Unit, prosecuted the cases.

Joseph DiValli, Jackson, New Jersey, was sentenced today to 18 months in prison for his role in a large-scale mortgage fraud scheme that used phony documents and straw buyers to acquire more than $6 million in loans.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Joseph+DiValli+

From March 2011 through November 2012, DiValli and other conspirators agreed to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans for properties located in North Jersey, New Jersey. After recruiting “straw buyers” to purchase the properties, DiValli and others submitted false and fraudulent loan applications and supporting documents so the straw buyers could qualify for the loans. DiValli and others also used another conspirator, who worked at a bank, to create misleading certifications showing certain bank accounts held more money than they actually had. DiValli and other conspirators also submitted false appraisal reports, backdated deeds and used unlicensed title agents to close transactions and disburse the mortgage proceeds.

As a loan officer for a North Jersey mortgage lender, DiValli facilitated some of these fraudulent transactions, including a $244,855.26 mortgage on a property located on Smith Street, Elizabeth, New Jersey. Overall, the scheme induced lenders to issue more than $6 million in loans, resulting in several defaults and exposing lenders and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to more than $2 million in potential losses.

DiValli also admitted using a separate scheme to modify the mortgage on his personal residence. From March 2011 through June 2012, Divalli used false payroll ledgers and earnings statements to deceive a loan officer into believing that his net earnings were lower than his actual income level.

DiValli also admitted receiving income of more than $450,000 in 2012. In order to avoid taxes of $79,000, DiValli failed to file taxes for 2012 and cashed his paychecks at a check-cashing facility to conceal his income.

DiValli previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to a superseding information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion. Judge Wigenton imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Wigenton sentenced DiValli to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $2,322,045.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement and credited law enforcement agents of the FBI Newark Mortgage Fraud Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie; postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Ruth M. Mendonca; special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi; special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Steven Perez; special agents of the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), under the direction of Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero; special agents of IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Bryant Jackson; and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Esther Suarez, for the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lakshmi Srinivasan Herman of the National Security Unit, Andrew Kogan of the Cyber Unit, and Senior Litigation Counsel Barbara Ward of the Asset Recovery and Money Laundering Unit.

Defense counsel: Michael A. Koribanics Esq. Clifton, New Jersey.

Frank Giacobbe, 43, East Amherst, New York; Patrick Ogiony, 34, Buffalo, New York; Kevin Morgan, 42, Pittsford, New York; and Todd Morgan, 29, Rochester, New York, have been charged in a  62-count indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and substantive wire fraud and bank fraud charges. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

According to the indictment, between March 2011 and June 2017, the defendants conspired to defraud financial institutions, such as Arbor Commercial Mortgage, LLC and Berkadia Commericial Mortgage, LLC, and government sponsored enterprises, including Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae). The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to engage in a variety of conduct to induce mortgage lenders to issue loans for residential apartment complexes (1) for greater amounts than they would have issued had they known the truth; and (2) that the lenders would not have issued at the time of issuance had they known the truth.

The defendants are accused of:

  • Conspiring to provide lending institutions with false rent rolls suggesting that properties had more occupied units, at higher rental rates, and generated more income than they, in fact, did;
  •  Conspiring to provide false information about other income received at the complexes. On one occasion, when one defendant asked another where storage space income figures came from, another defendant replied, “Magic;”
  • Conspiring to provide lenders with fraudulently altered leases; and
  • Conspiring to prevent inspectors touring the properties from discovering vacant units by, among other things, turning on radios inside vacant units, placing mats and shoes outside apartment doors, and, on at least one occasion, hiring someone to stage an apartment as lived in and pretend to be a tenant of an inspected unit.

The indictment alleges fraud at seven different properties, not all of which involved all charged defendants, but which resulted in total loans issued of $167,591,000. The properties are Morgan Ellicott Apartments and Amherst Garden, both in Buffalo, New York; Rugby Square in Syracuse, New York; Avon Commons, in Avon, New York; Rochester Village, Southpointe, and Eden Square, all in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. made the announcement today.

The defendants are charged with fraudulently obtaining over $167.5 million worth of loans relating to seven residential apartment complexes located here in New York and in Pennsylvania,” noted U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “Most of those loans were in turn sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, entities which were created by Congress to perform and an important role in our country’s housing finance system. As a result of the fraudulent conduct alleged in this indictment, defendants’ conduct not only unjustly enriched them but threatened to undercut the very foundations upon which our mortgage banking and investment systems are based.”

We must protect the tens of thousands of investors who own mortgage backed securities,” said Gary Loeffert, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Buffalo Division. “This investigation is focused on stopping people from undermining the residential and commercial financing industry. Fraud for profit aims to misuse the mortgage lending process to steal cash.”

Some of the defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on May 23, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. before U.S Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder.

The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Mark P. Higgins.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Alejandro Tobon, 35, Orlando, Florida has been sentenced to 37 months and Carlos Escarria, 61, Largo, Florida has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, for conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. They pleaded guilty on June 9, 2017.

According to court documents, from as early as October 2007 through May 2008, Tobon, Escarria, and others conspired to execute a bank and wire fraud scheme. The goal of the fraud scheme was to sell condominium units at The Preserve at Temple Terrace, a 392-unit condominium complex in Tampa, Florida. To entice buyers to purchase the units, the conspirators offered cash payments to buyers, either before or after closing. The mortgage lenders were not made aware of these payments. The conspirators used several entities to conceal from the mortgage lenders the cash payments to buyers.

The conspirators made false statements on loan documents, such as purchase and sale agreements and loan applications, and on HUD-1 settlement statements, to induce mortgage lenders to approve loans for otherwise unqualified borrowers for the condo unit purchases.

Tobon was the manager of Transcontinental Lending Group’s branch in Tampa, Florida and he was also the President of Tobon Marketing and Consultant. His role in the conspiracy included submitting false and fraudulent loan applications to financial institutions to induce them to provide funding for buyers to purchase Preserve units. He also marketed units to buyers with undisclosed incentives and transferred funds he had received from the developer through Tobon Marketing and Consultant to borrowers’ bank accounts who needed money to close on the purchases. The money was then used to provide the down payment and cash to close requirements.

Escarria worked as a loan officer at Transcontinental Lending Group’s branch in Tampa, Florida. He signed false and fraudulent loan applications to induce financial institutions into providing funding for buyers to purchase condo units. The false representations submitted to and relied upon by the mortgage lenders included occupancy, income, source of funds, and assets.

The mortgage lenders’ total losses resulting from Tobon’s and Escarria’s role in the mortgage fraud conspiracy are approximately $5.8 million.

Tobon and Escarria were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew.

This case was investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor and Assistant United States Attorney Jay Hoffer.

Arlando Jacobs, 52, The Woodlands, Texas, has pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to information presented in court, from October 2011 through April 2017, Jacobs conspired with others to create and submit fraudulent mortgage lien documents to title companies and financial institutions in order to receive transfers of funds they were not entitled to receive. Jacobs was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2017.  Co-defendant, Clarence Roland, is scheduled for trial in September 2018.

Under federal statutes, Jacobs faces up to 30 years in federal prison at sentencing.  The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown made the announcement.

Arlando Jacobs pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Office of  Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Housing & Urban Development-Office of Inspector General.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Eason.