Sergio Natera, 35, Bridgeport, Connecticut, a licensed real estate agent, pleaded guilty before United States Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons in Bridgeport to one count of bank fraud stemming from his involvement in a “short sale” mortgage fraud scheme. A short sale transaction involves a mortgage holder or lender entering into an agreement to release its mortgage or lien on real property in exchange for payment of less than the total amount owed on the underlying debt. Many short sale transactions are legitimate.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Natera worked with another real estate agent to defraud Regions Bank, which held two mortgages on a residential property in
Bridgeport, Connecticut. On December 5, 2007, the other real estate agent, who was a listing agent for the property, received an offer to purchase the property for a price of $132,500. However, Natera subsequently communicated to Regions Bank that the highest offer to purchase the property was for $102,375 by BOS Asset Management, LLC, an entity that Natera controlled. The bank agreed to a short sale of the property for the lower price, and released its mortgages on the property. On June 9, 2008, Natera, through BOS Asset Management, sold the property for $132,500 to the original bidder on the property.
Natera is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Janet C. Hall on April 30, 2010, at which time he faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years, a fine of up to $1 million, and an order of restitution.
Nora R. Dannehy, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced the guilty plea.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ann M. Nevins.
In July 2009, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the formation of the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud cases and related financial crimes occurring in Connecticut. In addition to investigating past mortgage fraud schemes, the Task Force will focus on emerging crime trends that are associated with the growing tide of foreclosures, including foreclosure rescue schemes, and short sale schemes. Citizens are encouraged to report any suspected mortgage fraud activity by calling 203-333-3512 and requesting the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General, and State of Connecticut Department of Banking.