Christopher Alan Stapleton, 41, Clearwater Beach, Florida, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and three counts of making false statements to a federally-insured financial institution. Stapleton faces a maximum penalty of 95 years in federal prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 29, 2010.
According to the testimony and evidence presented at trial, Stapleton submitted loan applications and other documents containing false and fraudulent information to
various mortgage lenders. Specifically, Stapleton falsely inflated both the contract purchase prices of the real properties that he was buying and his own gross monthly
income in an effort to get the lenders to approve the loans. Relying on Stapleton‘s fraudulent representations, the lenders approved the loans and disbursed loan
proceeds in excess of the true contract purchase prices. Stapleton paid the sellers the contract amounts and, unbeknownst to the lenders, pocketed millions of dollars in excess loan proceeds.
Two other individuals were charged in connection with this case. William Straub, Jr., a former mortgage broker, in Pinellas County, Florida, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution on December 1, 2009. Warren Jay Knaust, an attorney in Pinellas County, who acted as title agent in the charged
transactions, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution on August 6, 2010. Knaust is scheduled to be sentenced on October 29,
2010, and Straub‘s sentencing date has not yet been set.
U.S. Attorney A. Brian Albritton announced the verdict.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rachelle DesVaux Bedke and Simon Gaugush. This case is a part of the Middle District of Florida’s Mortgage Fraud Initiative, a joint effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies throughout the Middle District of Florida. It is a “Phase II” case, brought following the initial wave of Mortgage Fraud Initiative prosecutions, the Mortgage Fraud Surge, which occurred over ten months in 2009 and netted more that 100 defendants. Phase II of the Mortgage Fraud Initiative seeks to build upon the Surge, its leads and techniques, to uncover and prosecute increasingly complex mortgage frauds.