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Thomas M. Murtha, 61, attorney, Newtown, Connecticut, and Birmingham, Michigan, was indicted by a grand jury and charged with four counts of wire fraud.  Murtha previously operated a law practice in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

As alleged in the indictment, between approximately November 2011 and April 2017, Murtha fraudulently obtained and converted hundreds of thousands of dollars from his victims, including clients of his law practice, family members and friends.  Murtha falsely represented to client-victims that he had safeguarded and disbursed the proceeds from legal representations when, in fact, he had used their money for his own benefit, including making payments to other victims.  In furtherance of the fraud, Murtha used false and forged documents, including at least one mortgage and a trust document.

It is alleged that Murtha used some of the stolen funds to purchase a $725,000 house in Michigan, a 2.11 carat diamond engagement ring, and other items.

If convicted, Murtha faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years on each count of the indictment.

The indictment seeks the forfeiture of the Michigan house and the engagement ring, as well as a money judgment of at least $1,991,628.83, which constitutes proceeds of the alleged fraud scheme.

Murtha was arrested on a criminal complaint on April 5, 2017, and is released on a $10,000 bond.  His arraignment is not yet scheduled.

In September 2016, Murtha resigned from the bar after three grievance complaints were filed against him.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced the indictment and noted that the investigation is ongoing.  Anyone with information that may be helpful to the investigation, or those who believe they have been victimized by this alleged scheme, are encouraged to contact Detective Robert McKiernan at (203) 382-6660.

The matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Greenwich Police Department.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Laraia and David Huang.

Bradford Barneys, 51, Odenton, Maryland, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to 30 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring with Timothy W. Burke in a long-running fraud scheme that targeted distressed homeowners throughout Connecticut. Barneys was an attorney licensed to practice in Connecticut and has an office in Bridgeport.

According to court documents and statements made in court, between approximately 2010 and November 2015, Timothy W. Burke, formerly of Easton, engaged in a scheme to defraud individuals, mortgage lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by falsely representing to homeowners who were in, or facing, foreclosure on their homes that he would purchase their homes and pay off their mortgages. The distressed homeowners agreed to sign various documents that Burke presented to them on the understanding that, by signing the documents, they would be able to walk away from their homes without the burdens of their mortgage or other costs associated with home ownership. Burke also told homeowners that the process of negotiating with the lenders can take time and that, in the meantime, to ignore any notices regarding foreclosure. After he gained control of these houses, Burke rented out the properties to tenants by advertising the properties on craigslist.com and other means and falsely representing to tenants that Burke owned the property.

Burke or one of his agents then collected rent from tenants, and Burke used the funds for his own benefit. He also failed to negotiate with the homeowners’ mortgage lender or pay expenses associated with the home, including the homeowner’s mortgages and property taxes, and he failed to pay any rental income he was collecting to the homeowners. Many of the properties Burke purportedly purchased were ultimately foreclosed upon by the mortgage lender.

Burke undertook extensive efforts to disguise his true identity, and hide his criminal past, from his victims through the use of multiple aliases and business entities, and to conceal the sources of and expenditures from his criminal proceeds.

Between approximately 2011 to at least 2014, Barneys participated in dozens of meetings with Burke and with homeowners at Barneys’ law offices in Bridgeport. At the meetings, Burke represented to homeowners that he would purchase their properties and presented to the homeowners quitclaim deeds, management agreements, indemnification agreements, and third party authorizations.

Barneys was paid more than $72,000 in fees and other monies for his participation in the fraud.

At some point after BARNEYS began representing Burke in these meetings with homeowners, BARNEYS knew that Burke had no intention of buying the properties and paying the outstanding mortgages on the properties. Nevertheless, BARNEYS continued to participate in these meetings and represented that these transactions were legitimate. When questioned by homeowners about the status of their sales, BARNEYS would assure them that their sales to Burke or one of his companies were progressing as Burke promised. BARNEYS also knew that, once Burke obtained the properties from the homeowners, he would rent them out to tenants.

BARNEYS also represented Burke and his companies in eviction proceedings against tenants.

The investigation further revealed that BARNEYS engaged in separate fraud scheme similar to the scheme that Burke engineered. BARNEYS assisted two Maryland residents in purchasing a commercial property located on Boston Avenue in Bridgeport. BARNEYS then acted as a purported landlord for the property, executed long-term lease agreements with at least two tenants, and collected tens of thousands of dollars of rent without the actual owners’ knowledge or authorization and kept the funds for his own use.

On February 21, 2017, BARNEYS pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire a fraud.

BARNEYS’ law license was temporarily suspended by state authorities after he pleaded guilty, with additional proceedings scheduled to determine whether further discipline is warranted. Judge Shea ordered BARNEYS not to apply for reinstatement of his law license, and not to engage in any business related to real estate, while he is on supervised release.

On January 24, 2017, Burke pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion. On April 28, 2017, he was sentenced to 108 months of imprisonment.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced the sentence. The matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, with the critical assistance of the Middletown, Plainville, Easton and Coventry Police Departments, the Connecticut State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David T. Huang and Sarah P. Karwan.

Michael Allan Johnson, Jr. attorney, Lexington, North Carolina, and Jennifer Willard Turnmire, mortgage loan broker, Thomasville, North Carolina, also known as Jennifer Willard, were indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

The indictment alleges that Johnson, Turnmire and an individual identified as Person A who was an attorney and is now deceased, recruited Luis Francisco Moreno, a licensed real estate broker and real estate developer residing in Greer, North Carolina, who was experiencing financial difficulties in his business ventures, and encouraged him to serve as a loan applicant to take out loans from Wells Fargo Bank and Carolina Bank so that the funds could be diverted to Johnson, Turnmire and Person A so that they could use those funds to pay off an conceal previous fraudulent loans. Materially false information concerning Moreno’s assets and income as well as fraudulent documents, such as bank statements, tax returns and HUD-1 settlement statements, were provided to the financial institutions. The indictment further alleges that Johnson created a fake work estimate from Artisan Construction of Concord Inc. (a company of which Johnson was president) and provided it to a lender in connection with a loan application.  He also created and submitted fake paystubs from White Meadows LLC (a company of which he was the manager/member) to delay foreclosure proceedings. Johnson is also alleged to have created letters on his law firm letterhead falsely indicating that various large sums were being held in the law firm trust and escrow accounts and submitted them the a lender to delay foreclosure proceedings.

The involved properties were 5400 Dorchester Road, Greensboro, North Carolina; a property on Brantley Gordon Road, Denton, North Carolina,

The indictment alleges the conduct occurred from about August 1, 2006 through about December 31, 2010,

Ronald Rodis, 51, Irvine, California, a former attorney, pled guiltyto one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for his role in a multi-million dollar fraudulent mortgage modification scheme.

Rodis admitted that he participated in a scheme with several co-conspirators – Bryan D’Antonio, Charles Wayne Farris and others – to induce homeowners to pay between $3,500 and $5,500 for the services of the Rodis Law Group (RLG). Between October 2008 and June 2009, Rodis and his co-conspirators made numerous misrepresentations regarding the RLG’s ability to negotiate loan modifications from the homeowners’ mortgage lenders.

Rodis recorded radio advertisements encouraging struggling homeowners to call RLG. In the ads, Rodis falsely claimed that RLG consisted of “a team of experienced attorneys” who were “highly skilled in negotiating lower interest rates and even lowering your principal balance.” In fact, RLG was a telemarketing operation that never had a team of experienced attorneys. During much of the scheme, Rodis was the only attorney at RLG.

This defendant posed as an accomplished attorney who could provide quality legal services – and hope – to struggling homeowners,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “But the promises were bogus. Rodis Law Group made few efforts to assist homeowners, who paid thousands of dollars in last-ditch attempts to keep their homes, many of which entered foreclosure.”

When homeowners called RLG, telemarketers made misrepresentations to convince them to hire RLG. For example, telemarketers stated that RLG had been in business for 11 years, when in fact it had only opened in October 2008. They falsely stated that RLG routinely obtained positive results for homeowners, including lower monthly payments, reductions in principal balance and lower interest rates. In fact, positive results were rarely achieved for any RLG clients. Telemarketers also falsely reiterated that homeowners would have a team of attorneys and real estate professionals assigned to their case.

In a plea agreement filed in federal court, Rodis admitted that the RLG scheme fraudulently obtained approximately $6 million from more than 1,500 victims.

It is an unfortunate truth that people often take advantage of a crisis for personal gain,” said Assistant Director in Charge Deirdre Fike of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The Rodis Law Group was among the worst type of scammers, trying to take advantage of homeowners already experiencing profound heartache in the face of potential foreclosure. The FBI will not tolerate this kind of criminal behavior. I truly hope that when the next financial crisis arises, members of the public take a moment to look into claims that sound too good to be true, even if those claims are made by attorneys, before would-be clients become victims.”

United States District Judge David O. Carter accepted the plea and is scheduled to sentence Rodis on February 27, 2017

At the height of the mortgage crisis, this defendant and his co-conspirators preyed on desperate homeowners with a series of lies and false promises,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will continue to prosecute individuals who target vulnerable victims for profit.”

The two co-defendants in the case –D’Antonio and Farris – are each charged with conspiracy and nine counts of wire fraud. Each of these counts carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. In addition, D’Antonio is charged with 13 counts of criminal contempt for violating a 2001 federal court order which permanently banned D’Antonio from participating in future telemarketing operations. Criminal contempt of court has no statutory maximum penalty.

D’Antonio and Farris are scheduled to go on trial on September 20.

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph T. McNally and DOJ Trial Attorney John W. Burke of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.

 

Michelle M. Borzillo, 59, Bristow, Virginia, a former attorney with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was sentenced  to 12 months and one day in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for defrauding Wells Fargo Bank in connection with the sham short sale of her home to her live-in boyfriend.  She was also ordered to pay $288,497 in restitution and to forfeit the proceeds of her offense.

Borzillo pleaded guilty on November 17, 2015 to committing bank fraud.  According to court documents, the defendant was a senior attorney at the FDIC until September 2014.  In 2007, she purchased a home in Nokesville, Virginia, for $850,000, with mortgages totaling $807,500 from Wells Fargo Bank.  In 2013, she engineered the short sale of her Nokesville home to her boyfriend, who had been living with her at the property for several years.  Continue Reading…

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…

Angela M. Blythe, attorney, 52, Oakland, Maryland, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and two counts of making a false statement to a bank.  Blythe was also ordered to forfeit $696,517 and pay restitution of $948,203.25. Blythe was convicted by a federal jury on October 9, 2015, after a nine day trial

Blythe was an attorney licensed to practice in Maryland and West Virginia, with an office in Oakland, Maryland.  She was a settlement attorney in real estate transactions.            Continue Reading…

Stephen Barry Ruza, attorney, 52, Orchard Lake, Michigan, former owner of Home Legal Group Inc., was sentenced to 12 months in Oakland County Jail, followed by five years of probation on one felony count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise.  Ruza pleaded guilty to the charges of defrauding his victims with a fake mortgage assistance scheme in September, 2015.

At the time of sentencing, Ruza was ordered to pay $445,895.16 in restitution to the first 297 of his victims. Under stipulations of his plea deal, Ruza could be ordered to pay hundreds of thousands more in restitution based on the final number of victims. That count is still being determined. Continue Reading…

Louis Marandola, 41, attorney, Providence, Rhode Island; Brian R. McCaffrey, 38, licensed loan originator, East Greenwich, Rhode Island; Raffaele M. Marziale, 41, former loan officer, Bristol, Rhode Island; Lauren Sienko, 33, loan processor, Rehoboth, Massachusetts; Gina M. Ronci Mohamed, 45, licensed real estate agent, Lincoln, Rhode Island; and Edwin Rodriguez, 35,  real estate investor, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, were charged in a 22-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in Providence, Rhode Island with allegedly participating in a conspiracy to obtain money they were not entitled to from financial institutions and individuals through mortgage loans, residential property sales and fees. Continue Reading…

Dahianara Moran, 40, Methuen, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud for to participating in a conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies by engaging in sham “short” sales of residential properties in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts.

Moran conspired with others – including a Methuen loan officer and a Haverhill real estate agent who were not identified in the charging document – to defraud various banks via bogus short sales of homes in Haverhill, MassachusettsLawrence, Massachusetts, and Methuen, Massachusetts. Continue Reading…