SAN FRANCISCO — Two former senior executives at Sonoma Valley Bank and an attorney for one of its biggest borrowers were sentenced to prison Friday for their roles in defrauding the bank, costing taxpayers and investors millions of dollars when it collapsed in 2010. Sean Cutting, the bank’s former president and CEO, and Brian Melland, its former vice president and chief loan officer, each received eight-year sentences from U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston.
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Geo Geovanni, 49, and Elizabeth Longerbone, 39, both of Moultrie, Georgia, have been charged today with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and four counts of bank fraud.
According to the indictment, Geovanni and Longerbone devised and executed a mortgage fraud scheme involving “The Landing,” a condominium conversion of a former apartment complex located in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The scheme involved providing the cash-to-close funds on behalf of the buyers, guarantying tenants and rental payments to the buyers, as well as paying post-closing kickbacks of mortgage proceeds to buyers and co-conspirators through entities that Geovanni and Longerbone controlled. None of the incentives or kickbacks were disclosed to the financial institutions that had approved and funded the mortgage loans.
If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison for each count.
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 and the FBI. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.
Walter Woldt, 55, Crown Point, Indiana, was sentenced on his plea of guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
According to documents in this case, in 2006 and 2007 Woldt worked with Al Rodenburg, a mortgage broker based in Texas, to purchase 14 residential properties in Northwest Indiana in the span of 30 days with no money down. Defendants Rodenburg and Woldt worked out an arrangement where Woldt obtained mortgages that Rodenburg found for him on multiple properties beginning on January 3, 2007. They continued the process of closing on multiple properties roughly twice a week up through February 1, 2007. They knew that by closing on the properties so quickly mortgages Woldt obtained in early January 2007 would not hit his credit report for at least 30 days thereby depriving subsequent lenders, including lenders who purchased these mortgages in the secondary market, of material information they would want and need to know about Woldt’s debts for purposes of evaluating credit worthiness. Defendant Rodenburg did this for the commission he received on the mortgages Woldt obtained. Defendant Rodenberg was sentenced on February 22, 2018 to a 14 month prison term, two years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1, 004,991 in restitution.
Woldt was sentenced to 14 months in prison followed by 24 months of home detention and ordered to pay $1,004,991 in restitution. He was ordered to report to the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) on August 3, 2018.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II.
This case was investigated by the FDIC-Office of Inspector General and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Diane Berkowitz.
Lyndon Chin, 54, Northport, New York was indicted today for using a 91-year-old man’s real estate properties to fraudulently obtain $8.5 million in unauthorized mortgage loans.
According to the indictment, documents filed in court, and statements made on the record, Chin had acted as a real estate broker for the 91-year-old victim in prior real estate transactions. In that capacity, the defendant helped the victim with the purchase and sale of residential and commercial real estate and had knowledge of the victim’s properties and the corporation through which he owned them.
In October 2015, Chin used his knowledge of the victim’s real estate holdings to falsify documents in the name of the victim’s company and obtain $5 million in mortgage loans on four of the victim’s Lower Manhattan, New York properties without his knowledge. Chin then opened a bank account in the name of the victim’s corporation and deposited approximately $4.4 million of the fraudulently obtained funds into that account. A large portion of the funds was paid to at least 20 personal and corporate bank accounts, including accounts belonging to members of the defendant’s family, and the remainder was used to cover personal expenses such as car payments, insurance payments, and jewelry.
From March through May 2016, Chin secured another $3.5 million in mortgage loans using similar means and deposited approximately $1.9 million into a bank account that he had opened specifically to receive the funds, before transferring the funds into a different account that he controlled.
The defendant is charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with two counts of Grand Larceny in the First Degree. 
The conduct was uncovered and the matter was referred to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office after the victim was rejected for a mortgage loan on an unrelated business opportunity due to the existing mortgages that the defendant had fraudulently obtained on his properties. This indictment is the result of a 16-month-long, ongoing investigation by the Office’s Financial Frauds Bureau.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. made the announcement.
“Frauds against seniors and other vulnerable residents of Manhattan will be met with the full force of our laws,” said District Attorney Vance. “As alleged in the indictment, the defendant is charged with exploiting his access to a 91-year-old victim’s business in order to falsify corporate documents and secure more than $8 million in fraudulent mortgage loans in just two years. I encourage all victims of financial crime to call our Financial Frauds Bureau at (212) 335-8900.”
Assistant D.A. Caitlin Naun is handling the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant D.A.s Gloria Garcia, Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, and Archana Rao, Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, as well as Executive Assistant D.A. Michael Sachs, Chief of the Investigation Division. Trial Preparation Assistant Kelly Lai, Investigator Michael O’Brien, Financial Investigator Elaine Li, and Chief of the Forensic Accounting and Financial Investigations Bureau Robert Demarest also provided valuable assistance on the case.
 The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court.
Dan Heine and Diana Yates, former executives at the Bank of Oswego in Lake Oswego, Oregon, were sentenced today to one count each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and twelve counts each of falsifying bank entries, reports, and transactions
Dan Heine, a co-founder of the bank, was president, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and member of the board of directors from September 2004 through September 2014. Diana Yates was executive vice president, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and secretary of the board of directors from 2004 through March 2012. During the conspiracy Heine and Yates concealed the true financial condition of the bank to regulators and the board of directors by falsely reporting that the bank had title to a property in a straw buyer transaction, falsely reporting that delinquent loans were paid, and falsely reporting the sale of bank owned property. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/oregon-bank-officers-indicted/#more-22161
Heine and Yates were sentenced to 24 and 18 months in prison, respectively.
“Dan Heine and Diane Yates orchestrated one of the largest and most complex bank fraud schemes in Oregon’s history. Their selfish acts of greed are deplorable,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. “While we urged the court to impose longer sentences, these sentences still serve as a warning to bank executives and others entrusted with fiduciary responsibilities. We will continue to work with federal investigators to protect investors and ensure the trustworthiness of our financial institutions.”
“For centuries, the American banking system has served as the bedrock of the U.S. economy. Honest bankers are critical to our financial system. By addressing lies and conspiracies at the Bank of Oswego, the FBI and Department of Justice have helped re-establish the integrity of the financial system we all rely on,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon
A forfeiture and restitution hearing has been scheduled for August 7, 2018. The case was investigated by the FBI and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG) and prosecuted by Claire Fay, Quinn Harrington, and Michelle Kerin, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon.
Robert Levie Norris, Jr., 50, New Bern, North Carolina was sentenced today to 48 months in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and obstruction of a federal bank examination.
According to court records, statements made in court, and other public information, Norris was the first President and Chief Executive Officer of Coastal Bank and Trust (CB&T), which opened its doors to customers in 2009. Norris served in this capacity from April 2009 to June 2013. As CB&T’s highest ranking executive, Norris was entrusted to oversee all aspects of CB&T’s business and to ensure that CB&T operated in accordance with applicable federal and state laws, rules, and regulations. In June 2013, it was discovered that Norris had engaged in a scheme to defraud CB&T by engineering fraudulent loan transactions with straw borrowers where the true beneficiaries of the loans were co-conspirators of Norris, business entities controlled by Norris, or Norris himself. The offending loans included unsecured lines of credit, small business loans, and mortgages for commercial and residential properties. Norris used his position of trust and authority at CB&T to circumvent the bank’s internal controls and normal loan underwriting procedures. To conceal his scheme, Norris withheld relevant information about the fraudulent loans from CB&T’s board of directors and examiners from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. CB&T suffered losses of approximately $2.4 million as a result of Norris’ conduct.
The Court ordered the term of imprisonment to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. Norris was also ordered to pay $2,397,475 in restitution. Norris was named in a Criminal Information on April 18, 2017 alleging the above offenses. Norris pled guilty to the charges on May 17, 2017.
The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Robert J. Higdon, Jr., made the announcement.
“When a bank official uses their position for their own personal profit they do more than commit a federal crime, they abuse their power and violate the public’s trust. Mr. Norris’ sentence today is proof of the commitment of the FBI to work with other law enforcement agencies to find these offenders and hold them accountable,” said John Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina.
United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. said, “Mr. Norris used his position of trust to unlawfully line his pockets with money to which he was not entitled. The USAO-EDNC will always work with federal, state, and local law enforcement to vigorously investigate and prosecute this type of criminal conduct. Mr. Norris’ sentence sends a strong message that this type of conduct will not be tolerated and will be punished accordingly.”
“Mr. Norris’ fraud scheme and deception of bank examiners is the type of criminal conduct that impedes federal regulators from effectively supervising banking institutions,” said Mark Bialek, Inspector General of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. “Today’s sentencing is one more step in a joint effort with our federal partners to hold accountable those who undermine the integrity of those institutions.”
“This sentencing holds the defendant accountable for misusing his position as the bank President and CEO to fabricate fraudulent loans with straw borrowers, evade internal controls, and withhold information from the bank’s Board. The underlying conspiracy cost the bank millions of dollars. This case demonstrates the importance of cooperation among law enforcement partners to combat such criminal conduct and maintain the integrity of financial institutions,” said FDIC Inspector General Jay N. Lerner.
Investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System – Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Adam Hulbig prosecuted the case for the government.
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.
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.
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.