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Christopher Castle, 57, formerly of Petaluma, California was found guilty on Monday of 35 counts in a bank fraud scheme that sought to fraudulently eliminate home mortgages and then profit on the subsequent home sales.

According to court documents, between April 22, 2010, and November 18, 2011, Castle was the leader of a conspiracy that ran a “mortgage elimination program” that purported to help distressed homeowners avoid foreclosure. The conspirators fraudulently altered the chain of title on residential properties, sold the properties, and received the sales proceeds.

As a requirement for participation in the “mortgage elimination program,” the conspirators enrolled homeowners as members in a Nevada City-based church named Shon-te-East-a, Walks With Spirit, or its successor entity Pillow Foundation. The conspirators told the homeowners that these entities would offer protection against the banks.

Castle directed other co-conspirators in all aspects of the mortgage elimination program, including recruiting homeowners into the scheme, marshaling the necessary recorded documents, and guiding the homes through sale. Once the homeowner enrolled with Shon-te-East-a or Pillow Foundation, Castle would cause a sham deed of trust to be created and recorded, giving the impression that the homeowner had refinanced the mortgage loan with a new lender. In reality, the new lender was a fake entity controlled by the conspirators, and the homeowner owed no money to the purported new lender.

The next step in the process was also a recorded document. The conspirators caused a fake deed of reconveyance to be recorded, giving the appearance that the true mortgage loan had been discharged and that the true lienholder no longer had a security interest in the home.

With title appearing to be clear, the conspirators caused the sale of the home and split the proceeds between the co-conspirators and the homeowners.

In total, 37 properties were sold through the Shon-te-East-a conspiracy. The conspirators recorded fraudulent documents on an additional approximately 100 homes but were unable to sell these before the scheme unraveled.

In May 2020, Castle was extradited to the United States from Australia. Castle had fled to New Zealand and then Australia in 2011 when it became clear that his scheme was unraveling. After a three-year extradition process, Castle was transported back to the United States by the U.S. Marshals Service to stand trial in the United States.

The U.S. Marshals Service successfully conducted this extradition during the height of the pandemic,” said Acting U.S. Marshal Lasha R. Boyden for the Eastern District of California. “To minimize exposure, the extradition was conducted expeditiously with minimal time on the ground. All safety precautions were implemented, and Mr. Castle was extradited back to the United States without incident.

This was the first jury trial in the Eastern District of California since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert made the announcement.

Castle decided to game the system so that he could profit in the midst of the then looming financial crisis, to which his actions contributed,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Talbert. “We are gratified by the jury’s verdict for this significant fraud scheme.

Mortgage fraud is not a victimless crime. Identifying and investigating those who abuse the system for their own personal gain ensures the mortgage system is safer and fairer for everyone. The FBI affirms our commitment to pursuing those who leverage false statements made to financial institutions to enrich themselves while threatening the stability of the banking system and taking advantage of distressed homeowners desperate to retain their homes or start anew without significant losses,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “We thank our domestic and international law enforcement partners for their continued efforts to ensure fugitives will face justice regardless of the distance traveled or time that has elapsed.”

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey B. Hemesath and Tanya B. Syed are prosecuting the case.

Three other co-defendants have previously entered guilty pleas. On April 21, 2017, Remus A. Kirkpatrick, formerly of Oceanside, California pleaded guilty to one count of falsely making writings of lending associations. On May 26, 2017, Michael Romano, Benicia, California pleaded guilty to conspiracy. On July 14, 2017, Laura Pezzi, Roseville, California pleaded guilty to falsely making writings of lending associations.

In related cases, on September 4, 2015, Tisha Trites and Todd Smith, both of San Diego, California pleaded guilty to related charges.

Two other co-defendants, George B. Larsen and Larry Todt, were convicted of conspiracy and bank fraud following a jury trial in December 2017.

Co-defendant John Michael DiChiara passed away on Aug. 24, 2019, while awaiting trial.

Castle is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. on October 28, 2021, at which time he faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for bank fraud, 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for falsely making documents of a lending association, and five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy. 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.

Patrick Joseph Soria, 35, West Hollywood, California was sentenced today to 152 months in federal prison for orchestrating a real estate fraud scheme that victimized more than 2,000 homeowners, involved fraudulent filings that affected the title to properties across the country and caused more than $7 million in losses.

From January 2015 to June 2018, Soria stole money from homeowners and would-be home buyers through a two-pronged scheme.

Firstly, Soria hijacked title to properties through fraudulent title filings done at county recorders’ offices around the country. He faked the filings to make it appear that he owned the properties, and then “sold” the properties to victims who thought they were buying the homes from the true owner. In fact, Soria never owned the homes, and he instead used the victims’ “purchase” money for his own personal expenses, including escort services, stays at luxury hotels, and Bentley and Lamborghini car rentals.

In the second part of the scheme, Soria convinced homeowners that he could help them with their mortgages, either by assisting them with a loan modification or by taking over their mortgage from their lender, with the promised result, either way, of reducing their mortgage payments. He told them that he had achieved success in this area in the past, and he convinced them that he was trying to help them, often befriending them to gain their trust and give them hope.

After gaining the victims’ trust, Soria convinced homeowners to stop paying their real lender and to start paying him. Through yet more fraudulent filings, Soria deceived his victims into believing he had taken over their mortgages. He also falsely lulled victims into doing nothing to protect themselves when they started receiving foreclosure and eviction notices. Many of the homeowners targeted in the scheme lost their homes.

As part of the fraud, Soria used company names such as HBSC US and Deutsche Mellon National Asset LLC, designed to trick homeowners into thinking that these companies were real. He also took advantage of the complex mix of lenders, trustees, beneficiaries, and servicers in the mortgage market, and the assignments of mortgage loans between entities, to confuse homeowners and to make it seem as if he did in fact own the properties and mortgages.

More than 2,000 individuals were victimized through this scheme. Soria admitted in court documents that losses totaled more than $7.6 million. In addition to causing losses to individual homeowners, the fraud scheme also victimized numerous lenders who held mortgages on, or other interests in, properties targeted in the scheme.

The targeted properties were located nationwide, including in Texas, New York, Nevada, and in the California cities of Vernon, Beverly Hills, Santa Ana, Yorba Linda, Anaheim and elsewhere.

A restitution hearing is scheduled for October 25, 2021. Soria pleaded guilty on March 2, 2021 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of contempt of court.

Soria was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who called Soria “a skillful conman who created a very sophisticated scheme.” Judge Fischer also stated, “This is not the largest case I have presided over in terms of dollars, but it is the most brazen and heartless.”

In a related matter, Soria committed numerous acts of contempt of court in a related civil case before Judge Fischer, Nationstar Mortgage LLC v. Patrick Soria, et al., 18-cv-03041-DSF-RAO (C.D. Cal.), including willfully spending funds subject to an asset freeze. The contempt resulted in his incarceration in 2018, and criminal charges filed by the Court in 2019 by way of an Order to Show Cause.

This matter was investigated by the FBI and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department; the Beverly Hills Police Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office; and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Assistant United States Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section prosecuted this case.

 

Robert Charles Sneed, 56, Indio, California, pleaded guilty today to one count of theft of government property for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund in California, a program that provides mortgage payment assistance for unemployed or underemployed homeowners.

According to his plea agreement, in February 2016, Sneed lied under penalty of perjury when he signed an affidavit saying that he was unemployed, when in fact he was employed, to receive Hardest Hit Funds administered by Keep Your Home California. Based on his statement and continuing concealment of his employment, he received 18 monthly payments of unemployment mortgage assistance payments of approximately $2,279. He received more than $41,000 from March 2016 through July 2017. He then became delinquent on his mortgage and deeded his house to his 18-year old stepson, who filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition based on Sneed’s request.

United States District Judge John F. Walter has scheduled an October 25, 2021 sentencing hearing, at which time Sneed will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Anyone who steals from or defrauds the Hardest Hit Fund will be investigated and prosecuted,” said Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General. “I thank the United States Attorney’s Office and FBI for standing with SIGTARP to bring justice.

Keep Your Home California provided these funds under the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund that provided mortgage payment assistance program that provided eligible low or moderate income homeowners who were involuntarily unemployed with temporary mortgage assistance so that they could avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. SIGTARP investigated the case with the FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin J. Weir of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California is prosecuting this case.

Pilar Rose, 58, Fresno, California was charged today with bank fraud, tax evasion, obstructing an IRS tax audit, and aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents, Rose, who managed her husband’s orthodontics practice, committed bank fraud by submitting false financial information to obtain a $1.4 million home refinance and a loan for a BMW. She committed aggravated identity theft by using an acquaintance’s Social Security number for the latter loan.

Rose evaded over $400,000 in taxes in 2014 and 2015. She then altered and produced financial records to the IRS during an audit to make personal expenses appear to be deductible business expenses.

Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton is prosecuting the case.

If convicted of evading taxes, Rose faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If convicted of obstructing an IRS audit, she faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If convicted of bank fraud, she faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If convicted of aggravated identity theft, she faces a penalty of two years in prison consecutive to any other sentence she may receive and a fine of up to $250,000. Any sentence, however, would 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 charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Adolfo Schoneke, 43, Torrance, California and his sister, Bianca Gonzalez, a.k.a. Blanca Schoneke, 38, Walnut, California, a brother-and-sister team were arrested today on federal charges alleging they orchestrated a $6 million real estate fraud scam in which they listed homes without the owners’ consent and collected money from multiple would-be buyers for each of the not-for-sale homes.

According to the indictment, Schoneke and Gonzalez, with the help of co-conspirators, operated real estate and escrow companies based in Cerritos, La Palma and Long Beach, California under a variety of names, including MCR and West Coast. The indictment alleges Schoneke and Gonzalez found properties that they would list for sale – even though many, in fact, were not for sale, and they did not have authority to list them for sale – and they then marketed the properties as short sales providing opportunities for purchases at below-market prices.

Using other people’s broker’s licenses, Schoneke and Gonzalez allegedly listed the properties on real estate websites such as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). In some cases, the indictment alleges, the homes were marketed through open houses that co-conspirators were able to host after tricking homeowners into allowing their homes to be used.

As part of the alleged scheme, the co-conspirators accepted multiple offers for each of the not-for-sale properties, hiding this fact from the victims and instead leading each of the victims to believe that his or her offer was the only one accepted. The co-conspirators allegedly were able to string along the victims – sometimes for years – by telling them closings were being delayed because lenders needed to approve the purported short sales.

The indictment also alleges that Schoneke and Gonzalez directed office workers to open bank accounts in the office workers’ names. Those accounts were used to receive down payments on the homes and other payments from victims who were convinced to transfer the full “purchase price” to these bank accounts after receiving forged short sale approval letters. Schoneke and Gonzalez also allegedly directed the office workers to withdraw large amounts of cash from these accounts and give it to them – a procedure that allowed Schoneke and Gonzalez to take possession of the fraud proceeds while hiding their involvement in the scheme.

Investigators estimate that several hundred victims collectively lost more than $6 million during the scheme.

Each pleaded not guilty this afternoon to nine charges contained in an indictment unsealed after their arrests. The indictment charges Schoneke and Gonzalez with one count of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

During the arraignments this afternoon, a trial was scheduled for June 1, 2021. Both defendants will remain in custody at least until detention hearings scheduled for Friday for Schoneke and April 13, 2021 for Gonzalez.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted of all charges, Schoneke and Gonzalez each would face a statutory maximum sentence of 162 years in federal prison.

This matter was investigated by the FBI and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General. The investigation was initiated by numerous complaints to the Long Beach Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, both of which provided substantial assistance during the federal investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section.

David Daughtrey, 60, El Cajon, California was sentenced in federal court today on charges of bank fraud and tax evasion.

In July 2020, Daughtrey pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and tax fraud, and one count of filing a false tax return. Daughtrey’s illegal conduct spanned for a decade, from 2006 until 2016. For several years, Daughtrey evaded income tax by under-reporting his income and orchestrated an illegal scheme to fraudulently obtain a mortgage for his $1.8 million residence using a third party.  The total tax loss to the United States in this case was $1,053,989.63.

According to court documents, from July 2006 until April 2016, Daughtrey conspired with others to commit the crimes to which he pleaded guilty. As part of the bank fraud scheme, Daughtrey directed another individual to submit a mortgage application to a national bank to purchase a $1.8 million five-bedroom residence, and to falsely claim that the funds used as down payment belonged to, and the residence would be used by, the third party.

In reality, Daughtrey provided the funds and the home was intended to be Daughtrey’s primary residence. Daughtrey made monthly mortgage payments of approximately $8,000 for his residence but continued to represent to the bank that the third party owned the house. Daughtrey later submitted a false hardship letter on behalf of the third party in an effort to modify the terms of the loan on the home.

Over several years, Daughtrey conspired to commit tax evasion by filing tax returns listing substantially less income than Daughtrey actually earned.  Daughtrey’s tax return for the year 2012, for example, omitted at least $498,612 in income.  Daughtrey failed to report his total income in tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015, and did not file timely tax returns for subsequent years.  Daughtrey agreed to pay $1,053,989.63 in restitution to the IRS, which includes the total tax loss plus penalties and interest.

Daughtrey was sentenced to 18 months in custody and ordered to pay restitution of $1,519,590.63.

The defendant abused our tax and banking systems for his own financial benefit, and the victims of that crime are ethical taxpayers and bank customers,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Today’s sentence will hopefully remind others that there is a high price to pay for such deception.” Grossman thanked prosecutor Oleksandra Johnson and agents from the IRS and FBI for their excellent work on this case.

While Mr. Daughtrey achieved business success, he failed in his obligations as an American by lying to our banks and cheating the government,” said Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Korner, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Today’s sentencing shows that we will hold accountable those who deceive and exploit our people and financial institutions because of their greed.

The FBI and our partners at the IRS uncovered David Daughtrey’s mortgage fraud and tax evasion scheme using our team’s financial and fraud expertise,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner.  “Today’s sentencing serves as a warning to those who attempt to personally gain by deliberately cheating the government and the integrity of the banking system through financial fraud.  Our team of fraud experts will bring justice in these white-collar cases.”

Eva Christine Rodriguez, 65, Laguna Hills, California, and Sergio Lorenzo Lawrence, 46, Laguna Niguel, California, were arrested and charged today with wire fraud offenses in connection with a fraudulent foreclosure rescue scheme that took in more than $5 million in prohibited advance fees from thousands of financially distressed homeowners..

According to the Complaint[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

From approximately March 2014 through April 2018, Eva Christine Rodriguez and Sergio Lorenzo Rodriguez (the “Defendants”) owned and/or managed a series of mortgage modification companies through which they perpetrated a scheme to defraud and attempt to defraud financially distressed consumers who were facing or were at imminent risk of foreclosure through deceptive marketing practices.  Those companies were National Servicing Center, American Home Servicing Center, National Advocacy Center, National Advocacy Group, and Capital Home Advocacy Center (collectively, the “Companies”).  Among other ways, the Defendants charged desperate homeowners thousands of dollars in prohibited advance fees by tricking them into believing that they had been pre-approved by their lender or servicer for a mortgage modification; falsely represented prohibited advance fees to be closing costs or other non-prohibited costs; fraudulently claimed that the Companies achieved success rates of 95 percent or higher for mortgage modifications; and made empty promises of a no-risk money back guarantee.  As a result of their intentional misrepresentations, and misrepresentations that they encouraged their subordinates to make, the Defendants induced thousands of homeowners to pay an aggregate of more than $5 million in prohibited advance fees to the Companies, including a large number of consumers who were ultimately denied mortgage modifications or who received modification offers that were less favorable than they had been led to expect at the time they paid advance fees.

In February 2018, the Federal Trade Commission brought a civil lawsuit against Eva Christine Rodriguez and Sergio Lorenzo Rodriguez, among others, in federal court in Santa Ana, California.  That civil action resulted first in a temporary restraining order and then a permanent injunction barring the Defendants from marketing and selling all debt relief products and services.  As alleged in the Complaint, the Defendants flouted those judicial orders by having a relative create another mortgage modification company named 1st Premier Asset Solutions, which the Defendants operated using aliases and some of the same deceptive practices.

The Defendants will be presented in federal court in Santa Ana later today.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”) made the announcement.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “As alleged, Eva Christine Rodriguez and Sergio Lorenzo Rodriguez preyed on vulnerable homeowners at risk of foreclosure by making false and misleading promises that they knew they would not or could not keep.  They allegedly continued to do so even after they were barred from the debt relief industry by a federal court in California.  They now face serious criminal charges.

USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said:  “Loan Modification Scams are a cruel fraud targeting very desperate homeowners faced with losing their homes. While a loan modification may appear to be a lifeline, these scams often become a nightmare. This is allegedly what happened to victims who did business with Eva and Sergio Rodriguez. Postal Inspectors remain on alert for fraud scams targeting consumers, bringing fraudsters to justice worldwide.”

Ms. Strauss praised the investigative work of the USPIS and thanked the Federal Trade Commission and the United States Trustee for Region 5 for their assistance.

This case is being handled by the Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Lai is in charge of the prosecution.

If you believe you are a potential victim of this fraud, please contact Postal Inspector Brandy King-Gonzalez of the USPIS at bnking-gonzalez@uspis.gov, or (212) 330-5252.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

Aminullah “David” Sarpas, 37, Irvine, California and Samuel Paul Bain, 40, Tustin, California were sentenced late this afternoon, with one being ordered to serve 12 years in federal prison, for their key roles in businesses that offered bogus modification programs to homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

The two defendants who were associated with the Santa Ana, California based company U.S. Homeowners Relief and several related businesses participated in a long-running “advance fee” scheme that caused more than 1,600 homeowners to suffer over $3.5 million in losses. Many victims lost their homes in subsequent foreclosure proceedings.

The Defendants were also co-owners of Greenleaf Modify, Waypoint Law Group, and American Lending Review.

Sarpas and Bain established U.S. Homeowners Relief in late 2008, using it and the subsequent companies to offer programs that falsely offered to help distressed homeowners obtain modifications of their mortgages. Sarpas and Bain initially marketed the programs themselves, but they also used TV, radio and internet advertisements, as well as a team of telemarketers to entice victims. Homeowners who agreed to participate – based on false claims, including that the companies had a 97 percent success rate in obtaining loan modifications that dramatically reduced monthly mortgage payments – were charged an advance fee ranging between $1,450 and $4,200. In short, the scheme “compounded these homeowners’ financial woes by inducing them to dig the hole they were in even deeper,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.

There were two other defendants named in a 2014 indictment. One man was acquitted of all counts. The fourth defendant, Louis Saggiani, 70, Huntington Beach, California pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

Sarpas was sentenced to 144 months in federal prison after being convicted by a jury in April 2019 of 10 counts of conspiracy and mail fraud.

Bain was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty in 2016 to conspiracy and mail fraud.

The two men were sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney.

The investigation was conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) and IRS Criminal Investigation.

This matter was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Ryan G. Adams of the Santa Ana Branch Office and Assistant United States Attorney David H. Chao of the Major Frauds Section.

David Daughtrey, 60, El Cajon, California, pleaded guilty in federal court today to bank fraud and tax evasion charges, admitting that over the course of several years he evaded taxes by failing to report $498,612 of income to the IRS, and also orchestrated an illegal scheme to fraudulently obtain a mortgage for his $1.8 million residence using a third party.

Daughtrey admitted that from July 2006 until April 2016, he conspired with others to commit bank fraud and tax evasion. As part of the bank fraud scheme, Daughtrey directed another individual to submit a mortgage application to Wells Fargo to purchase a $1.8 million five-bedroom residence, and to falsely claim that the funds used as down payment belonged to the third party and the residence would be used by the third party.  In reality, Daughtrey provided the funds, and the home was intended to be Daughtrey’s primary residence. Daughtrey made monthly mortgage payments of approximately $8,000 for his residence, but continued to represent to the bank that the third party owned the house.  Daughtrey later submitted a false hardship letter on behalf of the third party in an effort to get the bank to modify the terms of the loan on the home.  As part of the plea agreement, Daughtrey admitted he was the true owner of the residence at all relevant times, and promised to make a good faith effort to transfer the legal ownership of the home into his own name.

Daughtrey also admitted as part his plea that over several years, he and his spouse (who is not charged in the case) conspired to commit tax evasion by filing tax returns listing substantially less income than Daughtrey actually earned.  Daughtrey’s tax return for the year 2012 omitted at least $498,612 in income.  Daughtrey failed to report his total income in tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015, and did not file timely tax returns for subsequent years.  According to the plea agreement, the resulting tax loss to the IRS for the years 2012-2014 was $456,536.   Daughtrey agreed to pay $1,016,457.91 in restitution to the IRS, which includes the total tax loss plus penalties and interest.

As part of his plea agreement, David Daughtrey also agreed to pay over $1 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 16, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns.

People who cheat on their taxes are cheating all other law-abiding tax payers,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “Mr. Daughtrey blatantly disregarded his tax obligations for years.  The defendant not only abused the tax system for his own financial benefit, but conspired to commit bank fraud in order to maintain this lifestyle.” Brewer commended the excellent work of prosecutor Oleksandra Johnson and FBI and IRS agents.

The FBI is dedicated to ensuring that white collar crimes are uncovered and prosecuted,” stated FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Omer Meisel. “Today, David Daughtrey has admitted to mortgage fraud and tax evasion.  This case illustrates that the FBI will continue to investigate those individuals that engage in fraudulent financial schemes that cause harm to our banking industry and defraud the government of tax revenue.

Our Nation’s tax system funds critical infrastructures and vital programs, including supporting our citizens and small businesses during the ongoing pandemic,” Ryan L. Korner, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Honest Americans’ compliance with the tax laws is imperative. Rather than pay his fair share, David Daughtrey chose to live lavishly, while intentionally failing to report his true income and evading the payment of over $400,000 in taxes.  Today’s guilty plea demonstrates that the IRS will diligently continue our important enforcement efforts despite the ongoing challenges posed by Covid-19.  We will work alongside our law enforcement partners in a collective effort to enforce the law and ensure the public trust.”

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud and Tax Evasion, 18 U.S.C. § 371 (count 1); and

Making a False Tax Return, 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1) (count 2).

Maximum penalty:

Five years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine (count 1)

Three years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greatest (count 2)

AGENCY

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Internal Revenue Service

 

Carlo Hamrahi, Los Angeles, California, was arrested for bilking Florida seniors, on a warrant issued out of Lee County, Florida. The arrest follows an investigation by DFS and OSP uncovering massive mortgage fraud targeting dozens of seniors.

According to an investigation, Hamrahi, using the alias Roberto Colleoni, defrauded home and business owners in Florida by claiming to be a mortgage fraud investigator. Hamrahi promised targets he could get mortgage payments reduced or eliminated by discovering fraud in loan documents. Hamrahi invited victims to seminars and solicited thousands of dollars in upfront fees for these fraudulent services. Hamrahi defrauded at least 24 victims, many 60 or older.

Authorities in California convicted Hamrahi twice previously of similar crimes on the West Coast. Indiana authorities also convicted Hamrahi on similar charges.

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’s Department of Financial Services made the announcement.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “For many seniors, their homes are their most valuable asset and a cornerstone of their retirement plan. The defendant in this case used the allure of reducing or eliminating mortgage payments to defraud Florida seniors. He promised them financial freedom and in doing so risked losing his own freedom for decades to come. I want to commend my Statewide Prosecutors and DFS investigators for their diligent efforts in this case. I also want to thank California authorities for apprehending the suspect.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, “Orchestrating a fraud scheme to take advantage of Floridians is despicable and it’s especially heinous when it’s our seniors who fall victim. These individuals worked their entire lives to build a nest egg and unfortunately scam artists like this will do anything to steal their money. I thank Attorney General Moody’s Office and my fraud investigators for their hard work together in uncovering this scheme and bringing this fraudster to justice.”

Hamrahi is charged with one count of being involved in an organized scheme to defraud, in violation of F.S. 817.034(4)(1). If convicted, Hamrahi faces up to 30 years in prison. Attorney General Moody’s Assistant Statewide Prosecutor Russell C. Stoddard will prosecute the case.