Archives For Down Payment Fraud

Luis Antonio Rodriguez, 36, Mission, Texas, and Rogelio Ramos Jr., 36, Pharr, Texas were convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in a “second chance” mortgage lending scheme.  The convictions followed a seven-day-trial and approximately nine hours of deliberation by the jury.

Guadalupe Artemio Gomez, 31, Mission, Texas, pleaded guilty before trial and testified against both Rodriguez and Ramos.

All three were accused of operating a “second chance” financing business under the names of T.G. and Wealth, Infinite Properties and Me In 3D, focusing on individuals who were financially unable to apply for traditional home financing. The investigation revealed Gomez, Rodriguez and Ramos conducted business in McAllen, Mission, Edinburg, Houston and San Antonio, Texas, by hiring recruiters to funnel prospective home buyers to Infinite Properties. The homebuyers then gave 10 percent of the purchase price as a down payment to Infinite Properties.

During trial, the jury heard from victims, law enforcement and an FBI forensic accountant who testified that instead of using the down payments as intended, the money was used for personal expenses, trips to Las Vegas and to purchase other real estate.

The defense claimed they had no intent to defraud the victims because they had attempted to get a $10 million loan. The jury was not convinced and found both men guilty as charged.

Rodriguez and Ramos defrauded 106 people out of more than $1.8 million in down payments.

Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud in relation to this investigation or any other similar crime may contact the FBI at 210-225-6741.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane presided over the trial and set Rodriguez and Ramos for sentencing on Aug. 8, 2017. Gomez will be sentenced July 25, 2017. All face up face up to up to 30 years in federal prison and a possible $1 million fine.

The convictions were announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.

The FBI and police departments in McAllen, Mission and Edinburg conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert L. Guerra Jr. and Andrew Swartz prosecuted the case.

Alejandro E. Mayendía-Blanco was sentenced to serve 21 months of imprisonment for mortgage fraud, five years of supervised release, pay a fine of $50,000, and ordered to pay restitution of $98,666.  Mayendía-Blanco pled guilty on August 12, 2016.

Mayendía-Blanco was arrested on May 29, 2015, on charges of defrauding First Equity Mortgage Bankers, Inc. (FEBMI) in connection with a loan application. On October 3, 2008, the defendant participated in a real estate transaction as the seller of real property located in San Juan, Puerto Rico. As part of the transaction, the defendant, along with co-defendant Orlando Mayendía represented that Orlando Mayendía was going to contribute $48,381.10 towards the purchase of the property. At the time that the defendant and Orlando Mayendía made this representation to FEBMI they knew it to be false, since the defendant had agreed to contribute the $48,381.10 to the purchaser, Orlando Mayendía, after the sale. Thus, the proceeds of the contribution from the borrower, Orlando Mayendía were the sales proceeds provided to Alejandro Mayendía.

We are committed to bringing to justice those involved in federal financial crimes in Puerto Rico,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Velez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, in announcing the sentence. “The US Attorney’s Office will continue to investigate and prosecute financial crimes and ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate them, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.”

Mayendía-Blanco was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Francisco A. Besosa. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Cannon and Mariana E. Bauzá prosecuted the case.

Dianna Woods, 60, Citrus Heights, California, was sentenced to three years in prison for four counts of making false statements on loan applications.

According to evidence presented at her four-day trial in December 2016, Woods was a licensed real estate salesperson who worked at a company called VLD Realty, doing business as Trade House USA, in the Sacramento area. VLD built and sold houses in residential developments in Sacramento, Carmichael, and Copperopolis, Caifornia. As the housing market began to weaken from 2006 through 2008, VLD sought to sell the houses by offering money to buyers in the form of paying the down payment or giving the buyers money after the transaction, neither of which was disclosed to the lenders.

For her part, Woods purchased two houses based on the undisclosed kickbacks. Further, for the purpose of obtaining mortgage loans to purchase the properties, Woods also signed and submitted loan applications and other documents that contained false statements as to Woods’s income, employment, assets, the purpose of the property, the sales price, and whether the down payment was borrowed. Woods also assisted another buyer in making false statements to the lenders to get loans for the purchase of two properties in the housing developments and falsely verified his employment. The banks suffered nearly $2 million in losses with respect to fraudulent transactions in which Woods was involved.

Woods was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb. The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert and the case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shelley Weger and Todd Pickles prosecuted the case.

Michelle Cabrera, 48, Miami Lakes, Florida, and Pedro Melian, 39, Hialeah, Florida, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud related to their participation in a $10 million Florida mortgage fraud scheme. At sentencing, each defendant faces up to thirty years’ imprisonment.

Marco Laureti, 45, Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, and Felix Mostelac, 44, Miami Beach, Florida, were charged by Indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud  and multiple counts of wire fraud, for conduct allegedly related to the Florida mortgage fraud scheme, and are awaiting trial.

According to court documents, defendants Laureti, Mostelac, Cabrera and Melian were involved with a $10 million mortgage fraud scheme. Laureti was a former newspaper publisher and owner of Laureti Publishing Company, in addition to being a licensed real estate sales associate and mortgage broker. Mostelac was Laureti’s associate and also the owner of several companies. Cabrera owned Florida Elite Title & Escrow in Davie, Florida and served as the title agent for these transactions. Melian also owned several companies.

According to information presented in court and accompanying documents, the defendants engaged in a fraud scheme involving a condominium complex located at 45 Hendricks Isle, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Defendants Laureti, Mostelac and Melian made false and fraudulent statements to a financial institution on loan applications and closing statements for the multi-million dollar condominiums. Once the loans were approved, defendant Cabrera, at Laureti’s direction, diverted the loan proceeds to fund the cash the borrower was expected to bring to the property’s closing, as well as diverting additional monies from the loan proceeds to various companies owned by Laureti and Mostelac. Furthermore, according to court documents, Laureti and Mostelac utilized the same scheme on the loan applications and closing statements to purchase their own multi-million dollar residential properties in Miami Beach, in addition to Laureti directing Cabrera to divert funds. The defendants’ scheme defrauded the financial institution of approximately $10 million.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement. Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the FBI. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Katz.

David Cevallos, real estate agent, 46, Miami, Florida, and Osbel Sanchez, real estate agent, 45, Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution. Each faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. Sanchez’s sentencing hearing has been set for April 24, 2017, and Cevallos’s sentencing hearing has been set for May 8, 2017.

According to the plea agreements, between summer 2008 and January 2009, Cevallos and Sanchez conspired with each other and others to fraudulently induce lenders into making mortgage loans based upon false information. This conspiracy involved a series of real estate transactions where the parties, including Cevallos and Sanchez, would make or cover up false statements made to the lenders regarding the source of down payments for the real estate transactions, and the manner in which the mortgage funds would be distributed. Most of these transactions involved Tribute Residential, a real estate development company operated by co-conspirator Rebecca Gheiler, as the seller.

Specifically, the parties represented to the lenders that down payments for these properties were being provided by the individuals purchasing the properties, when in fact they were provided by Cevallos or Sanchez. After the transactions had closed and the mortgage funds were released to Tribute Residential, Gheiler would arrange for the post-closing payments of the mortgage proceeds to be provided to Cevallos’s real estate firm, Metro Brokers. These post-closing payments reimbursed Cevallos for the money that he or Sanchez had provided to cover the buyer’s down payments, and to provide post-closing commissions from funds that were supposed to go to the seller. As a result, the lenders were unknowingly funding the down payment for the transactions (as well as undisclosed commissions) from the mortgage proceeds themselves, and were being misled as to the true value of the properties for which they were providing loans.

United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III made the announcement.

The case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vincent S. Chiu and Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

Miguel Soto, Jr., 46, Miami, Florida; Hector Raul Santana, 38, Miami Lakes, Florida; Miguel Faraldo, 52, Miami, Florida; Barbara E. Zas, 46, Miami, Florida; Maria Rosa Diaz, 45, Miami Springs, Florida; Heberto Elias Gamboa, 31, Miami, Florida; Michael Jose Gonzalez, 31, Miami, Florida; Jenny Nillo, 50, Miami, Florida; Jaime Jesus Sola Avila, 59, Miami, Florida; Jorge Angel Sola, 31, Miami, Florida; Emily Marie Echavarria, 50, Miami, Florida; Eduardo Cruz Toledo, 50, Miami, Florida;  Yanet Huet, 44, Miami, Florida; Carlos Mesa, Jr., 36, St. Petersburg, Florida;  Yipsy Rabelo Clavelo, 45, Pompano Beach, Florida; Jose Salazar, 49, Miami, Florida; and Cynthia Velasquez, 39, Miami, Florida were charged a 17-count indictment with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and various substantive bank fraud offenses.

According to allegations contained in the indictment:

During 2007 and 2008, the defendants conspired to perpetrate a complex mortgage fraud scheme against various FDIC-insured lenders.

The defendants conspired to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans for unqualified buyers of units in two condominium projects on the west coast of Florida: Portofino at Largo, also known as Indian Palms, Largo, Florida; and Bayshore Landing, Tampa, Florida.

Miguel Soto, Jr. was the acting manager of two Florida companies that sold the condominium units to the unqualified buyers: Indian Palms Holdings, LLC, and 5221 Bayshore, LLC. Hector Raul Santana served as the Director of Sales for Indian Palms Holdings, LLC.

Maria Rosa Diaz was the president of Crisvan Investment Group, Inc., a Miami-based mortgage broker business that prepared and submitted the unqualified buyers’ fraudulent loan applications and supporting documents to the lenders.

Miguel Faraldo, Jenny Nillo, Jorge Angel Sola, and Heberto Elias Gamboa operated “marketing companies” that were used to launder the fraudulently obtained loan proceeds and perpetuate the fraud scheme. In particular, Faraldo operated All Florida Marketing, Inc., Nillo and Jorge Sola operated One Stop Consulting Solutions, Inc., and Gamboa operated HHWC Management Group, Inc.

Soto, Santana, Faraldo, Zas, Diaz, Nillo, Jaime Sola, Emily Echavarria, Eduardo Cruz Toledo, and other co-conspirators recruited unqualified buyers to purchase units in Portofino at Largo and Bayshore Landing. These unqualified buyers included Michael Gonzalez, Yanet Huet, Carlos Mesa, Jr., Yipsy Rabelo Clavelo, Jose Salazar, Jorge Sola, and Cynthia Velasquez.

Soto, Santana, Faraldo, Zas, Diaz, Nillo, Jaime Sola, Echavarria, Cruz, and other co-conspirators, made fraudulent statements to unqualified buyers to induce their purchases.

The defendants submitted fraudulent loan applications to induce the lenders to make mortgage loans to the unqualified buyers. The submitted loan applications contained false and fraudulent statements relating to: the borrower’s occupation of, or intent to occupy, the mortgaged property as a residence; the borrower’s employment, income, and assets; the borrower’s liabilities; the borrower’s payment of an earnest money deposit and cash-to-close; the sellers’ payment of kick-backs to the borrowers; and other information that was material to the borrower’s qualifications to borrow money from the lenders and the values of the mortgage properties.

Miguel Soto, Jr., Hector Santana, Maria Diaz and their co-conspirators agreed to submit the unqualified buyers’ fraudulent mortgage loan applications to the lenders through certain mortgage broker firms, including Diaz’s company, Crisvan Investment Group, Inc.

Miguel Soto, Jr. and Hector Santana agreed with one another, and with other co-conspirators, that the settlement agents for the purchase transactions would disburse mortgage loan proceeds for the purchase of condominium units in Portofino at Largo and Bayside Landing, even though the borrowers would not pay the earnest the money deposits and/or cash-to-close required by their loan applications and HUD-1 Settlement Statements.

Miguel Soto, Jr. and Hector Santana agreed with Miguel Faraldo, Jenny Nillo, Jorge Sola, and Heberto Gamboa, and with other co-conspirators, that the settlement agents would use some of the proceeds from certain of the fraudulently obtained mortgage loans to pay a fictitious “marketing fee” to one of the “marketing companies.” Faraldo, Nillo, Sola, and Gamboa would then cause their companies to pay some of those funds to the unqualified buyers as an undisclosed kick-back for buying their units.

If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum term of 30 years’ imprisonment, a $1 million fine, and mandatory restitution, on each count in the indictment.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Timothy Mowery, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agent, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Southeast Region, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Division, and Juan J. Perez, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), made the announcement.

Mr. Ferrer commends the investigative efforts of the FHFA-OIG, FBI and MDPD. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dwayne E. Williams.

Mark F. Friend, 62, Stockton, California was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. to two years and four months in prison and ordered to pay $1,889,379 in restitution for conspiracy to commit bank fraud in relation to a mortgage fraud scheme.

According to court documents, between September 2006 and March 2007, while working for National City Mortgage, then a division of National City Bank, in Stockton, Friend arranged loans for borrowers that contained numerous falsehoods. He submitted false loan applications and other documents, and he made down payments on behalf of borrowers who did not have enough money, and then was repaid out of escrow after the loans were funded. The borrowers eventually stopped making payments on the loans, and National City Bank and other entities sustained losses amounting to $1,889,379.

Judge Burrell ordered Friend to self-surrender and begin his incarceration on January 13, 2017.

The plea was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.  The case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney John K. Vincent prosecuted the case.

Aleksandr Kovalev, 53, Rocklin, California, pleaded guilty to wire fraud involving financial institutions in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme involving the purchase of at least 31 properties.

According to court documents, Kovalev was in the business of developing, building and selling property in Sacramento, Fairfield and Stockton, California. As the real estate market began to weaken, Kovalev offered to make incentive payments to purchasers, through “down payment assistance” or by making other payments to the buyers to be used in whatever manner the buyers wanted. Most of the payments to the buyers were out of escrow and were often paid through intermediaries, originating in Kovalev’s bank account. These payments were not disclosed to the lenders, and had the effect of substantially reducing the actual sales price below that was represented to the lenders. At least 31 properties were involved in Kovalev’s mortgage fraud scheme with substantial losses to the lenders.

To date, five co-defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced: Jannice Riddick, 34, Sacramento, California (two years and 11 months in prison); Florence Francisco, 65, Houston, Texas (one year in prison); Adil Qayyum, 34, Rosele, Illinois (three years of probation); Elsie Pamela Fuller, 41, Richmond, California (one year and nine months in prison); and Leona Yeargin, 49, San Pablo, California (18 months in prison). Charges are pending against co-defendant Arthur Menefee, 45, Stockton, California.

Two other defendants were charged separately for their involvement in the scheme. Valeriy Vasilevitsky, charged in U.S. v. Vasilevitsky, 2:12-cr-344 KJM, and Ruth Willis, charged in U.S. v. Willis, 2:13-cr-228 MCE, have also pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

Kovalev is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. on February 9, 2017. Kovalev faces a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million or twice the gross loss or gain.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd A. Pickles is prosecuting the case. The guilty plea was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.

Orlando Ortiz, 53, Luis Enrique Tur, 47, Jeffrey Todd Canfield, 49, Rafael Amador, 34, Osvaldo Sanchez, 40, Mirna Pena, 54, and Pedro Reynaldo Allende, 66,all residents of Miami-Dade County, Florida, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud affecting a financial institution. Ortiz, Tur, Canfield, Amador, and Sanchez  are scheduled to be sentenced on January 19, 2017. Pena and Allende are scheduled to be sentenced on March 28, 2017.

The charges arise from the involvement of the defendants in a complex mortgage fraud scheme involving two condominium conversion projects in central Florida.

According to court documents, including the agreed upon factual statements:

In 2007 and 2008, Ortiz, Tur, Canfield, Amador, and Sanchez participated in a mortgage fraud scheme involving two condominium projects: “Portofino at Largo,” in Largo, Florida, and “Bayshore Landing,” in Tampa, Florida.  Pena and Allende were involved in the same mortgage fraud scheme; however, their involvement was limited to units in the Portofino at Largo project.

During the course of the conspiracy, Pena, Allende, and other individuals recruited straw buyers and unqualified buyers, including Ortiz, Tur, and Canfield, to purchase units in the two condominium projects.  Among other things, the recruiters told certain prospective buyers that: buyers did not have to contribute any money to purchase a unit; buyers would receive a cash-back incentive or “kick-back” after closing; and buyers would receive several months’ mortgage payments.

The co-conspirators prepared and submitted false and fraudulent mortgage loan applications and related documents to various lenders including Bank of America, BankUnited, Chase Bank USA, CitiMortgage, First National Bank of Arizona, IndyMac Bank, JPMorgan Chase Bank, and Washington Mutual Bank.  Among other things, the loan applications and related documents contained false and fraudulent statements and omissions regarding: the borrower’s intention to reside in the unit; the borrower’s employment and income; the borrower’s assets and liabilities; the borrower’s payment of an earnest money deposit and cash-to-close; and the use of mortgage loan proceeds to pay “marketing fees” to various “marketing companies.”  In truth and in fact, the marketing companies were fraudulent businesses that did not provide any marketing services.  Instead, the “fraudulently induced marketing fees” were a means of diverting proceeds from the fraud scheme to the marketing companies.  The fraudulent marketing companies would then use the fraud proceeds to pay undisclosed kick-backs to the buyers.

Pena and Allende operated two Miami-based businesses, which were used to perpetrate the mortgage fraud scheme: Mortgage Bankers Lenders, Inc., a mortgage broker business, which submitted false and fraudulent loan applications and related documents to the lenders; and United Title Services & Escrow, Inc., which closed mortgage loan transactions even though the buyers had not paid earnest money deposits or cash-to-close, and used loan proceeds to pay “marketing fees” to a marketing company operated by unindicted co-conspirators.

Ortiz, Canfield, and Tur purchased units in Portofino at Largo.  Tur also purchased units in Bayshore Landing.  Ortiz, Canfield, and Tur engaged a Miami-based mortgage broker business operated by an unindicted co-conspirator to prepare and submit mortgage loan applications for their units.  On their behalf, the co-conspirator prepared and submitted fraudulent loan applications and other documents to various lenders.  The fraudulent loan documents included fabricated W-2 Wage and Tax Statements and pay stubs.  After closing on their units, Ortiz, Canfield, and Tur received substantial undisclosed kick-backs from a marketing company operated by an unindicted co-conspirator.  The kick-backs were funded with fraud proceeds, which had been paid to the marketing company as “marketing fees.”

Amador and Sanchez operated Allegiance Title of America, Inc., which served as the closing agent for mortgage loans involving condominium units in Portofino at Largo and Bayshore Landing.  Among other things, Amador and Sanchez caused Allegiance Title of America to disburse loan proceeds even though the buyers had not paid the earnest money deposits or cash to close, that was required by their loan applications and settlement statements.  Amador and Sanchez also caused Allegiance Title of America to pay fraudulent “marketing fees” to marketing companies.

The defendants face a maximum statutory term of thirty years’ imprisonment for their participation in the mortgage fraud conspiracy.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Timothy Mowery, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Juan J. Perez, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), made the announcement.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FHFA-OIG, FBI and MDPD.  Both cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dwayne E. Williams.

 

Rebecca Gheiler, 49, Miami, Florida, was indicted and charged with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud and six counts of bank fraud.

According to the indictment, Tribute Residential, LLC (“Tribute”), which was controlled by Gheiler, owned and sold condominium communities.  To entice buyers to purchase condominium units in these communities, Gheiler developed a program of incentives.  As part of this program, buyers were promised that Tribute would pay the mortgage and homeowners’ association dues during the buyer’s first two years of occupancy.  Other incentives developed and paid for by Gheiler included upfront cash to close and/or kickbacks to buyers after closing.  During each transaction, the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, signed by Gheiler as the seller, contained falsified information regarding the terms of each transaction, including the actual down payment amount paid by the buyer. In order to conceal the incentives from the mortgage lenders, Gheiler directed her co-conspirator, Angel Garcia-Oliver, to form companies that received monies from Tribute that were eventually paid to buyers and entities controlled by other co-conspirators.

If convicted, Gheiler faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison on each count.  The indictment also notifies Gheiler that the United States is seeking a forfeiture money judgment.

Garcia-Oliver previously pleaded guilty for his role in this case. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 9, 2017.

United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announced the indictment. The case was investigated by Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vincent Chiu and Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.