Archives For Escrow Fraud

Louis Marandola, 42, Providence, Rhode Island, a Former Real Estate Attorney, and Brian R. McCaffrey, 38, Warwick, Rhode Island, a former licensed loan originator, have been sentenced to federal prison for their participation in a scheme to obtain money they were not entitled to from financial institutions and individuals through mortgage loans, residential property sales and fees.

Marandola was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison to be followed by 3 years supervised release. On January 13, 2017, Marandola pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

McCaffrey was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, to be followed by 3 years supervised release. McCaffrey pleaded guilty on January 27, 2017, to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.

Two co-defendants in this matter, Raffaele M. Marziale, 41, Bristol, Rhode Island, a former loan officer who pleaded guilty on February 29, 2016, to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft; and Edwin Rodriguez, 35, Pawtucket, a real estate investor who pleaded guilty on June 1, 2016, to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and tampering with a witness, are awaiting sentencing.

Gina Ronci Mohamed, 46, Lincoln, Rhode Island, was sentenced on April 25, 2017, to two years probation. Ms. Ronci pleaded guilty on April 22, 2016, to making a false statement to HUD. Lauren Sienko, 35, of Rehoboth, Massachusetts., was sentenced on April 3, 2017, to two years probation. Ms. Sienko pleaded guilty on January 6, 2017, to making a false statement to HUD.

According to court documents and information presented to the court, an investigation by the United States Attorney’s Office, HUD-OIG, U.S. Secret Service and Rhode Island State Police determined that between 2007 and 2014, the defendants conspired to execute a scheme which caused prospective homebuyers to obtain mortgages from financial institutions based upon materially false loan applications and fraudulent supporting documentation. As part of the conspiracy, false representations were made in order to obtain fees to which the defendants were not entitled or to make a profit selling property in which they had an ownership interest. In some instances, thousands of dollars were fraudulently obtained by misrepresenting on a HUD form the amount of funds due or to be paid to one of the parties involved in a transaction.

In numerous instances, the defendants concealed their involvement in the scheme by conducting business under the names of several different entities and individuals. At times, the defendants used stolen identities to further the fraud and to conceal their connection to the real estate transactions.

The sentences, imposed by U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., are announced by Acting United States Attorney Stephen G. Dambruch; Christina D. Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG); Brian Deck, Resident Agent in Charge of the Providence Office of the U.S. Secret Service; and Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police.

The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra R. Hebert and William J. Ferland.

 

 

Kimberlee E. Himmell, 62, Massillon, Ohio, is alleged to have defrauded financial institutions out of more than $2 million by having escrow funds on home purchases deposited into her personal account.  Himmell was charged with 18 counts of bank fraud and one count of theft of government funds.

Himmell owned and operated Netwide Title Agency, Inc., located at 3711 Lincoln Way East, Massillon, Ohio. General Title Insurance Company, located in Cleveland, Ohio, was Netwide’s underwriter and responsible for auditing Netwide, according to the information.

Netwide, at the direction of Himmell, began in 2007 instructing all lenders doing business with Netwide as a title agency and utilizing its escrow services to wire all incoming lending proceeds to Himmell’s personal account, instead of Netwide’s corporate account, according to the criminal information filed in the case.

Himmell then used the deposited funds for her own personal use and for Netwide’s operational expenses without disclosing to lenders that she was not holding the funds in escrow, as she represented she would, according to the information.

Himmell closed at least 19 real estate transactions in 2013 and 2014 wherein Netwide received escrow funds and failed to pay or release the funds to the prior owner’s pre-existing mortgage. This causes financial losses to lenders and/or sellers of homes in Richmond Heights, North Canton, Willowick, Concord, Strongsville, Newbury, Brunswick, Wadsworth, Medina, Painesville, Parma, Akron, Twinsburg, Brecksville and Millersburg, Ohio according to the information.

Netwide’s underwriter, General Title, was contractually obligated to make lenders whole. The loss to General Title as a result of Himmell’s conduct was at least $2,111,014, according to the information.

The case was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark S. Bennett following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Cristina Montijo was the subject of a complaint and arrest warrant issued in the Southern District of New York on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud in connection with fraudulent emails.  She was arrested in the Southern District of California.

According to the complaint, sworn to by a Detective with the New York City Police Department for the purpose of demonstrating probable cause for the issuance of the arrest warrant, on or about June 21, 2016 Victim-1 who was in the process of purchasing a home, received an email that purported to be from Victim-1’s attorney.  The fraudulent email instructed Victim-1 to wire $190,000 to a bank account at a San Diego Credit Union to be held in escrow for the home purchase.  A copy of the residential purchase contract for the property that Victim-1 was purchasing was included in the email. Victim-1 wired the money and then called the real estate attorney to confirm receipt of the wire and was told that the attorney had not requested the wire.  Victim-1 realized that the email address on the email received differed from the real estate attorney’s true email address by one character.  Victim-1 recalled the wire.

Victim-1 later received another email from the incorrect email address.  The new fraudulent email supplied an additional bank account number for Victim-1 to deposit funds into because the prior wire of funds had not been received.

According to the complaint, based on review of bank records, the detective learned that the bank account number in the first fraudulent email to Victim-1 was registered to Montijo.  The account was opened about June 16, 2016 and closed about June 23, 2016 due to suspected fraud.

The complaint also states that in or about November 3, 2015, Victim-2, an individual in Tennessee, received a fraudulent email purportedly from Victim-2’s real estate agent directing Victim-2 to wire approximately $181,000 to a bank account.  Victim-2 later realized the email address was different by one character from that of the actual real estate agent.  Victim-2 became suspicious and, after contacting the real estate agent, did not wire the funds. That account was also registered to Montijo and was opened about October 3, 2015.

On about November 24, 2015, Victim-3, an individual in Hawaii, received emails purportedly from Victim-3’s escrow officer and real estate agent but which were different from the actual email addresses by one character.  Based on the directives in these fraudulent emails, Victim-3 wired approximately $331,000 to a bank account. That bank account, opened on November 13, 2015, was registered to Fountain Co-Cooperative LLC and was closed December 10, 2015 due to suspected fraud. Montijo was the sold registered agent of Fountain Co-Cooperative, LLC and was registered to an address on Chamoune Avenue in San Diego at which Montijo resided since at least 1993. In November 2015, Montijo wired approximately $181,500 from that account to an account in Malaysia and approximately $118,200 to an account in South Africa.

In about April 2016, Victim-4, an individual in San Francisco, California, received a fraudulent email purporting to be from the real estate agent involved in a real estate transaction for Victim-4 and instructing Victim-4 to wire approximately $127,791 to be held in escrow in an identified bank account.  Victim-4 wired the funds and later discovered the email address was one character different from that of the real estate agent. That bank account was opened about March 31, 2016 and closed April 5, 2016 and was registered to Fountain Co-Cooperative, LLC.

On about April 28, 2016, Victim-5 received a fraudulent email purportedly from Victim-5’s attorney. Victim-5 later learned the attorney’s email account had been compromised or hacked.  At the direction of the fraudulent emails, one of which referenced the sender’s “account secretary Christina Montijo who is a trustee to the trust account” (the fraudulent emails were later traced to an originating IP address in South Africa), Victim-5 wired approximately $250,000 to a bank account. That bank account, opened about March 31, 2016 and closed about May 6 due to fraudulent activity, was registered to Montijo and Fountain Co-Cooperative LLC.   On about May 4, 2016, Montijo attempted to wire funds to another bank account that was jointly registered to Montijo and Albert Montijo (believed to be the name of Montijo’s deceased husband.)   Montijo was informed by bank employees that the wire was potentially fraudulent and Montijo claimed that she had been owed the funds from Victim-5 from a real estate transaction from several years prior and that she had business partners abroad.

On about June 30, 2016, Victim-6, an individual in the Southern District of New York, received a fraudulent email purportedly from Victim-6’s attorney, later learning the attorney’s emails had been compromised or hacked.  Victim-6 wired approximately $240,000 to a bank account, again registered to Fountain Co-Cooperative, LLC. Montijo attempted to wire a portion of these funds to an entity called “Refunds LLC” purportedly for a “refund owed” but actually sent to an account in the name of “Reofunds LLC.”

Montijo registered a company called “All Cover LLC” in the state of California for the purpose of “buying/selling real estate” On about July 14, 2016, Montijo attempted to cash four checks made out to All Cover totaling approximately $46,500.  From discussions with representatives of the three companies that issued the checks, the detective states that he learned that the checks were fraudulent and not written out to All Cover.  The indictment details additional allegedly fraudulent checks that Montijo attempted to cash and which were made out to herself, Fountain Co-Cooperative LLC and a person believe to be Montijo’s mother-in-law.

George Kalivretenos, 59, Miami Beach, Florida, was sentenced to 84 months in prison for a wire fraud and money laundering scheme in which he defrauded borrowers of approximately $5.6 million. Kalivretenos was also ordered to pay $4.18 million in restitution as part of his sentence.

Kalivrentenos pleaded guilty on August 13, 2015. According to court documents, Kalivretenos operated and controlled Jasmine Capital and Jasmine Resources Capital Group, which were lending entities. He also owned and controlled two escrow companies, Escrow Services, LLC, and Escrow Title Services, LLC. Kalivretenos promised to lend companies and individuals millions of dollars after they sent a deposit of 10 percent of the loan amount to a third party escrow company. However, Kalivretenos concealed his control over the escrow company from borrowers. Once the escrow company received the borrowers’ deposits, Kalivretenos spent borrowers’ funds on personal expenses, including two Rolls Royces, a penthouse condominium rented at $18,000 per month, and hotel stays at the Ritz Carlton and Crowne Plaza. He also transferred substantial funds to overseas accounts. Continue Reading…

Edward Dacy, 77, most recently of West Melbourne, Florida, was sentenced to six years in prison on charges stemming from a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud investment scheme involving 45 properties and $16 million in mortgage loans used for the purchase of residential real estate in the District of Columbia and Maryland.

Dacy was found guilty on March 25, 2015, following a trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, of 10 counts of conspiracy, bank fraud, and mail fraud.  His conviction completes a three-year investigation relating to this mortgage fraud scheme. A total of nine individuals have admitted their guilt through guilty pleas or were found guilty after trial. Upon completion of his prison term, Dacy will be placed on three years of supervised release. In addition, Judge Walton ordered that he pay $2,730,345 in restitution and an identical amount as a forfeiture money judgment. Continue Reading…

Ania Nowak, 48, Belvidere, New Jersey, a former real estate title agent was sentenced to 66 months in prison for carrying out a mortgage fraud scheme in which she obtained seven loans, totaling more than $3.7 million, on two properties located in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey and Belvidere, New Jersey.

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Christopher L. Durling, 49, Sandy, Utah, who owned a title and escrow company that operated in Nevada, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud for embezzling almost $4 million from company escrow accounts for his own personal use.

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Carole Tilghman, 50, Baltimore, Maryland, a title insurance agent who took tens of thousands of dollars from her clients’ escrow accounts to pay her personal bills pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County to one count each of felony theft and felony theft scheme.

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Dean Rossi, 49, Warrington, Pennsylvania, was arrested in connection with an alleged mortgage fraud scheme for misappropriating funds from real estate closings intended for paying off mortgages.

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George Kalivretenos, 58, Miami Beach, Florida, who allegedly stole $4 million in borrowers’ funds and lied to federal law enforcement agents, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and false statements.

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