Archives For False Documents

Christopher J. Gallo, 44, Old Tappan, New Jersey, and Mehmet A. Elmas, 32, a U.S. citizen who resides in Turkey, are charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, in connection with their roles in a large-scale mortgage fraud scheme.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Gallo and Elmas were previously employed by a New Jersey-based, privately owned licensed residential mortgage lending business. Gallo was employed as a senior loan officer and Elmas was a mortgage loan officer and Gallo’s assistant. From 2018 through October 2023, Gallo and Elmas used their positions to conspire and engage in a fraudulent scheme to falsify loan origination documents sent to mortgage lenders in New Jersey and elsewhere, including their former employer, to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans. Gallo and Elmas routinely mislead mortgage lenders about the intended use of properties to fraudulently secure lower mortgage interest rates. Gallo and Elmas often submitted loan applications falsely stating that the listed borrowers were the primary residents of certain proprieties when, in fact, those properties were intended to be used as rental or investment properties.

By fraudulently misleading lenders about the true intended use of the properties, Gallo and Elmas secured and profited from mortgage loans that were approved at lower interest rates.  The conspiracy also included falsifying property records, including building safety and financial information of prospective borrowers to facilitate mortgage loan approval. Between 2018 through October 2023, Gallo originated more than $1.4 billion in loans.

They appeared today before U.S. Magistrate Judge André M. Espinosa in Newark federal court and were each released $200,000 unsecured bond.

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger made the announcement.

The conspiracy to commit bank fraud charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, and special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert Manchak, with the investigation leading to today’s arrests.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shontae D. Gray of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

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

 

Edmundo De La Torre, 38, Texas was sentenced for his role in a complex mortgage fraud scheme.

From 2018 to 2020, De La Torre admitted he was working as a salesman for a Laredo area homebuilder. De La Torre used his position to attempt to get potential customers approved for Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-backed mortgages. He forged various documents, including financial statements, bank statements, paycheck stubs and letters of reference for at least 38 otherwise unqualified homebuyers.

De La Torre then submitted these fake and forged documents to a Laredo area bank on behalf of the potential homebuyers. He admitted he was receiving a commission for each sale and personally profiting over $200,000 from the scheme. In addition, more than three dozen known loans in this scheme ultimately defaulted or had to be restructured, costing HUD roughly $971,310.10 at the time of his plea in April.

De La Torre pleaded guilty April 19 to orchestrating a mortgage fraud scheme in which he altered hundreds of documents to get otherwise unqualified buyers’ approval for government-backed mortgages.

U.S. District Judge Marina Marmalejo has now ordered De La Torre to serve 36 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. De La Torre was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1.17 million. In handing down the sentence, Judge Marmolejo noted the sophistication and persistence of De La Torre’s crime and remarked on the profound effects it has on potential first-time and low-income homebuyers seeking homes, and instead ending up entangled in legal and finances issues.

De La Torre was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani made the announcement.

HUD – Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation with assistance from the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Carter prosecuted the case.

Christopher Williams, 43, Brooklyn, New York was sentenced for stealing the home of an elderly widow by posing as her son, then selling the property and cashing in more than $200,000.

According to the charges:

  • In August 2021, Barbara Matthews received a notification that a new deed, mortgage and other documents had been filed without her knowledge with the New York City Department of Finance for a property she inherited after her father’s death in 2011. The home, on Dunlop Avenue in Jamaica, had been empty for several years as Matthews planned to renovate it.
  • An investigation was opened and revealed that Williams had submitted several documents to falsely represent himself as the sole owner of the property. The documents included phony birth certificates and death certificates identifying Matthews as her mother.
  • After claiming ownership of the property, Williams sold it for $270,000.
  • After closing, the defendant received a sale proceeds check for $214,535.64. Williams took the check to a Bronx check cashing establishment and received $209,665.69 in cash.

Williams pleaded guilty in August to identity theft in the first degree and offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree.

Williams was sentenced yesterday by Queens Supreme Court Justice Leigh K. Cheng to a term of two to four years in prison. Justice Cheng also granted a motion filed by the Queens District Attorney’s office, which applied a state statue to argue for immediately restoring the stolen property’s deed to its rightful owner, sparing the victim the time and expense of additional legal proceedings in civil court. District Attorney Katz’s office was the first to ever use the 2019 law earlier this year, successfully returning a St. Albans home to a disabled veteran and his family.

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz made the announcement.

District Attorney Katz said: “We will not allow criminals to scheme and scam their way into other people’s properties and we will use every tool available to ensure that victims are made whole. In communities targeted by deed fraudsters, many people do not have the means to hire an attorney to file a civil suit and litigate against deep-pocketed mortgage companies, banks and title insurers. Our use of this new tactic allows us to provide victims with one-stop justice.”

Assistant District Attorney Myongjae M. Yi, Section Chief of the District Attorney’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau, prosecuted the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Rachel Stein, Chief of the Real Estate Theft Unit in the Housing and Worker Protection Bureau, William Jorgenson, Bureau Chief, and Christina Hanophy, Deputy Bureau Chief, and under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Gerard A. Brave.

 

Lee Ann Benninghoff, 45, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to one (1) day of imprisonment and three (3) years of supervised release on her conviction of bank fraud and conspiracy.

According to information presented to the court, Benninghoff owned and operated Complete Escrow and Bella Casa Realty. From February 2014 through March 2017, Benninghoff used her position and connections in real estate financing, and conspired with others in the industry, to submit fraudulent gift letters in support of mortgage loan applications. The gift letters misrepresented the source of the funds and their purported purpose.

United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan made the announcement today.

Assistant United States Attorney Robert S. Cessar prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

United States Attorney Olshan commended the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Secret Service for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Benninghoff.

Omayra Ujaque ,52, St. Cloud, Florida, has been found guilty of three counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

According to evidence presented at trial, Ujaque, in her capacity as a licensed mortgage loan officer, created and executed a mortgage fraud scheme targeting the financial institution where she worked. To ensure that otherwise unqualified borrowers were approved for mortgage loans, Ujaque falsified the borrowers’ income by fabricating or inflating the amounts of their monthly child support payments on mortgage loan applications that she signed and certified to the financial institution’s underwriting department. In furtherance of her scheme, Ujaque created fictitious Final Judgments of Dissolution of Marriage and Final Orders Modifying Child Support that fraudulently represented that the borrowers were entitled to receive non-existent monthly child support payments. Ujaque then used the names of judges from the Circuit Court of the Ninth District of Florida and forged their signatures on the fabricated Final Judgments of Dissolution of Marriage or Final Orders Modifying Child Support.

Ujaque also created bogus Florida Department of Revenue Statements listing fraudulent monthly child support payments, as well as phony prepaid debit card statements listing fake borrower withdrawals of the non-existent monthly child support payments. In most cases, the borrowers did not, in fact, have the listed children and/or had never been married. Ujaque submitted bogus paperwork to the financial institution to support the false monthly income on the loan applications. Based on Ujaque’s misrepresentations, the financial institution approved and funded the mortgage loans.

Ujaque faces a maximum penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment for each bank fraud count and a mandatory 2-year sentence for the aggravated identity theft county. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 5, 2023. Ujaque had been indicted on February 15, 2023.

This case was investigated by Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

 

Lee Ann Benninghoff,  44, Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of bank fraud and conspiracy.

In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Benninghoff owned and operated Complete Escrow and Bella Casa Realty. From February 2014 through March 2017, Benninghoff used her position and connections in real estate financing, and conspired with others in the industry, to submit fraudulent gift letters in support of mortgage loan applications The gift letters misrepresented the source of the funds and their purported purpose.

Benninghoff, pleaded guilty to two counts before United States District Judge Marilyn J. Horan.

Judge Horan scheduled sentencing for July 12, 2023, at 9 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of not more than 30 years in prison, a fine of not more than $1,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Acting United States Attorney Troy Rivetti made the announcement.

Assistant United States Attorney Robert S. Cessar is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Secret Service conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Benninghoff.

 

Anthony Garvin, 52, Jersey City, New Jersey, a real estate investor has admitted conspiring to orchestrate a fraudulent home equity line of credit scheme that led to over $400,000 in losses.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Between 2011 and 2014, Garvin orchestrated a scheme to defraud banks by conspiring with others to fraudulently obtain multiple home equity lines of credit, known as HELOCs, on real estate that Garvin owned. To hide his fraud from lenders, Garvin and his conspirators prepared and submitted loan applications that contained lies and fake supporting documents, including fake pay stubs, W-2 forms, tax returns, bank account statements, and deeds. Garvin split his fraud proceeds with his conspirators and defaulted on all of the loans. Garvin’s scheme ultimately resulted in over $400,000 in loses to the lenders.

Garvin pleaded guilty by videoconference on Dec. 2, 2022, before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and four counts of bank fraud.

The count of bank fraud conspiracy and each count of bank fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million or twice the gross gain to the defendants or twice the gross loss to others, whichever is greatest. Sentencing is scheduled for April 11, 2023.

Two conspirators previously pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger made the announcement today.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert Manchak, and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Blake Coppotelli and Anthony Torntore of the District of New Jersey.

Barry Wayne Plunkett Jr., 62, and Nancy Plunkett, 57, both of Hyannis Port, Massachusetts a former Massachusetts attorney and his wife have been sentenced in federal court in Boston in connection with various mortgage fraud schemes.

The defendants engaged in several bank fraud schemes. In one scheme, from September 2012 to July 2016, the defendants defrauded six mortgage lenders and 14 homeowners for whom the Plunkett Law Firm handled the closings for new mortgage loans to refinance residential properties. The Plunketts informed the mortgage lenders that pre-existing mortgages were paid off from the new loan proceeds when, in fact, they intentionally failed to pay off the prior liens and instead converted more than $1 million in payoff funds for their own purposes.

In other bank fraud schemes, between April 2015 and March 2018, the Plunketts fraudulently used various names, entities and false documents to obtain three successive mortgage loans on their home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts in amounts of $412,000, $470,000 and $1.2 million. The defendants pledged as collateral a property in Hyannis Port that was held in a family trust for which Barry Plunkett was one of three beneficiaries. Both defendants participated in providing false documents to the lenders, including false title reports and other records to falsely represent that the property was free and clear of existing mortgage liens and forged documents in the names of other people. The defendants also made misrepresentations to a lender that Nancy Plunkett was a single woman living in Wellesley who was purchasing the property in her maiden name as a business investment when, in fact, the defendants had been married since 2014 and the property was their residence.

Barry Plunkett was sentenced to 78 months in prison and five years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $3,236,466 and forfeiture of $3,221,403. Nancy Plunkett was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and five years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $3,054,759, jointly and severally with Barry Plunkett, and forfeiture of $3,221,403. On March 4, 2022, Barry Plunkett pleaded guilty to five counts of bank fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of tax evasion. On the same date, Nancy Plunkett pleaded guilty to five counts of bank fraud.

Prior to being disbarred in October 2017, Barry Plunkett owned and operated the Plunkett Law Firm where his wife, Nancy Plunkett, served as his office assistant and paralegal.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston; and Robert Manchak, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Victor A. Wild and Mackenzie Queenin of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit and Carol Head, Chief of Rollins’ Asset Recovery Unit, prosecuted the case.

 

 

German Antonio Lopez-Velasquez, 55,  Modesto, California; Marko Antonio Lopez, 27, Modesto, California and Lisa Marie Santos, 48, Long Beach, California have been charged with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

According to court documents, Lopez-Velasquez and Lopez, who were both real estate agents, worked with Santos, a mortgage loan officer, to obtain fraudulent mortgage loans for properties based in Stanislaus County, San Joaquin County, Santa Clara County, California and elsewhere. The three utilized false documents, fictional companies, and fictional individuals to obtain mortgage loans for borrowers who were not qualified to receive loans. In total, the defendants caused lenders to issue at least 30 loans based on false information with a total principal loan balance exceeding $10 million.

Lopez-Velasquez was also charged with witness tampering. He is alleged to have attempted to persuade an individual to make false statements to law enforcement officers regarding a mortgage loan under investigation.

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

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Spivak is prosecuting the case.

The FHFA-OIG is committed to holding accountable those who waste, steal, or abuse the resources of the Government-Sponsored Enterprises regulated by FHFA, which the defendants have been charged with defrauding,” said Jay Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FHFA-OIG, Western Regional Office. “We are proud to have worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners on this case and to demonstrate, once again, that FHFA-OIG will investigate and hold accountable those who seek to victimize the Government-Sponsored Enterprises supervised and regulated by FHFA.”

This case demonstrates HUD OIG’s commitment to pursuing and bringing to justice those who put Federal programs, such as the FHA Mortgage Insurance Fund at risk for their own enrichment,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark T. Kaminsky with HUD OIG Office of Investigation. “HUD OIG remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners and the US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California to investigate and hold accountable those who perpetrate mortgage fraud in central California.”

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. If convicted, Lopez‑Velasquez faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for witness tampering. 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 defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Maria Del Carmen Montes, 46, Kissimmee, Florida has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, four counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Also charged is Montes’ husband Carlos Ferrer, 45, Kissimmee, Florida with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and three counts of bank fraud.

According to the Indictment, Montes and Ferrer conspired to create and executed a mortgage fraud scheme targeting financial institutions. To ensure that otherwise unqualified borrowers she was representing as a licensed realtor were approved for mortgage loans, Montes created fictitious and fraudulent paystubs and IRS Form W-2s in the names of companies for whom her clients had never worked. The bogus income documents falsely indicated that her clients had worked at these companies, including companies formed and controlled by Ferrer, for a certain period of time and earned income that they did not. Montes submitted the fictitious paystubs and W-2s she created to the financial institutions who relied on them when making underwriting decisions. Additionally, Montes used her clients’ personally identifying information on these documents without their knowledge or authorization.

In order to further deceive the mortgage lenders, Montes and Ferrer recruited a co-conspirator working at a company listed on certain false paystubs and W-2s to falsely certify Verifications of Employment (VOEs”) sent by the financial institutions and instructed the co-conspirator to lie to the final institutions when they called to further verify the borrower’s employment. Ferrer and Montes sent the false and fictitious paystubs and W-2s to the co-conspirator so the co-conspirator could put the false information on the VOEs before certifying, signing, and returning them to the financial institutions. Ferrer also falsely certified and emailed VOEs sent by the financial institution in the names of borrowers that he knew did not work for his companies and lied to the banks during verbal VOE checks. Based on Montes’ and Ferrer’s misrepresentations, the financial institutions approved and funded the mortgage loans.

If convicted, Montes faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison on the conspiracy count, up to 30 years for each fraud count, and a mandatory penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment for the aggravated identity theft count. If convicted, Ferrer faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for the conspiracy count, and up to, 30 years’ imprisonment for each fraud 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, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.