Archives For False Documents

Danny Noble, 49, Baldwin, New York was sentenced today to 4.5 to nine years in prison in connection with illegally transferring the titles of seven houses in Brooklyn, New York and two in Queens, New York from their true owners to himself or a corporation, then renting out some of the properties and selling others.

According to the indictment, between June 29, 2010 and March 31, 2015, the defendants falsely transferred title to seven Brooklyn properties: 71 Carlton Avenue, 104 Vanderbilt Avenue, 45 North Oxford Street and 70 Clermont Avenue, Fort Greene,; 1391 East 95th Street in Canarsie, 357 Jefferson Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant; 729 Essex Street in East New York all in Brooklyn, New York and two properties in Queens, New York: 94-05 108th Street in Jamaica and 187-05 Liberty Avenue in Hollis.

Five of the properties were transferred from the actual homeowners to Noble, according to the indictment, three were transferred to 69 Adelphi Street, LLC, and one to a third party. The defendants allegedly targeted the properties because the owners did not live in the houses and rarely visited them.

Once the titles were transferred, according to the indictment, the defendants carried out various scams in order to cash in on them. For example, Noble maintained control of 45 North Oxford Street, a recently renovated brownstone in Fort Greene, whose owner lived outside of the United States. Noble rented out two apartments in the brownstone, collecting $1,500 a month in rent for each of them. He also maintained control of the two houses in Queens, renting them out for various amounts.

In another facet of the scheme, concerning 1247 Putnam Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, Noble filed a fraudulent satisfaction of mortgage.

Furthermore, for example, with respect to 71 Carlton Avenue, 104 Vanderbilt Avenue, 70 Clermont Avenue, and 1391 East 95th Street, the defendants transferred the properties’ titles into the names of other, third parties.

Noble pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal possession of stolen property and fourth-degree conspiracy before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on April 27, 2016 and was sentenced today to an indeterminate term of 4.5 to nine years in prison. His co-defendant, Romelo Grey, 41, Freeport, New York, pleaded guilty to falsifying business records on August 16, 2016, and was sentenced to 1.5 to 3 years in prison.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, the scheme was discovered after Grey and Noble transferred the title to the Canarsie house at 1391 East 95th Street to a third party. Grey visited the house with the buyer to inspect it, and told the tenants living there that they had to move out. The buyer then began renovating the house and those workers caught the eye of an employee of a business across the street, which was actually owned by the true owner of 1391 East 95th Street. That employee called the owner of the property, who called police. Further investigation led to the defendants’ connections to the other properties.

As part of the scheme, Noble, the leader, filed false documents with the New York City Department of Finance, Office of the City Register, which maintains land records and other real property filings in New York City, including records relating to ownership and encumbrances, such as liens and mortgages.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “In Brooklyn, we take real estate scams very seriously. The houses targeted in this fraud are worth millions of dollars. My prosecutors and investigators worked diligently to expose this fraudulent scheme and bring this defendant to justice.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Richard Farrell, Chief of the District Attorney’s Real Estate Fraud Unit, under the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Division.

George French Jones, Jr., 50,  Santa Monica, California, pled guilty on December 21, 2018, to mail fraud and identity theft charges in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme involving two waterfront residential properties in Broward County, Florida.

According to information disclosed in open court, in early 2018 Jones identified two residential properties in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which Jones fraudulently pledged as collateral in order to obtain mortgage loans from a private lender.

The two properties were owned by corporate entities that Jones had no affiliation with and which were in fact owned by independent third parties. To execute his fraudulent loan scheme, Jones created fake identification documents and email addresses in order to impersonate officers of the corporate owners of the two properties. Jones then submitted bogus loan applications and other documents to a private lender in which he pretended to be the owners of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida properties. As a result of this scheme, Jones defrauded the private lender out of approximately $1.7 million dollars.

Jones pled guilty to one count of mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341, and one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1). At sentencing, Jones faces a maximum possible sentence of 22 years in prison.  He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola on March 1, 2018, at 8:30 a.m.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the FBI.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Browne. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nalina Sombuntham is handling the asset forfeiture aspects of the prosecution.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Surjit Singh, 72, Dublin, California, Rajeshwar Singh, 44, Pleasanton, California and Anita Sharma, 56, Gilroy, California were sentenced today for crimes relating to their involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme.

According to court documents, in 2006 and 2007, Surjit Singh recruited individuals with good credit to act as straw buyers for residential properties owned by his family members and associates. Rajeshwar Singh, a licensed real estate agent, assisted in the scheme by submitting loan applications for the straw buyers. Anita Sharma, a dental assistant at the time, was one of the straw buyers. Because Sharma and the other straw buyers could not afford the homes based on their true incomes, the Singhs submitted fraudulent loan applications and supporting material to lending institutions that included false statements about the straw buyers’ income, employment, liabilities, and intent to occupy the homes as their primary residences.

At least 14 properties were involved in the scheme. Anita Sharma alone purchased five homes in San Jose, San Ramon, Elk Grove, Sacramento, and Modesto, California. Other straw buyers purchased or refinanced properties in Stockton, Modesto, Patterson, Lathrop and Tracy, California. All of these homes were ultimately either foreclosed upon or sold in a short sale where the bank lets homeowners sell their homes for less than is owed on the mortgage.

Sharma was paid for her involvement in the scheme. Rajeshwar Singh received financial benefits through broker commissions for the transactions and as the seller of seven of the properties. He also continued to occupy the San Ramon property at a time when Anita Sharma should have been living there. Surjit Singh benefitted through payments out of escrow directed to shell companies, such as SJR Investments and BK Investments, which were associated with his daughter and significant other, whose initials are SJR and BK respectively. These payments were purportedly for contracting services, which did not occur. He also benefitted through rental payments made to him and his significant other by the renters of the homes, as the straw buyers were not living in the homes. In addition, many of his family members received money by selling properties and had money directed to them out of escrow. According to court documents and evidence produced at trial, the defendants were responsible for the origination of more than $9.3 million in fraudulently procured residential mortgage loans.

Surjit Singh was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison, his son, Rajeshwar Singh was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison on four counts of mail fraud, four counts of bank fraud, and four counts of false statements on loan and credit applications. Anita Sharma, was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison on two counts of mail fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and two counts of false statements on loan and credit applications. Surjit Singh was ordered to pay a $2 million fine, $698,787 in restitution, and $847,000 in forfeiture. Raj Singh was ordered to pay a $1 million fine, $928,287 in restitution, and $838,399 in forfeiture. Anita Sharma was ordered to pay $603,180 in restitution and $30,000 in forfeiture.

Surjit Singh is in custody.  Rajeshwar Singh and Anita Sharma are scheduled to self‑surrender on January 9, 2019.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott made the announcement.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee S. Bickley, Kelli L. Taylor, and Kevin Khasigian prosecuted the case.

Angela Grace Cotton, 46, Lawrence Edward Cotton, 52, Denaysha Coleman, 26, and Latrese Gevon Breaux, 26, California, have been charged today with running a sophisticated real estate scheme that resulted in the theft of more than $1.4 million.

From July 2014 through September 2016, Angela Cotton, assisted by her co-defendants, allegedly used fictitious escrow and title companies that she had created to deceive a lending company into believing it was funding two legitimate real estate transactions, according to Deputy District Attorney Daniel Kinney of the White Collar Crime Division’s Real Estate Fraud Section.

The group is accused of stealing the identities of nine people in order to facilitate the fictitious real estate sales. Along with the fake escrow and title companies, the defendants allegedly created a fictitious place of employment for one supposed homebuyer under whose name the two loans were approved, the prosecutor said.

To convince the lender of the legitimacy of the transactions and the entities involved, the defendants allegedly created fraudulent websites, emails and phone networks along with fake employment documentation and bank account statements from a non-existent financial institution for the borrower.

The lender transferred funds to a bank account it believed to be owned by a legitimate title company but was allegedly owned by one of the defendants.

The properties for which the defendants received loans were located in Los Angeles and La Cañada Flintridge, California and had not been listed for sale, the prosecutor added.

They are charged with 28 felony counts, including identity theft, forgery, mortgage fraud, grand theft of personal property, attempted grand theft of personal property, money laundering and counterfeit seal, according to the criminal complaint in case BA472018.

Additionally, Angela Cotton faces one felony count of possession of a firearm by a felon with four priors, and Lawrence Cotton is charged with one felony count of receiving stolen property exceeding $950 in value.

The charges include allegations of fraud and embezzlement resulting in the loss of more than $500,000, taking property exceeding $1.3 million in value and theft of more than $100,000. The case was filed for arrest warrant on October 16, 2018.

Angela Cotton, Coleman and Breaux were arraigned this week and pleaded not guilty. A preliminary hearing setting is scheduled for December 6, 2018 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

Lawrence Cotton is still at large.

Angela Cotton was convicted in March 2010 in federal court for a similar real estate fraud scheme.

Angela and Lawrence Cotton each face a possible maximum sentence of 22 years and eight months in state prison if convicted as charged. Coleman and Breaux face a possible maximum sentence of 22 years in prison.

Bail was set at $1.41 million for Angela Cotton, $1 million for Coleman and $1.37 million for Breaux. The prosecutor is requesting bail for Lawrence Cotton be set at $1.39 million.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office made the announcement.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau.

Joseph Bates III, 38, Wakefield, Massachusetts pleaded guilty today in connection with a decade-long mortgage fraud scheme involving at least two dozen fraudulent loan transactions and $4.3 million in losses to lenders.

According to the charging documents, from 2006 through 2015, Bates and others engaged in a scheme to defraud banks and other financial institutions by causing false information to be submitted to those institutions on behalf of borrowers, people recruited to purchase properties, located primarily in Salem,Massachusetts . The properties were usually multi-family buildings with two-to-four units, which the co-conspirators then converted into condominiums. The co-conspirators recruited other borrowers to purchase the individual condominium units, which were also financed by fraudulent mortgage loans. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Joseph+Bates+III

Bates was charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, and two counts of bank fraud. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled. One of Bates’ alleged co-conspirators, George Kritopoulos, 46, Salem, Massachusetts was indicted on related charges in September 2018, and another participant, David Plunkett, 52, Lynn, Massachusetts was charged by Information.

The false information submitted to lenders included, among other things, representations concerning the borrowers’ employment, income, assets, and intent to occupy the property. Specifically, the false employment information included representations that borrowers were employed by entities that were, in fact, shell companies used to advance the fraudulent scheme. The employment information included false representations about the income that the borrowers received from the entities, when, in fact, the borrowers received little or no income from them.  Furthermore, the income asserted on the borrowers’ loan applications substantially overstated their true income. The false information also included representations that the recruited borrowers intended to live in the properties that they were purchasing, when the borrowers, in fact, did not intend to do so. Plunkett allegedly assisted the scheme by preparing tax returns for some of the borrowers that contained false and inflated income. Some of those tax returns were submitted to lenders in support of the fraudulent loan applications.

Because the borrowers did not have the financial ability to repay the loans, in many instances, they defaulted on their loan payments, resulting in foreclosures and losses to the financial institutions of more than $4.3 million.

The charges of bank fraud and wire fraud affecting a financial institution each provide for sentences of no greater than 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a fine of $1 million. The charge of conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Regional Office; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston, made the announcement today.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark J. Balthazard and Sara Miron Bloom of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 

George Kritopoulos, 46, Salem, Massachusetts, a real estate developer, Joseph Bates III, 38, Lynnfield, Massachusetts and David Plunkett, 52, Lynn, Massachusetts were charged today in connection with a 10-year mortgage fraud scheme involving at least two dozen fraudulent loan transactions and $4.3 million in losses to lenders.

According to the charging documents, from 2006 through 2015, Kritopoulos, Bates, and others engaged in a scheme to defraud banks and other financial institutions by causing false information to be submitted to those institutions on behalf of borrowers, people recruited to purchase properties, located primarily in Salem, Massachusetts. The properties were usually multi-family buildings with two-to-four units, which the co-conspirators then converted into condominiums. The co-conspirators recruited other borrowers to purchase the individual condominium units, which were also financed by mortgage loans obtained by fraud.

The false information submitted to lenders included, among other things, representations concerning the borrowers’ employment, income, assets, and intent to occupy the property. Specifically, the false employment information included representations that borrowers were employed by entities that were, in fact, shell companies used to advance the fraudulent scheme. The employment information included false representations about the income that the borrowers received from the entities, when, in fact, the borrowers received little or no income from them.  Furthermore, the income asserted on the borrowers’ loan applications substantially overstated their true income. The false information also included representations that the recruited borrowers intended to live in the properties that they were purchasing, when the borrowers, in fact, did not intend to do so. Plunkett assisted the scheme by preparing tax returns for some of the borrowers that contained false and inflated income. Some of those tax returns were submitted to lenders in support of the fraudulent loan applications.

Because the borrowers did not have the financial ability to repay the loans, in many instances, they defaulted on their loan payments, resulting in foreclosures and losses to the financial institutions of more than $4.3 million.

In addition, Kritopoulos sought to obstruct the federal criminal investigation into the mortgage fraud scheme by encouraging others to make false statements and provide false documents. Kritopoulos also made false statements to federal investigators.

Kritopoulos was charged with one count of conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud, six counts of bank fraud, one count of aiding the preparation of a false income tax return, and one count of obstruction of justice. Bates was charged with one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud, and two counts of bank fraud. Plunkett was also charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return.

The charges of bank fraud and wire fraud each provide for sentences of no greater than 30 years in prison and five years of supervised release. The charge of obstruction of justice provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison and five years of supervised release. The charge of conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison and three years of supervised release. The charge of aiding the preparation of false tax returns provides for a sentence of no greater than three years in prison and one year of supervised release. Each charge also carries a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Regional Office; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston, made the announcement today.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark J. Balthazard and Sara Miron Bloom of Lelling’s Economic Crimes Unit are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Jason Anthony Martinez, 38, Tampa, Florida, has plead guilty to making false statements to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Financial Litigation Unit.

According to the plea agreement, Martinez was previously convicted in a mortgage-related fraud case and ordered to pay $3,008,551.01 in restitution. On October 24, 2017, Martinez signed and submitted a Financial Disclosure Form, upon which he falsely claimed a net income that was approximately half his actual net income and failed to disclose a number of credit accounts. This false information materially and adversely affected the resulting restitution-related payment calculations in his prior case.

He faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Chapa Lopez stated, “Pursuant to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004, federal crime victims have the right to full and timely restitution. Our Financial Litigation Unit is dedicated to investigating defendants’ ability to meet their restitution obligation and collecting such restitution in compliance with federal law. Criminal defendants must understand that the United States Attorney’s Office actively pursues the collection of restitution.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, recognizing the critical importance of recovering restitution for victims, has a Financial Litigation Unit that collects criminal monetary penalties, including restitution, imposed on criminal defendants by the U.S. District Court as part of his or her sentence. One of the tools used by the Unit to collect restitution is the Financial Disclosure Statement, which requires defendants to truthfully disclose, among other things, their income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Economic Crimes Section. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas N. Palermo.

Daniel Cardenas, 37, Tampa, Florida, was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to court documents, from as early as October 2007 through May 2008, Cardenas and others conspired to execute a wire fraud scheme affecting financial institutions. The goal of the scheme was to sell condominium units at The Preserve at Temple Terrace, a 392-unit condominium complex in Tampa, Florida. To entice buyers to purchase the units, the conspirators offered cash payments to buyers, either before or after closing. Payment of the funds to the individual buyers was neither known to nor approved by the mortgage lenders.

The conspirators made material false statements on loan documents, such as purchase and sale agreements, loan applications, and HUD-1 settlement statements, to induce mortgage lenders to approve loans for otherwise unqualified borrowers. The conspirators used several entities to conceal the payments to buyers from the mortgage lenders.

Cardenas’s role in the conspiracy, as a loan officer at Transcontinental Lending Group’s branch in Tampa, Florida included but was not limited to preparing, signing, and certifying false and fraudulent loan applications submitted to lenders in order to induce the institutions to provide funding for buyers. The false representations submitted to and relied upon by the mortgage lenders included representations concerning occupancy, income, source of funds, and assets.  Cardenas’s participation in the mortgage fraud conspiracy caused approximately $710,000 in losses to the victim mortgage lenders.

Cardenas pleaded guilty on April 24, 2018.

This case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General and Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor and Assistant United States Attorney Jay Hoffer.

 

Greisy Jimenez, 50, Methuen, Massachusetts, a real estate broker, was sentenced today in connection with a sweeping conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies by engaging in sham “short” sales of residential properties in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts.

Three co-conspirators involved in the scheme have been sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. In June 2018, Jasmin Polanco, 37, Methuen, Massachusetts, a real estate closing attorney, was sentenced to 15 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $1,224,489 in restitution. In May 2018, Vanessa Ricci, 41, Methuen, Massachusetts, a mortgage loan officer, was sentenced to six months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $963,730. In March 2017, Hyacinth Bellerose, 51, Dunstable, Massachusetts, a real estate closing attorney, was sentenced to time served and one year of supervised release to be served in home detention. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Greisy+Jimenez

The charges arose out of a scheme to defraud various banks via bogus short sales of homes in Haverhill, Lawrence and Methuen, Massachusetts in which the purported sellers remained in their homes with their debt substantially reduced. A short sale is a sale of real estate for less than the value of any existing mortgage debt on the property. Short sales are an alternative to foreclosure that typically occur only with the consent of the mortgage lender. Generally, the lender absorbs a loss on the loan and releases the borrower from the unpaid balance. By their very nature, short sales are intended to be arms-length transactions in which the buyers and sellers are unrelated, and in which the sellers cede their control of the subject properties in exchange for the short-selling bank’s agreement to release them from their unpaid debt.

The conspiracy began in approximately August 2007 and continued through June 2010, a period that included the height of the financial crisis and its aftermath. Home values in Massachusetts and across the nation declined precipitously, and many homeowners found themselves suddenly “underwater” with homes worth less than the mortgage debt they owed. As part of the scheme, Jimenez, Polanco, Ricci, Bellerose and others submitted materially false and misleading documents to numerous banks in an effort to induce them to permit the short-sales, thereby releasing the purported sellers from their unpaid mortgage debts, while simultaneously inducing the purported buyers’ banks to provide financing for the deals. In fact, the purported sellers simply stayed in their homes, with their debt substantially reduced.

The conspirators falsely led banks to believe that the sales were arms-length transactions between unrelated parties; in fact, the buyers and sellers were frequently related, and the sellers retained control of (and frequently continued to live in) the properties after the sale. The conspirators also submitted phony earnings statements in support of loan applications that were submitted to banks in order to obtain new financing for the purported sales. In addition, the defendants submitted phony “HUD-1 Settlement Statements” to banks that did not accurately reflect the disbursement of funds in the transactions. HUD-1 Settlement Statements are standard forms that are used to document the flow of funds in real estate transactions. They are required for all transactions involving federally related mortgage loans, including all mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Jimenez was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf, to three years in prison, four years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a fine of $12,500. The court will determine issues of restitution and forfeiture on Aug. 29, 2018. In January 2018, Jimenez pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, New York Field Office; and Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen E. Frank, Chief of Lelling’s Economic Crimes Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara Miron Bloom and Victor A. Wild, also of the Economic Crimes Unit, prosecuted the cases.

Momoud Aref Abaji, 37, Huntington Beach, California was sentenced to federal prison for his leadership role in a “builder bailout” mortgage fraud scheme.

The scheme Abaji operated resulted in the fraudulent purchase of more than 100 condominium units around the country, causing more than $10 million in losses when the properties went into foreclosure.

Abaji, along with several co-conspirators, operated the scheme through Excel Investments and related companies based in Santa Ana and Irvine, California. The scheme involved kickbacks from condominium builders during the 2008 financial crisis, that Abaji and his co-conspirators hid from lenders to convince them to fund loans in excess of the actual purchase price. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Maher+Obagi

During the course of the scheme, co-conspirators identified condominium developments around the country where the builders were struggling to sell units and arranged to purchase multiple units at a discount. The builders benefited by making it appear that their condos were selling and maintaining their value, while members of the conspiracy obtained the kickbacks.

The co-conspirators negotiated with condominium builders in California, Florida and Arizona for discount units. The defendants bought units for themselves, their relatives, and on behalf of “straw buyers” whom they brought into the scheme. They identified straw buyers by looking for individuals with good credit scores and then recruited them into the scheme by giving them an upfront payment for their participation and by presenting the scheme as an investment opportunity that required no down payment and would generate income through rental payments.

To obtain mortgages for the properties, Abaji and other co-conspirators prepared loan applications with false information about the straw buyers – including fake employment, income and assets, as well as fabricated W2s, pay stubs and bank statements. The mortgage applications also included false information about the terms of the transactions, such as concealing the large kickbacks from builders through false and misleading HUD-1 forms. As a result of the false statements in the fraudulent loan applications, mortgage lenders provided over $21 million in financing to purchase more than 100 properties.

Many of these loans went into default, and mortgage lenders lost more than $10 million after foreclosing on the properties. The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) purchased dozens of these loans on the secondary mortgage market and suffered losses of at least $1.3 million as a result of defaults and foreclosures on the properties.

Abaji was sentenced to 108 months in prison by United States District Judge Andrew Guilford and ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution to the financial institutions that were victims of the fraud.

Several other defendants were charged in connection with the same scheme.

  • Abaji’s brother, Maher Obagi, 32, Huntington Beach, California who was sentenced in June 2018 to 78 months in prison and ordered to pay just over $10 million in restitution.
  • Mohamed Salah, 43, Mission Viejo, California who was sentenced in June 2018 to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay just over $7 million in restitution.
  • Ali Khatib, 53, Newport Coast, California pleaded guilty in a related case and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 10th;
  • Jacqueline Burchell, 57, Orange, California pleaded guilty in June 2013 and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 1st;
  • Wajieh Tbakhi, 53, who is currently a fugitive; and
  • Mohamed El Tahir, now deceased.

This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of the Inspector General; and IRS Criminal Investigation.

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