Archives For False Documents/HUD

Eric Granitur, 60, Vero Beach, Florida, an attorney, George Heaton, 75, West Palm Beach, Florida, a property developer and Stephen McKenzie, 46, Melbourne, Florida, a condominium buyer were sentenced today to prison for participating in a criminal conspiracy and making false statements to a federally insured institution.

According to the court record, in 2009, Eric Granitur owned and operated Live Oak Title, which conducted two real estate closings for the purchase of five condominiums at the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa.  The seller and developer of the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, George Heaton paid numerous incentives to buyer Stephen McKenzie to purchase the condominiums.  Heaton agreed to pay the “cash-to-close” amount that the buyer McKenzie was expected to bring to closing, and nearly $380,000 in additional cash after closing.

Granitur’s title company, Live Oak Title, conducted the closings for the sales of the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa condominium units sold to buyer McKenzie.  As an escrow agent, Granitur was required to truthfully and accurately prepare and distribute a settlement statement to the financial institutions, known as a “HUD-1,” in preliminary form for review by the financial institution, prior to the closing of escrow.   The closing statement was required to accurately reflect, among other information, the sales price, the closing funds provided by the borrower and all of the seller’s contributions.  As an escrow agent, Granitur was responsible for receiving and holding in trust, in an escrow account, the mortgage loan proceeds from the financial institutions that financed the purchase of the condominium units, and he was responsible for disbursing those loan proceeds only after final approval by the financial institutions.

On two occasions, involving Vero Beach Hotel and Club condo units sold by Heaton to McKenzie, Granitur knowingly caused a false closing statement to be transmitted to a federally insured financial institution.  The HUD-1 closing statements failed to truthfully disclose seller credits and incentives.  Additionally, the closing statements failed to disclose that the seller was paying the buyer’s “cash-to-close.”  The financial institutions relied upon the closing statement in authorizing the release of funds.

U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg sentenced Granitur, Heaton and McKenzie to prison today.

Granitur was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release.  He was ordered to forfeit approximately $28,000.

Heaton, who pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government, was sentenced to 6 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and forfeited approximately $263,000.

McKenzie, who pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government, was sentenced to 4 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release.

Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; and Edwin Bonano, Special Agent in Charge, Tampa, Florida, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) made the announcement.

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and FHFA-OIG in this matter.  This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph A. Capone and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel E. Funk.

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 on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

 

Hector Hernandez, real estate developer and owner of a mortgage company, 57, Miami, Florida; Aleida Fontao, co-owner of a mortgage company, 62, Miami, Florida; and Olga Hernandez, senior mortgage underwriter, 58, Lake Mary, Florida, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution in connection with an FHA mortgage fraud scheme involving federally insured mortgages that caused losses of $64 million to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).  Including these defendants, 25 individuals have pleaded guilty to offenses related to this scheme to date..  Hector and Olga Hernandez both pleaded guilty on July 13, 2015, while Fontao pleaded guilty on July 7, 2015.  As part of his plea, Hector Hernandez also agreed to forfeit $8 million, which amounts to his profits from the scheme.

Hector Hernandez’s mortgage company, Great Country Mortgage Bankers, specialized in mortgage loans that were insured by the FHA. Continue Reading…

Grady Wayne Fricks, 65, Nashville, Tennessee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges arising out of a scheme to defraud Cornerstone Community Bank, Dalton, Georgia, using false appraisals, settlement statements and misrepresentations to qualify for more than a million dollars in loans.

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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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Six individuals were indicted for participating in a mortgage fraud conspiracy involving alleged misrepresentations to the banks including fictitious verifications of false and fraudulent employment and bank deposit information set forth on loan applications.  Continue Reading…

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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Teresa Jean Whitten, 41, Claycomo, Missouri, who operated a real estate business, was sentenced in for her role in a $5 million mortgage fraud scheme wherein she claimed to have a program through which people could purchase houses without putting money down and could qualify and obtain mortgage loans for which they would not otherwise qualify.

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Barry J. Graham, 59, and Ricky Lynn Stokes, 54, both of Ft. Myers, Florida, were sentenced to 60 months imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for promising to develop dilapidated properties into luxury resorts as well as an upfront leaseback payment at the time of closing, but failed to disclose the leaseback payment and other financial inducements to the borrowers, on paperwork submitted to lenders.

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Xue Heu, 38, Modesto, California, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud in connection with a fraudulent real estate investment scheme wherein he gave investors fraudulent documents, such as grant deeds, HUD-1 settlement statements, and portfolio listings of properties he claimed he intended to purchase, including properties that had already been sold and were no longer available to purchase.

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Joseph Pasquale, 38, Worcester, MA, has been charged with with one count of mortgage fraud conspiracy involving bank fraud and two counts of bank fraud. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment for each count.

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