Archives For false liens

Iskyo Aronov (also known as “Isaac Aronov”), 32, Miami, Florida, Michael Konstantinovskiy (also known as “Michael Kay”), 33, Rego Park, Queens, Tomer Dafna, 48, Great Neck, New York, Avraham Tarshish, 40, Queens Village, New York and Michael Herskowitz, 40, Brooklyn, New York have been indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and related wire fraud counts, in connection with a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders, including the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”), the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) and borrowers.

According to the indictment, between December 2012 and January 2019, the defendants conspired to defraud mortgage lenders, misleading them into approving short sale transactions at fraudulently depressed prices.  In a short sale, with the approval of the mortgage lender or servicer, a mortgage loan borrower sells his or her property for less than the outstanding balance of the mortgage loan.  The proceeds from the short sale, less approved closing costs, are applied to the outstanding mortgage loan balance owed to the lender, who typically agrees to forgive the borrower’s remaining mortgage loan balance.  Here, the defendants fraudulently manipulated the short sale process by transferring properties for prices well above the short sale prices, and failing to disclose this to the mortgage lenders and servicers.  The defendants also took steps to preclude other prospective purchasers from making higher offers for properties by failing to market properties as required by the lenders, and by filing fraudulent liens on properties.

As a further part of the scheme, the defendants provided the mortgage lenders and servicers with false and misleading information in transaction documents and failed to disclose either payments made to the borrower and others related to short sale or contemporaneous agreements to transfer the properties at inflated prices.  Many of the affected mortgage loans were insured by the Federal Housing Administration, or owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Robert Manchak, Special Agent-in-Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region (FHFA-OIG), and Christina Scaringi, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, Northeast Region (HUD-OIG), announced the charges.

As alleged, the defendants defrauded mortgage loan holders out of millions of dollars, with taxpayers saddled with much of the loss,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “This Office will continue working with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute those who commit mortgage fraud and enrich themselves at the expense of the financial institutions and government programs that insure or guarantee the loans.”  Mr. Donoghue thanked the United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, New York Field Office (HSI), the HSI El Dorado Financial Crimes Task Force and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, New York, for their assistance in the ongoing investigation.

Together with our partners in law enforcement, we have disrupted a scheme to defraud Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As demonstrated by this indictment, FHFA-OIG will investigate and hold accountable those who seek to victimize the government-sponsored entities supervised and regulated by FHFA,” stated FHFA-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Manchak.

These five individuals allegedly engaged in a scheme of wholesale deception when they provided false, misleading, and incomplete information to lending institutions, borrowers, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) causing millions of dollars in damages to the FHA, which typically results in higher premiums being charged to future first-time homeowners,” stated HUD-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Scaringi.  “What makes their alleged crimes even more egregious was their artificial devaluation of properties that, when resold or ‘flipped,’ resulted in large profits.  Many of these homes were located in economically challenged areas of New York where affordable housing is at a premium.”

Konstantinovskiy, Dafna, Tarshish and Herskowitz were arrested this morning in New York, and will be arraigned this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom.  Aronov was arrested in Florida, and will appear this afternoon for a removal hearing at the federal courthouse in Miami.

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum of 30 years’ imprisonment and a $1 million fine.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section.  Assistant United States Attorney Shannon C. Jones is in charge of the prosecution.  Assistant United States Attorney Tanisha Payne of the Office’s Civil Division is handling forfeiture matters.

David John Dziedzic, 55, Scottsdale, Arizona, was sentenced on December 17, 2018 to 30 months’ imprisonment for his lead role in criminal activity related to the short sale of distressed mortgages, some of which were federally-insured.

Dziedzic operated the “Housing Angels” program through his company, Real Core Realty, LLC.  He aggressively marketed a program designed to help homeowners stay in their homes following a short sale, through an undisclosed sale-leaseback program with “angel” investors.   Through this program, he typically received commissions from both the buyer and the seller in a short sale transaction. Dziedzic also recorded false secondary liens on more than 100 short sale properties to induce banks holding primary mortgages to pay off the false secondary mortgages, resulting in more than $100,000 in illegal profits as a result of the scheme.

Dziedzic’s wife, Heather Hamilton Dziedzic, 43, pleaded guilty to a related misdemeanor charge, and was also sentenced for her role in the offense.  She will also surrender her real estate license.  She received a two-year term of probation and a deferred disposition on a felony securities charge, which may be dismissed upon successful completion of the probationary term.

Dziedzic had previously pleaded guilty to one count of communication of unregistered securities, and a separate count involving the failure to notify the Treasury Department of his collection of more than $10,000 in cash from a real estate customer.  

As part of the sentence, Dziedzic must give up his real estate license.  He paid $107,280 in restitution for the actual loss caused when 40 banks paid out on the false liens, and he was also ordered to pay a money judgment of $142,000 over time, in order to disgorge additional profits.  As part of the plea agreement, Dziedzic, a Canadian national who naturalized as a U.S. citizen during the investigation, agreed to cooperate in his denaturalization, because he had failed to disclose the existence of the investigation to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the naturalization process.

The investigation in this case was conducted by Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation; the 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. The prosecution was handled by Gary M. Restaino and Monica B. Klapper, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix.

 

Arlando Jacobs, 52, The Woodlands, Texas, has pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to information presented in court, from October 2011 through April 2017, Jacobs conspired with others to create and submit fraudulent mortgage lien documents to title companies and financial institutions in order to receive transfers of funds they were not entitled to receive. Jacobs was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2017.  Co-defendant, Clarence Roland, is scheduled for trial in September 2018.

Under federal statutes, Jacobs faces up to 30 years in federal prison at sentencing.  The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown made the announcement.

Arlando Jacobs pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Office of  Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Housing & Urban Development-Office of Inspector General.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Eason.

Stevie McDonald, 42, Winter Haven, Florida, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for bank fraud related to his role in a mortgage fraud conspiracy. As part of his sentence, the Court ordered him to pay restitution to J.P. Morgan Chase Bank in the amount of $74,868.

According to court records, on November 10, 2007, McDonald entered into a contract to purchase a home in Port Richey, Florida. He then applied for a mortgage loan from Washington Mutual Bank. In the loan documents that he signed and submitted to the bank, McDonald made false statements about his income and employment. In December 2007, during the course of closing on the property purchase, Washington Mutual paid more than $35,000 to a woman McDonald knew and later married. This payment was purportedly a satisfaction of an existing lien on the sale property. Subsequent investigation revealed that no such lien existed. Washington Mutual Bank suffered a financial loss as a consequence of McDonald’s default on the loan.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.

Stevie McDonald, 41, Winter Haven, Florida has pleaded guilty to making false statements in a mortgage loan application. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to court documents, on November 10, 2007, McDonald entered into a contract to purchase a home in Port Richey, Florida. He then applied for a mortgage loan from Washington Mutual Bank. In the loan documents that he signed and submitted to the bank, McDonald made false statements about his income and his employment. In December 2007, during the course of the closing on the property purchase, Washington Mutual paid more than $35,000 to a woman McDonald knew and later married. This payment was purportedly a satisfaction of an existing lien on the sale property. Subsequent investigation revealed that no such lien existed. Washington Mutual Bank suffered a financial loss as a consequence of McDonald’s default on this loan.

United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III made the announcement.  The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.

Rodney Taylor, 51, Las Vegas, Nevada, pleaded guilty to two counts of false representation concerning title. Taylor participated in a scheme to claim liens on real estate in Las Vegas, Nevada by filing false documents. The fraudulent acts were committed between March and September 2012.

In addition to claiming non-existent liens on property, Taylor was also accused of filing false claims of ownership for real estate with the county recorder’s office. After filing these claims, Taylor applied for and received public funds from the Southern Nevada Housing Authority in exchange for renting to Section 8 tenants. The state is seeking restitution of over $45,000 for victimized individuals and state agencies.

Fraudulent real estate claims have a devastating impact on Nevada families and their homes,” said Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt. “Prosecutors in my office will continue to ensure that those who attempt to defraud the public receive justice.”

False representation concerning title is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $10,000. The sentencing hearing for Taylor is scheduled for February 11, 2016, in the Eighth Judicial District Court.

The investigation of this case was a collaborative effort between the Attorney General’s Fraud Unit, the City of North Las Vegas and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Deputy Attorney General Daniel Westmeyer prosecuted this case.

If you are involved in fraud detection and prevention in the mortgage industry or have attended an event where I have spoken over the past few years, you are no doubt aware that the Sovereign Citizen movement has been targeting the mortgage industry.  The one most prominent in my mind is, of course, the Dorean Group.  Its ringleaders, Scott Heineman and Kurt Johnson were a were a frequent topic on the blog during 2005 and through their trial, sentencings and appeals.  Although Sovereign Citizens at times become engaged in mortgage fraud because of certain beliefs concerning the history of our currency and a misreading of the law, their impact and involvement in the mortgage industry is tangential to their ideology – which is grounded in conspiracy theory.  In 2013, I wrote an article entitled Fraud From the Fringe – the Sovereign Citizen Movement and the Rise of Mortgage Elimination Schemes, published in Mortgage Banking Magazine, that provides more explanation.  The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League also have resources on Sovereign Citizen ideology.

I am always interested in news on Sovereign Citizen activity and prosecutions – even when not related to mortgage.  Some of the conduct they engage in can be incredibly harassing to the people they target – be it a private citizen or a government figure.  The everyday engagements that give rise to retaliation can be very minor in the eyes of the non-Sovereign Citizen and yet the backlash can be astounding – the worst, of course, being examples of public safety officers gunned down during traffic stops.  But, ordinary, every day social or business interactions can also result in economic threats or the filing and recording of legal documents that can be difficult to appropriately address. Continue Reading…