Archives For Florida

Geo Geovanni, 49, and Elizabeth Longerbone, 39, both of Moultrie, Georgia, have been charged today with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and four counts of bank fraud.

According to the indictment, Geovanni and Longerbone devised and executed a mortgage fraud scheme involving “The Landing,” a condominium conversion of a former apartment complex located in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The scheme involved providing the cash-to-close funds on behalf of the buyers, guarantying tenants and rental payments to the buyers, as well as paying post-closing kickbacks of mortgage proceeds to buyers and co-conspirators through entities that Geovanni and Longerbone controlled. None of the incentives or kickbacks were disclosed to the financial institutions that had approved and funded the mortgage loans.

If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison for each 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 and the FBI. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

Hollie Darlene Dustin, 60, Punta Gorda, Florida has pleaded guilty to wire fraud. She faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

According to the plea agreement, Dustin, a licensed real estate broker, owned Home Choice Real Estate (HCRE), a company that contracted with the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) to manage and perform preservation services on various Fannie Mae foreclosed properties and potentially list those properties for sale. As part of a Master Listing Agreement with Fannie Mae, Dustin’s company was prohibited from using any vendors that she controlled or with which she had a conflict of interest to perform preservation services on Fannie Mae properties. Dustin fraudulently used ProPreserve, a company that she controlled, to perform preservation services on the properties without Fannie Mae’s knowledge or consent. Dustin submitted approximately 550 fraudulent ProPreserve invoices to Fannie Mae requesting approximately $146,280.46, which Fannie Mae paid to HCRE.

Dustin also created inflated ProPreserve invoices for work already performed by other vendors, then submitted those false invoices to Fannie Mae for payment.  Dustin used interstate wires to submit the fraudulent invoices to Fannie Mae.

Dustin’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 17, 2018.

This case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey F. Michelland.

Michael Rubino, 59, Clearwater, Florida, was sentenced today to 13 months in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud and equity skimming.

According to court documents, Rubino devised a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders that were holding recorded mortgage notes, as well as the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and the Federal Housing Agency (“FHA”), which guaranteed the mortgage notes. In furtherance of his scheme, Rubino searched Pinellas County Clerk of Court records to find properties in various stages of foreclosure. He then contacted distressed homeowners who had already defaulted on their mortgages and had vacated their properties. Rubino offered to take control of, manage, and rent the properties to new tenants. Rubino told the homeowners that he would use the rental income he obtained to pay the mortgages and, in some instances, pay the homeowner a portion of the rent he collected. At no time did Rubino hold any legal or equitable interest in these properties, or have authorization from the mortgage lenders, Fannie Mae, or FHA, to rent out the properties. Further, he failed to remit any of the collected rent monies to FHA, as required by law.

Additionally, in order to prevent Fannie Mae and the mortgage lenders from lawfully foreclosing on properties secured by mortgage notes, Rubino engaged in a bankruptcy fraud scheme whereby he filed fraudulent bankruptcy petitions in the names of the distressed homeowners, without their knowledge or consent, just prior to the scheduled foreclosure sale. These fraudulent bankruptcies triggered the automatic stay provision of the bankruptcy code, preventing the mortgage note holders from conducting the foreclosure sale. The fraudulent bankruptcy petitions filed by Rubino allowed him to continue to collect rent monies to which he was not entitled.

Rubino had pleaded guilty on January 31, 2018.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General. The Office of the U.S. Trustee for the Middle District of Florida also provided substantial assistance. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

Christopher Coburn, 33, Winter Garden, Florida was indicted today on six counts of bankruptcy fraud. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.

According to the indictment, Coburn solicited homeowners whose mortgages were in default and offered to rescue their homes from foreclosure. In order to prevent the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and multiple financial institutions holding mortgages from lawfully foreclosing on homeowners’ properties, Coburn engaged in a bankruptcy fraud scheme whereby he filed or caused to be filed fraudulent bankruptcy petitions in the name of homeowners, without their knowledge or consent, just prior to the scheduled foreclosure sale dates. These fraudulent bankruptcies triggered the automatic stay provision of the bankruptcy code, preventing Fannie Mae and the financial institutions from conducting lawful foreclosure sales and obtaining title to the properties. The fraudulent petitions enabled Coburn to collect fees and allowed him to refer the properties to real estate agents in order to obtain ill-gotten referral fees.

United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez made the announcement.

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 Office of the United States Trustee for the Middle District of Florida (Orlando Division) also provided substantial assistance. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

 

Alejandro Tobon, 35, Orlando, Florida has been sentenced to 37 months and Carlos Escarria, 61, Largo, Florida has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, for conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. They pleaded guilty on June 9, 2017.

According to court documents, from as early as October 2007 through May 2008, Tobon, Escarria, and others conspired to execute a bank and wire fraud scheme. The goal of the fraud 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. The mortgage lenders were not made aware of these payments. The conspirators used several entities to conceal from the mortgage lenders the cash payments to buyers.

The conspirators made false statements on loan documents, such as purchase and sale agreements and loan applications, and on HUD-1 settlement statements, to induce mortgage lenders to approve loans for otherwise unqualified borrowers for the condo unit purchases.

Tobon was the manager of Transcontinental Lending Group’s branch in Tampa, Florida and he was also the President of Tobon Marketing and Consultant. His role in the conspiracy included submitting false and fraudulent loan applications to financial institutions to induce them to provide funding for buyers to purchase Preserve units. He also marketed units to buyers with undisclosed incentives and transferred funds he had received from the developer through Tobon Marketing and Consultant to borrowers’ bank accounts who needed money to close on the purchases. The money was then used to provide the down payment and cash to close requirements.

Escarria worked as a loan officer at Transcontinental Lending Group’s branch in Tampa, Florida. He signed false and fraudulent loan applications to induce financial institutions into providing funding for buyers to purchase condo units. The false representations submitted to and relied upon by the mortgage lenders included occupancy, income, source of funds, and assets.

The mortgage lenders’ total losses resulting from Tobon’s and Escarria’s role in the mortgage fraud conspiracy are approximately $5.8 million.

Tobon and Escarria were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew.

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

David Lyle Morgan, 53, Tampa, Florida, has been charged with two counts of bankruptcy fraud and one count of falsification of records in a bankruptcy proceeding. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.

According to the indictment, Morgan, a licensed realtor, entered into a contract with a homeowner to sell a property in foreclosure. In order to prevent the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) from lawfully foreclosing on the homeowner’s property, Morgan engaged in a bankruptcy fraud scheme whereby he filed fraudulent bankruptcy petitions in the homeowner’s name, without the homeowner’s knowledge or consent, just prior to the scheduled foreclosure sale dates. These fraudulent bankruptcies invoked the automatic stay provision of the bankruptcy code and prevented Fannie Mae from conducting the sale and obtaining title to the property. They also allowed Morgan to continue his efforts to sell the property to obtain illegal real estate commissions.

The indictment further alleges that Morgan made false declarations on a fraudulent bankruptcy petition that he had filed in the name of the homeowner, impeding the proper administration of a bankruptcy proceeding.

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.

United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General. The Office of the United States Trustee for the Middle District of Florida (Tampa Division) also provided substantial assistance. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

Marco Laureti, 46, Sunny Isles Beach, Miami, a former newspaper publisher, mortgage broker, mortgage lender and real estate agent, was sentenced in federal court today for leading a $20 million mortgage fraud scheme. Laureti was sentenced to 180 months imprisonment, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $8,316,135, in restitution.

According to evidence presented at trial, Laureti and co-conspirators were involved in a $20 million mortgage fraud scheme.  Laureti was a former newspaper publisher and owner of Laureti Publishing Company and multiple companies, including Northview Equities LLC, Northview Real Estate LLC, Northview Capital LLC, Laureti Holdings Company, Laureti Media Group, Inc., ReTrade, Inc., and M4 Management LLC, in addition to being a licensed Florida real estate agent and formerly licensed Florida mortgage broker.

At trial, the government presented evidence that the defendant and his co-conspirators engaged in a fraud scheme involving a condominium complex located at 45 Hendricks Isle, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  The defendant and other co-conspirators made false and fraudulent statements to a financial institution on mortgage loan applications, including grossly inflating income and bank account balances.  These defendants also made fraudulent representations on the closing statements for these multi-million dollar condominiums.

Once these loans were approved, a co-conspirator, at Laureti’s direction, diverted the loan proceeds to fund the cash the borrower was expected to bring to the property’s closing, as well as diverting additional monies from the loan proceeds to various companies owned by Laureti and another co-conspirator.  The evidence showed Laureti paid a co-conspirator $10,000 for each fraudulent transaction.  Furthermore, Laureti and a co-conspirator utilized the same scheme on the mortgage loan applications and closing statements to purchase their own multi-million dollar residential properties in Miami Beach, Florida including Laureti’s $6.9 million home and a co-conspirator’s $6.5 million dollar condominium.  The defendants’ scheme defrauded the financial institution of approximately $20 million in disbursed mortgage loans.

In November 2017, after a three-week trial, Laureti was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349 and seven counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343 (Case No. 16-60340-CR-Bloom(s)(Cohn)).  http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Marco+Laureti

Benjamin G. Greenberg, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

The sentence imposed is a success in our continuing efforts to fight mortgage fraud that jeopardizes our nation’s financial institutions,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg.  “Laureti was a prominent businessman who used his reputation to perpetrate the $20,000,000 mortgage fraud scheme, which thanks to the efforts of law enforcement, was successfully unraveled.  We will continue to investigate and prosecute individuals who engage in deceptive and fraudulent behavior that is fueled by greed.”

Criminals are always looking for ways to exploit vulnerabilities and devise methods to defraud,” said Robert F. Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami.  “Marco Laureti and his co-conspirators implemented a mortgage fraud scheme for their own personal enrichment, but instead got an investigation, a trial and a conviction.  Would-be mortgage fraudsters beware: The FBI remains committed to rooting out this type of fraud.”

Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of the FBI.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randy Katz and Karen O. Stewart.

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.

John Reimer, 60, Boca Raton, Florida, was charged today with one count of bank fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.   The indictment charges Reimer with bank fraud and mortgage fraud in connection with his participation in a scheme to defraud banks of money intended for individuals seeking loans to purchase or refinance their homes.

According to the allegations made in the Indictment:[1]

Reimer, who was the vice-president and comptroller of a mortgage lending institution (the “Mortgage Bank”), participated in a scheme to defraud several financial institutions (the “Warehouse Banks”) by causing the Warehouse Banks to provide funds to the Mortgage Bank, ostensibly to fund mortgage loans for residential properties, based on false and fraudulent documentation and representations made and provided by Reimer to the Warehouse Banks.

The Mortgage Bank was in the business of providing mortgage loans for residential properties (“Loans”).  Pursuant to agreements, the Warehouse Banks advanced sums of money to the Mortgage Bank so that the Mortgage Bank could fund Loans (the “Warehouse Advances”).  Once a Loan closed, the Mortgage Bank typically sold the loan to an investor and used the proceeds of the sale to re-pay the Warehouse Bank for the Warehouse Advance.

In order to obtain a Warehouse Advance for a particular loan, the Mortgage Bank was required, among other things, to provide the Warehouse Bank with certain documents and information about the Loan.  In addition, the notes and mortgages executed by the residential mortgagors were provided to the Warehouse Banks as collateral for the Warehouse Advances.  Reimer was responsible for providing the Warehouse Banks with the information and documents necessary to obtain the Warehouse Advances.

However, according to the Indictment, with respect to certain Loans, Reimer “double-pledged” residential properties by obtaining multiple Warehouse Advances from more than one Warehouse Bank to fund the same Loan, thus misleading each Warehouse Bank into believing that the Warehouse Advance it made to the Mortgage Bank was fully collateralized.

Moreover, according to the Indictment, with respect to certain Loans, Reimer falsely represented to the Warehouse Banks that the Loans were going to close imminently, when, in fact, such Loans were not imminently closing at the time the Warehouse Advances were made.  In some cases, the Loans never closed, but the Mortgage Bank nevertheless retained the Warehouse Advances made for those particular Loans.  In other cases, the Loans did close, but the Mortgage Bank used those Warehouse Advances to repay other Warehouse Advances.

According to the Indictment, in furtherance of the scheme, Reimer provided the Warehouse Banks with fraudulent documents, including mortgage notes on which Reimer falsified the signatures of the purported residential mortgagors.

According to the Indictment, from November 2008 through January 2009, Reimer used fraudulent misrepresentations to cause the Warehouse Banks to wire the Mortgage Company at least over $12 million.

Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Maria T. Vullo, Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services (the “DFS”) made the announcement.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “As alleged, John Reimer, vice president of a mortgage bank, defrauded several other financial institutions of more than $12 million.  Reimer allegedly falsified documents, kept funding for mortgages that never closed, and even acquired funding multiple times for the same loans as part of the scheme.  Fraud schemes that target money intended for home loans can taint the market for honest homebuyers seeking to secure mortgages.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement and regulatory partners to ensure that schemes like the one charged here are stopped.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “As alleged, Reimer capitalized on his knowledge of the mortgage-lending industry to exploit its vulnerabilities, causing serious damage to a number of warehouse banks fronting him an advance for the loans his bank was in the business of providing.  Mortgage fraud not only affects individual victims and institutions, it risks the overall stability of the housing market, accumulating losses across the board.  The FBI continues to support partnerships within the mortgage industry and law enforcement as we work together to combat this serious crime.”

Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo said:  “This defendant allegedly used his position and access as a banker to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent loans.  As regulator of New York’s Financial Services industry, the Department of Financial Services is proud to have assisted the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York in bringing this defendant to justice.”

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by a judge.

Mr. Kim thanked the FBI and DFS for their outstanding work on the investigation.

This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division.  Assistant United States Attorney Michael D. Maimin is in charge of the prosecution.

Avi Stern, Christopher Graeve, and Stuart Hankin, Florida, three high-volume Florida real estate investors were indicted yesterday with conspiring to rig bids during online auctions in Palm Beach County, Florida in order to obtain foreclosed properties at suppressed prices.  The indictment alleges that the conduct took place from at least January 2012 until June 2015.

The Department of Justice made the announcement.

These are the first indictments related to bid rigging in foreclosure auctions filed in Florida by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.  The Antitrust Division previously has prosecuted similar bid rigging conduct in Alabama, California, Georgia and North Carolina, resulting in more than 100 guilty pleas and convictions in those states.

These charges demonstrate that the Antitrust Division will uncover and prosecute collusion by real estate investors, regardless of whether their conduct is carried out in person, or in texts, online chats or through other electronic means,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The Division will continue to work closely with our law enforcement colleagues to prosecute those responsible for taking money that would otherwise have gone to mortgage holders, Palm Beach County, and in some cases, to the owners of foreclosed homes.

Real estate investors who think they can swindle the system to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains beware,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan of the FBI Miami’s Field Office. “The FBI and our law enforcement partners will vigorously investigate such schemes.”

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

These charges have been filed as a result of the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section and the FBI’s Miami Division – West Palm Beach Resident Agency.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Washington Criminal I Section of the Antitrust Division at 202-307-6694 or www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html.

Casey Padula, 48, Port Charlotte, Florida, was sentenced to 57 months in prison for conspiring to commit tax and bank fraud.

According to court records, Padula had a mortgage on his Port Charlotte, Florida home of approximately $1.5 million with Bank of America (BoA).  In 2012, he sent a letter to the bank stating that he could no longer repay his loan.  At the same time, Padula provided Robert Robinson III, 43, who acted as a nominee buyer, with more than $625,000 from his IPPI bank account in Belize to fund a short sale of Padula’s home. Padula and Robinson signed a contract, which falsely represented that the property was sold through an “arms-length transaction,” and agreed that Padula would not be permitted to remain in the property after the sale. Padula in fact never moved from his home and less than two months after the closing, Robinson conveyed it back to Padula by transferring ownership to one of Padula’s Belizean entities for $1. Robinson was also sentenced  to five years of probation for signing a false Form HUD-1 in connection with his role in the scheme.

Padula was also involved in a tax fraud scheme that used secret numbered bank accounts, foreign shell companies and phony deductions to hide millions and evade taxes, according to Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, who announced the sentence.

In addition to the term of prison imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Sherri Polster Chappell, Padula was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay a fine of $100,000 and to pay restitution of $728,609 to the IRS and to BoA in the amount of $739,459.90. He was remanded into custody.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg thanked special agents of IRS CI, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant Chiefs Todd Ellinwood and Caryn Finley of the Tax Division, who prosecuted this case. Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Florida for its assistance.