Archives For Florida

Brannon Rue, real estate agent, 47, Oviedo, Florida, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a financial institution. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to the plea agreement, Rue executed a scheme to influence financial institutions to approve short sales of real estate at a loss by making false statements on various documents. In furtherance of his scheme, Rue formed and controlled Hatley Partners, which he used to mask his role as the true purchaser of short-sale properties and to profit from the subsequent sale of the properties. Continue Reading…

Ocwen Financial Corporation is a national provider of loan servicing for lenders. It is headquartered in Florida and has offices in several states. In its Consent Agreement with Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection and Attorney General, Ocwen admitted that after July 2014 it pursued foreclosures against Maine homeowners based on paperwork which the State found to be legally defective.

Specifically, Ocwen used “powers of attorney” granted by corporate originators of the mortgages, but those corporate originators of the mortgages had been legally dissolved – had ceased to exist – no later than March 2012. The State alleges that the powers of attorney terminated when the granting corporations dissolved.

Under the Consent Agreement, the State found that Ocwen’s use of the powers of attorneys from legally nonexistent entities violated a statute prohibiting “false, deceptive or misleading representation or means in the collection of any debt.”

Ocwen’s illegal filings continued into January of 2019, even after Ocwen’s lawyers had assured State regulators in November 2018 that the practice would stop. The company termed the additional filings as “inadvertent.”

Ocwen Financial Corporation will refund or credit 24 Maine residents more than $50,000 in attorney’s fees they were assessed when their homes were foreclosed upon, and the company will pay $24,000 in civil penalties and $10,000 in investigative costs to the State of Maine, as part of a Consent Agreement signed last week.

Maine’s Supreme Court has made clear that lenders must establish that they have the legal right to pursue foreclosures,” said Will Lund, Superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection. “Those requirements were not followed in these cases.”

Attorney General Aaron M. Frey, whose office assisted state mortgage regulators in negotiating and resolving the matter, stated, “The Consent Agreement puts Ocwen – and other national mortgage lenders and servicers – on notice that they must follow the legal standards here in Maine if they pursue actions on defaulted mortgages.”

The Consent Agreement may have ramifications beyond Ocwen, noted Superintendent Lund, since other lenders may be filing foreclosures based on similar powers of attorney issued by the same nonexistent corporate loan originators used by Ocwen.

 

Christopher Coburn, 34, Winter Garden, Florida has been found guilty of five counts of bankruptcy fraud and two counts of falsification of records in a bankruptcy proceeding.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, 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 a bankruptcy fraud scheme in which he filed or caused to be filed fraudulent bankruptcy petitions in the name of the homeowner, without 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, preventing Fannie Mae and the financial institutions from conducting lawful foreclosure sales and obtaining title to the property. The fraudulent bankruptcy petitions filed by Coburn enabled him to collect fees and allowed him to refer the properties to real estate agents in order to obtain ill-gotten commissions for short-sales. Coburn also filed other false and fraudulent bankruptcy forms in the names of some homeowners relied on by the Office of the United States Trustee and the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Christopher+Coburn

Coburn faces a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment for each bankruptcy fraud count and up to 20 years in prison for each falsification of records count. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for September 9, 2019.

United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency—Office of Inspector General, with substantial assistance from the Office of the United States Trustee for the Middle District of Florida. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

George French Jones, Jr., 50, Santa Monica, California, was sentenced to 116 months in prison today after previously pleading guilty 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. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=George+French+Jones%2C+Jr

The two Broward County 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 properties. As a result of this scheme, Jones defrauded the private lender out of approximately $1.7 million dollars.

Jones was also ordered to pay $1,824,581 in restitution.

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 was 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.

 

Geo Geovanni, 50, Moultrie, Georgia has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Geovanni worked as a real estate broker who owned his own brokerage firm based in Orlando, Florida. Between May and August 2008, Geovanni sold condominium units at The Landing, Altamonte Springs, Florida. Geovanni engaged in a conspiracy to conceal from mortgage lenders sales incentives that he provided to the buyers. These undisclosed incentives included making the buyers’ down payments and paying kickbacks after closing. As a result of his actions, Geovanni helped cause the loss of approximately $736,000 to the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac), and JP Morgan Chase Bank when the mortgages involved in the fraudulent transactions went into foreclosure. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Geo+Geovanni

As part of his sentence, the court also entered a money judgment of $56,984.34, the proceeds of the fraud scheme. A federal jury found Geovanni guilty on November 29, 2018.

This case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorneys Chris Poor and Joseph Capone.

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.

Hollie Darlene Dustin, 60, Punta Gorda, Florida, was sentenced today to six months in federal prison for committing wire fraud against the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae).

According to court documents, Dustin, a licensed real estate broker, owned Home Choice Real Estate (HCRE), a company that contracted with Fannie Mae to manage and perform preservation services on various Fannie Mae foreclosed properties. As part of a Master Listing Agreement with Fannie Mae, Dustin’s company was prohibited from using any vendors that she controlled 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. She then submitted approximately 550 fraudulent ProPreserve invoices for HCRE, which Fannie Mae paid.

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 fraudulently submit the invoices to Fannie Mae.

The court also ordered Dustin to serve a term of three years of supervised release, 100 hours of community service, and to pay restitution in the amount of $34,001.25. As part of her sentence, the court also entered a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $34,001.25, the proceeds of the wire fraud. Dustin had pleaded guilty on June 19, 2018. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Hollie+Darlene+Dustin

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

Geo Geovanni, 49, Moultrie, Georgia was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and three counts of bank fraud.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Geovanni was a real estate broker who owned his own brokerage firm based in Orlando, Florida. Between May and August 2008, Geovanni sold condominium units to buyers at The Landing, located in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Geovanni engaged in a conspiracy to conceal from mortgage lenders sales incentives that he provided to the buyers. These undisclosed incentives included making the buyers’ down payments and paying kickbacks after closing. As a result of his actions, Geovanni helped cause the loss of approximately $761,150 to JP Morgan Chase Bank and Wells Fargo Bank when the mortgages involved in the fraudulent transactions went into foreclosure.

He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years’ imprisonment for each count. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for February 25, 2019.

United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez made the announcement.

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

 

Jason Anthony Martinez, 38, Tampa, Florida has been sentenced to an additional three months’ imprisonment for a total of 27 months’ imprisonment for lying to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Financial Litigation Unit and U.S. Probation to avoid his restitution obligation in a mortgage-related fraud case.

According to the plea agreement, Martinez was previously convicted 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. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Jason+Anthony+Martinez

In addition, he was sentenced to an additional two years of supervised release, extending his post-incarceration supervision to a total of five years.

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 was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas N. Palermo.

Universal American Mortgage Company, LLC (UAMC) has agreed to pay the United States $13.2 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by falsely certifying that it complied with Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance requirements in connection with certain mortgages.  UAMC is a mortgage lender headquartered in Miami, Florida, doing business across the country, including in the Western District of Washington.

The United States alleged that between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2011, UAMC knowingly submitted loans for FHA insurance that did not qualify.  The United States further alleged that UAMC improperly incentivized underwriters and knowingly failed to perform quality control reviews, which violated HUD requirements and contributed to UAMC’s submission of defective loans.

During the period covered by the settlement, UAMC participated as a direct endorsement lender (DEL) in the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) FHA insurance program.  A DEL has the authority to originate, underwrite and endorse mortgages for FHA insurance.  If a DEL approves a mortgage loan for FHA insurance and the loan later defaults, the holder of the loan may submit an insurance claim to HUD, FHA’s parent agency, for the losses resulting from the defaulted loan.  Under the DEL program, the FHA does not review a loan for compliance with FHA requirements before it is endorsed for FHA insurance.  DELs are therefore required to follow program rules designed to ensure that they are properly underwriting and certifying mortgages for FHA insurance and to maintain a quality control program that can prevent and correct deficiencies in their underwriting practices.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.

Mortgage lenders may not ignore material FHA requirements designed to reduce the risk that borrowers will be unable to afford their homes and federal funds will be wasted,” said Assistant Attorney General Joseph H. Hunt for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will hold accountable entities that knowingly fail to follow important federal program requirements.”

“In a quest for profits, mortgage companies have ignored important lending standards” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Annette L. Hayes.  “Not only does this harm the borrowers leaving them over their heads in debt and underwater on their mortgages, it harms taxpayers because the mortgages are backed by government insurance.  This settlement should serve as a warning to other lenders to diligently follow the rules.

United States Attorney Joseph Harrington for the Eastern District of Washington said, “FHA mortgages are vital to first-time homebuyers and to families whose credit and assets were damaged by the 2008 economic crisis.  FHA underwriting and other requirements are critical to safeguarding the integrity of the public money used to operate this important program.  We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that mortgage lenders and others who profit from this program, while ignoring its rules, will be held accountable.

One of our principle responsibilities is to protect and ensure the integrity of federal housing programs for the benefit of all Americans,” said Jeremy M. Kirkland, Acting Deputy Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General.  “This settlement demonstrates our resolve and should signal to irresponsible lenders that this conduct will not be tolerated.

FHA depends upon the lenders we do business with to apply our standards and to truthfully certify that they’ve done so,” said David Woll, HUD’s Deputy General Counsel for Enforcement.  “Working with our federal partners, HUD will enforce these lending standards so we can protect families from preventable foreclosure and to protect FHA from unnecessary losses.

The settlement resolves allegations originally brought by Kat Nguyen-Seligman, a former employee of a related UAMC entity, in a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows private parties to bring suit on behalf of the federal government and to share in any recovery.  The whistleblower will receive $1,980,000 as her share of the federal government’s recovery in this case.

This matter was handled on behalf of the government by the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Washington and Western District of Washington, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General.  case is captioned United States ex rel. Kat Nguyen-Selgiman v. Lennar Corporation, Universal American Mortgage Company, LLC, and Eagle Home Mortgage of California, Inc., 14-cv-1435 (W.D. Wash.).  The claims resolved by this settlement are allegations only, and there has been no admission of liability.

The settlement agreement is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Kayla Stahman.