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Vision Property Management, LLC, a South Carolina based real estate company, its CEO Alex Szkaradek, and a number of affiliated companies have agreed today, subject to court approval, that more than $3.75 million will be paid in consumer restitution for engaging in and operating an illegal, deceptive, and unlicensed mortgage-lending business that targeted, among others, the disabled, the elderly, single parents, and others living on fixed incomes.

Specifically, the settlement includes cash payments of $600,000 that will be distributed to numerous New York consumers who were victims of Vision’s conduct and have, for the most part, moved out of their previous homes. Additionally, more than $3.15 million in unpaid principal for 58 homes will be forgiven by Vision as restitution. The ownership of these 58 homes will be transferred, free and clear of any future payments, to Vision’s current New York consumers. Additionally, the defendants must wind down their remaining business in New York over the following year, and along with any businesses they take a controlling interest in, are permanently enjoined from engaging in any future residential real estate business in New York.

The settlement is set to resolve an August 2019 federal lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, alleging that, since at least 2011, Vision and its affiliates profited from predatory, subprime home loans at the expense of some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, primarily in Upstate and Central New York. In the complaint, Attorney General James and Superintendent Lacewell accused the company of buying severely distressed properties and marketing them at a substantial markup with high-cost, interest rates, in the range of 10% to 25%. Vision rarely disclosed these high interest rates and typically made no repairs or renovations to the dilapidated homes they were selling, illegally passing those costs on to consumers. Further, Vision was not properly licensed to engage in seller finance lending in New York, which it was required to be beginning in late 2011, and thus was operating illegally when entering into these transactions.

The lawsuit further charged that Vision targeted vulnerable consumers who , by the company’s own admission, were eager to share in the American dream of homeownership, but could not qualify for conventional financing due to various employment, health, marital, or other financial reasons. While Vision claimed its “unique” business model was a path to homeownership, in reality, the company made significant profits with little risk by skirting consumer protections and financial regulations and trapping consumers with high cost mortgages and often uninhabitable homes.

Despite placing the burden of repairing and maintaining the homes on consumers, Vision did not fully disclose the many dangerous, unhealthy, and unsafe conditions in its homes, and in many instances concealed the extent of these conditions by leaving the electricity and other utilities turned off while consumers took walk throughs of the homes. These conditions included pest infestations; faulty electrical wiring; water damage; missing heaters, pipes, water tanks, and septic systems; mold; asbestos; foundation damage; and severely damaged and rotted out, floors, windows, walls, and roofs. The high cost of Vision’s loans combined with the significant cost of repairing these violations set consumers up to fail. Moreover, Vision routinely evicted consumers who had invested substantial sums of money in repairs without offering them the foreclosure protections to which they were entitled.

The settlement being announced today is still subject to final court approval.

New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York Superintendent of Financial Services Linda Lacewell made the announcement.

Vision’s illegal and deceptive practices that were targeted against New York’s most vulnerable residents will finally be put to an end,” said Attorney General James.Owning a home is what millions of New Yorkers dream of, but Vision turned that dream into a nightmare. Not only are we shutting down this company’s illegal New York racket, but we are securing restitution for the many victims and are ensuring 58 families have their mortgage debts wiped away. A fair and transparent housing market is essential for the health, welfare, and economic stability of New York and its residents, which is why my office will never stop fighting to hold companies responsible for their deceptive actions. I want to thank Superintendent Lacewell and her team at DFS for their partnership and diligent work throughout this case.”

Vision property management stole from hundreds of New Yorkers who sought the American dream of homeownership,” added Superintendent Lacewell. “This settlement holds Vision accountable for their illegal actions and provides a measure of restitution to New Yorkers who were victimized by Vision’s predatory practices. This is a clear message that New York has zero tolerance for those who rely on deception and fraud to turn a profit, and I commend Attorney General James and the staff of both DFS and the Attorney General’s office for their hard work on this important matter.”

In August 2019, Attorney General James and Superintendent Lacewell reached a settlement with New York-based hedge fund Atalaya Capital Management LP, for its role in funding and assisting Vision and its affiliates in their illegal business. Under that settlement, Atalaya paid New York $250,000 in civil penalties, agreed to abide by injunctive terms intended to prevent future wrongdoing, and paid more than $2.5 million in restitution to consumers, which is now being distributed to more than 100 New York homeowners in the form of monetary payments and payment cancellation.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Noah Popp of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia and Chief Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Meghan Faux. The Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

Additional attorneys handling this matter for the Department of Financial Services included Deputy Superintendent Peter C. Dean and Supervising Attorney in the Consumer Protection and Financial Enforcement Division Cynthia M. Reed.

Judge issues arrest warrant for Montgomery County man charged with mortgage fraud  – Patricia Duckett cries as she recounts how she lost her home of nearly 20 years, Nov. 6, 2019, in District Heights, Md. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post) Patricia Duckett cries as she recounts how she lost her home of nearly 20 years, Nov. 6, 2019, in District Heights, Md. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post) By Rachel Chason Jan. 3, 2020 at 9:51 a.m. PST A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge issued an arres

Source: Judge issues arrest warrant for Montgomery County man charged with mortgage fraud – The Washington Post

Omar Anabo, 57, Vallejo, California has been sentenced to three years in prison for conspiracy to make false statements on loan applications and ordered to pay $379,068 in restitution to victims of the conspiracy.

According to court documents, between Oct. 2004 and May 2007, Anabo and co‑conspirators Sergio Roman Barrientos, 66, and Zalathiel Aguila, 46, operated Capital Access LLC in Vallejo, a company that preyed on homeowners nearing foreclosure. The defendants convinced homeowners to sign over the title to their homes to Capital Access and then spent any equity those homeowners still had, which was then used for operational expenses of the scheme and personal expenses of Anabo and his co-conspirators. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Omar+Anabo

The defendants also used straw buyers to obtain home loans under false pretenses and defraud federally insured financial institutions out of millions of dollars. Vulnerable homeowners across California lost their homes and savings as a result of the scheme, and lenders lost an estimated $10.47 million from the fraud.

Barrientos was sentenced on Nov. 2, 2018, to 14 years in prison for his role in the scheme. Aguila was sentenced on July 26, 2019, to four years in prison.

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

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew M. Yelovich and Christina McCall prosecuted the case.

 

Ruby Price, 74, Bonner Springs, Kansas was sentenced today to a year and a day in prison for swindling homeowners facing foreclosure with false promises to help them save their homes

Price was a managing partner of Arize Group, a company based in Overland Park, Kansas. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Ruby+Price

She and co-defendants took money from distressed homeowners by fraudulently promising to:

  • Lower their interest rates.
  • Lower their monthly payments
  • Help them obtain loan modifications.

Price pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister made the announcement.

McAllister commended the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Emilie Burdette and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jabari Wamble for their work on the case.

Sara Cordry, 69, Overland Park, Kansas, was found guilty on Monday of taking part in a scheme to swindle homeowners facing foreclosure with false promises to help them save their homes.

During trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Cordry conspired with co-defendants to take money from victims by fraudulently promising to:

  • Lower their interest rates.
  • Lower their monthly payments.
  • Help them obtain loan modifications.

Investigators identified more than 500 victims in 24 states who suffered a total loss of more than $1 million due to the scheme.

Co-defendants include:

  • Tyler Korn, 30, St. Ann, Missouri, who was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison.
  • Ruby Price, 74, Bonner Springs, Kansas, who is awaiting sentencing.
  • Amjad Daud, 35, Lutz, Florida, who failed to appear at court hearings. A warrant for his arrest has been issued.

Cordry’s sentencing is set for January 9, 2020. She could face up to 30 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million on each count.

U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister made the announcement.

McAllister commended the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Emilie Burdette and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jabari Wamble for their work on the case.

 

Aston Wood, 55, New Richmond, Wisconsin, has been charged today with four counts related to an alleged mortgage fraud scheme.

The indictment charges that Wood engaged in a scheme to defraud from September 2015 to July 2019.  He is charged with one count of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of bankruptcy fraud, and one count of criminal contempt of court.

The indictment alleges that Wood represented to owners of homes in foreclosure that he could help them stay in their home by obtaining refinancing or modification of their mortgage, and that he instructed customers to make monthly mortgage payments towards a new or modified loan in an amount he selected, payable to him or to a limited liability company of which he was the sole member.  The indictment alleges that rather than remit the payments to lenders as promised, Wood instead deposited the payments in bank accounts he controlled and used the funds for his own personal expenses.

The indictment further alleges that Wood offered to help some customers buy back their foreclosed property, and he continued to solicit and receive funds from customers or their families based on false representations that the funds would be used to repurchase the property.   In addition, the indictment alleges that Wood told some customers to file for bankruptcy to stall foreclosure proceedings, which allowed Wood to delay detection and continue collecting monthly mortgage payments from customers.

The fourth count of the indictment alleges that Wood disobeyed a lawful order of a Court of the United States, an injunction issued on October 24, 2017, by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Catherine J. Furay in the Western District of Wisconsin, which permanently enjoined Wood from soliciting customers, offering to perform, and performing services related to mortgage foreclosure and debt relief.

If convicted, Wood faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on both the wire fraud charge and the mail fraud charge, and five years on the bankruptcy fraud charge.  The criminal contempt of court charge has no maximum penalty; the penalty is at the Court’s discretion.

You are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The charges against Wood are the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office acknowledges the assistance of the Office of the U.S. Trustee.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Duchemin is handling the prosecution.

 

Vision Property Management, LLC; the company’s CEO, Alex Szkaradek; and a number of other companies affiliated with Vision have been charged today for operating an illegal, deceptive, and unlicensed mortgage lending business in New York since at least 2011. By offering disguised, predatory subprime home loans and illegal finance-lease hybrid agreements, Vision and the other defendants took part in fraudulent activities that repeatedly targeted and took advantage of financially vulnerable New Yorkers.

The complaint alleges that Vision specializes in buying severely distressed properties and then markets those properties — at a substantial markup to consumers — without making any necessary repairs or renovations, and without fully disclosing to consumers the many conditions that exist and repairs that must be made for safe habitation. Vision targets low-income consumers eager to share in the “American dream” of homeownership, claiming that its “unique” business model provides this path to homeownership. But, in reality, Vision’s illegal business model has generated significant profits by skirting consumer protections and financial regulations and trapping vulnerable consumers with high cost mortgages for uninhabitable homes.

Vision’s deceptive tactics have left many of its consumers in dilapidated homes with unhealthy and hazardous conditions, while simultaneously requiring them to pay subprime, or high-cost, interest rates — in the range of 10% to 25% — on top of paying for extensive repairs and renovations just to make their homes habitable.

Vision has engaged in approximately 150 such transactions in New York since 2011 without possessing the legally required licenses to engage in mortgage lending. Furthermore, Vision entered into contracts with financially strained consumers that illegally required them to shoulder the burden of ensuring their properties were habitable. Often, consumers were deceived and trapped into paying for the treatment and repair of dangerous and unhealthy conditions in their new homes, including infestations, faulty electrical wiring, missing heaters and septic systems, mold, and asbestos, as well as severely damaged and rotted out, floors, walls, and roofs.

Vision has violated laws applicable to both mortgage lending and the leasing of residential properties, as well as numerous state and federal consumer protection laws.

Attorney General Letitia James and New York Superintendent of Financial Services Linda A. Lacewell made the announcement.

For nearly a decade, Vision put profits above people — fraudulently targeting, preying upon, and exploiting aspiring homeowners, including people with disabilities, the elderly, and those living on fixed income,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “These deceptive and abusive practices have trapped New Yorkers in mold-infested, dilapidated homes, and wrongfully placed the onus on consumers to pay the price. This behavior is unacceptable, which is why my office is aggressively prosecuting Vision and will do the same against any company or individual that tries to defraud New Yorkers.”

As alleged in the complaint, Vision swindled vulnerable New Yorkers who wanted nothing more than the American dream of homeownership but instead got distressed properties with unsafe, squalid conditions and high-interest, predatory loans,” said Superintendent Linda A. Lacewell. “We took this action to protect New York consumers by putting an end to these illegal, predatory and unconscionable business practices and holding Vision and its CEO accountable under New York State law and applicable federal laws. I am proud of the exemplary work of the DFS colleagues who investigated Vision’s activities for over two years, analyzed thousands of documents, and who worked to protect New Yorkers and bring this company to justice.”

In the suit — being filed in the Southern District of New York — Attorney General James and Superintendent Lacewell are seeking to end Vision’s ongoing illegal activity in New York, secure restitution and damages for all consumers injured by these practices, and obtain statutory penalties.

The matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Noah Popp of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Jane M. Azia, Chief of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, and Chief Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Meghan Faux. The Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo.

Additional attorneys at the Department of Financial Services involved with this litigation include Peter C. Dean of the Real Estate Finance Division and Cynthia M. Reed, Supervising Attorney in the Consumer Protection and Financial Enforcement Division.

Zalathiel Aguila, 46, Vallejo, California has been sentenced to four years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud.

According to court documents, between September 2004 and February 2008, Aguila and co-conspirators Sergio Roman Barrientos and Omar Anabo operated Capital Access LLC, in Vallejo, a company that preyed on homeowners nearing foreclosure. The defendants convinced homeowners to sign over the title to their homes to Capital Access and then spent any equity those homeowners still had, which was then used for operational expenses of the scheme and personal expenses of Aguila and his co-conspirators.

The defendants also used straw buyers to obtain home loans under false pretenses and defraud federally insured financial institutions out of millions of dollars. Vulnerable homeowners across California lost their homes and savings as a result of the scheme, and lenders lost an estimated $10.47 million from the fraud.

Aguila remains out of custody pending his surrendering for service of his sentence on October 25, 2019. Barrientos was sentenced on November 2, 2018, to 14 years in prison for his role in the scheme, and Anabo (charged elsewhere) is scheduled to be sentenced on August 16, 2019.

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

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Yelovich prosecuted the case.

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.

Andrew Valles was sentenced today for operating a $2 million mortgage fraud scheme throughout Southern California.

The scheme occurred between 2012 and 2017. The defendants conspired using a fake insurance company, “SafeCare,” which promised to provide home loan services at a low monthly price to primarily Latino and African American families. During this time, the defendants would delay foreclosures and eviction actions by filing false bankruptcy and other court documents under fictitious names. They would instruct victims to deposit illegal advance fees and other large payments into a bank account controlled by the defendants. When the promised loan did not come through, they would proceed with the fabricated filings. The scheme took place in San Diego, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties in California. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Andrew+Valles

Today, Mr. Valles was sentenced to 13 years in state prison. Restitution was ordered in the amount of $2,342,957. Co-defendant Arnold Millman was previously sentenced to a state prison term of three years and four months.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra made the announcement.

These con artists stole the life savings of decent Californians who thought they were making a smart decision for their homes and their families,” said Attorney General Becerra. “These actions will not be tolerated. My office will continue to identify, investigate, and prosecute those who prey on hardworking Californians to line their own pockets.

The sentencing and guilty pleas are the product of a joint investigation by the California Department of Justice, the California Department of Insurance, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General (FHFA-OIG). A third codefendant, Jemal Lilly, pled guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 4, 2019.