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Joseph Makhani, 58, Kings Point, Long Island was arrested and indicted today for stealing two brownstones in a complex scheme to defraud owners by using forged deeds and other falsified real estate documents

Makhani targeted the two Harlem brownstones located at 107 West 118th Street and 135 West 131st Street, Harlem, New York, using forged and falsified documents, numerous limited liability corporations under his control, multiple property transfers, an unethical attorney, and abused court processes. Makhani stole the two Harlem brownstones in 2012, and, according to New York state real estate tax filings, he claimed to have only paid $10 for each. Today, the two brownstones have an estimated value of $2.29 million and $1.9 million, respectively. After illegally taking over the two properties, Makhani used forged and falsified documents to cover up his fraud and maintain control of the properties from the true owners’ claims. To this day, Makhani still fraudulently possesses the West 118th Street brownstone, but he lost possession of the West 131st Street brownstone in December 2018 due to unpaid tax liens.

West 118th Street Property

Makhani allegedly used forged deeds and other falsified documents to steal the brownstone located on West 118th Street from an elderly disabled owner. In a New York state tax filing used to further his scheme, a Makhani-controlled corporation claimed to have paid only $10 for the brownstone in 2012. Makhani also falsely claimed that he paid $975,000 for the brownstone when he obtained a $650,000 construction line of credit on the property. Additionally, Makhani fraudulently received a $1.2 million mortgage loan by claiming he had a legitimate title to the stolen brownstone. The elderly and disabled owner of the brownstone never received any money from Makhani for the brownstone, which is now valued at approximately $2.29 million. In 2016 — after renovating the apartments from single room occupancy units to full apartments — Makhani rented each unit out for between $3,000 and $3,400 per month, allowing him to collect a monthly rent income of more than $12,000.

West 131st Street Property

Makhani allegedly illegally transferred ownership of the West 131st Street property in Harlem through the use of fraudulent deeds, shell companies, and strawmen, and by abusing court processes. Prior to Makhani’s fraudulent take over, the last true deed recorded on this property was in the name of an elderly owner who died soon after the deed was recorded in 1975. Allegedly, a beneficiary of the estate looked after the building until his death in 2010. Soon after, a tenant of the building was approached by Makhani, who later returned and told the tenant he had purchased the brownstone. Makhani, through the guise of offering the tenant a job, fraudulently obtained the tenant’s signature in order to misrepresent the tenant as the owner. The tenant, who had not purchased the property and was never the owner of the brownstone, later learned that his signature was forged on a fraudulent deed that had been filed with the City Register’s Office, transferring the brownstone to Makhani’s company, One 35 West Corporation. The Real Property Transfer Report filed along with the fraudulent deed created by Makhani  falsely listed the sale price of the brownstone as $10. When the tenant questioned the validity of the deed in a housing court case, Makhani filed a new forged deed showing that the purported heirs of the last recorded owner from 1975 had transferred the property to Makhani’s One 35 West Corporation. In 2013, the transfer tax documents filed with this deed contained a fake social security number listed for a man who was one of the purported heirs and the seller of the brownstone to Makhani. That social security number, however, belonged to a woman born in 1902. In 2015, Makhani’s One 35 West Corporation and Makhani were fined over $1 million for their failure to install a roof, upgrade the electrical wiring system, and implement an extermination plan for the rodents and cockroaches in the Harlem brownstone. In early 2015, Makhani eventually abandoned the property after the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development issued a $1 million judgment. The property was later transferred to a not-for-profit after a tax foreclosure action. Today, the value of the property is estimated at $1.9 million.

Makhani was yesterday charged with one count of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the first degree with respect to the brownstone located at 107 West 118th Street; one count of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the second degree with respect to the brownstone located at 135 West 131st Street; one count of Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree and one count of Residential Mortgage Fraud in the Second Degree, both with respect to the two residential mortgage loans he obtained for the West 118th Street brownstone; two counts of Falsifying Business Records submitted to a New York bank; and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree between August 7, 2012 and June 28, 2021 for engaging in a scheme constituting a systematic and ongoing course of conduct to obtain property from more than one person by false or fraudulent pretenses.

The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

In 1998, Makhani pleaded guilty in federal court to taking part in a scheme involving the bid rigging of foreclosed properties in Queens, New York, and for submission of a false tax return, for which he was fined and sentenced to two months in prison. In 2008, Queens LLC, HPD LLC, and Floor One, LLC, three companies allegedly owned by Joseph Makhani, pled guilty to Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class “E” felony. The criminal complaint alleged that Makhani, personally or through one of his corporations, forged signatures on deeds filed with the New York City Department of Finance to unlawfully gain control of three properties in Queens from their legal owners.

New York Attorney General Letitia James made the announcement.

Homeownership is a critical part of every community, but far too often, individuals like Joseph Makhani conduct elaborate schemes designed to steal New Yorkers’ homes,” said Attorney General James. “Deed theft continues to be a crime that permeates our neighborhoods, and preys upon our most vulnerable, leading to a cycle of displacement and grief. New Yorkers should never have to fear that their homes will be targeted by predatory individuals. My office will continue to collaborate with our government and community partners to bring these schemers to justice and protect these homes.

The Sheriff’s Office is strongly committed to investigating criminal activity concerning real property fraud,” said New York City Sheriff Joe Fucitto. “These crimes are financially devastating to the victims and their families, many of whom are elderly and have spent a lifetime working hard and saving to buy a home. The Sheriff’s Office looks forward to working collaboratively with Attorney General Letitia James and her team.”

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) wishes to thank the Social Security Administration, the Office of the Inspector General, and Special Agent Gilberto Camilo for their assistance on this case.

The OAG also wishes to thank the New York City Sheriff’s Office and the New York City Register’s Office for their assistance.

Deed theft has become a common tool of career criminals and unscrupulous real estate developers to illegally obtain real estate so they can sell it at a huge profit in high-demand housing markets. This illegal scheme especially affects people of color, the elderly, and other vulnerable homeowners who are scammed into signing over the deeds to their homes to con artists. Deed theft usually happens when scammers forge deeds to look like they purchased the home, or when homeowners are tricked into signing their homes over to a scammer without knowing what they are doing. Scammers then seek to evict the homeowner and sell the house to a third party at a significant profit.

In January 2020, Attorney General James launched the office’s “Protect Our Homes” initiative, a program that uses prevention and enforcement actions to combat deed theft in New York City. The OAG also formed an interagency deed theft taskforce with members that include the district attorneys from all five boroughs in New York City and the Office of the Sheriff of the City of New York. The anti-displacement program builds off these efforts by focusing on the neighborhoods most at-risk of deed fraud, enlisting community members to talk about deed theft with their neighbors, and educating community members about how to spot deed fraud scams.

Those who believe they have experienced deed theft are encouraged to contact the OAG by calling the office’s help line at 1-800-771-7755, emailing deedtheft@ag.ny.gov, or filling out the online complaint form.

This investigation was conducted by Investigator Angel LaPorte, under the supervision of Supervisors of the Major Case Unit Michael Leahy and Mario Rivera and Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Nazy Modiri of the Real Estate Enforcement Unit, with additional assistance from Assistant Attorney General Gregory Morril and Legal Support Analyst Grace Koh — all under the supervision of Real Estate Enforcement Unit and Public Integrity Bureau Chief Gerard Murphy. Financial analysis was conducted by Audit Investigator Karishma Tukrel, under the supervision of Deputy Chief Auditor Sandy Bizzarro and Chief Auditor Kristen Fabbri of the Forensic Audit Section. The Investigations Bureau, the Real Estate Enforcement Unit, and the Public Integrity Bureau are all part of the Division for Criminal Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

Carol Michaelson, 56, Dawsonville, Georgia, a formerly licensed real estate agent, pleaded guilty today to defrauding her clients by faking property sales, forging contracts and deeds, and then pocketing her victims’ money.

According to the charges and other information presented in court,  Michaelson operated a scheme to defraud her clients while acting as a real estate agent.  She pretended to arrange real estate purchases for her clients and received funds from them to complete the purchases, but then diverted the funds to her own personal use.  In furtherance of the scheme, she prepared fraudulent real estate contracts listing false owners, forged signatures on the contracts and other agreements, and filed fraudulent warranty deeds with forged signatures with the county clerk’s office.  Michaelson also sent emails to her victims impersonating closing attorneys, loan officers, and other financial and real estate personnel, to trick the victims into believing that the real estate transactions were legitimate and progressing.

Michaelson defrauded her victims in a variety of ways.  In some cases, she falsely informed victims that certain properties were for sale by their owners, when in fact they were not; and the true owners were unaware of Michaelson’s false representations.  In another instance, after Michaelson deceived a victim into believing that she had purchased properties for the victim, Michaelson created false tenant identities to deceive the victim into further believing that she had arranged for the properties to be rented.  Michaelson then sent rent checks to the victim, pretending to be the false tenants.  The victim did not know that he was not the true owner of the properties.  In yet another instance, after facilitating a real sale to a victim, Michaelson transferred ownership back to the bank, without the victim’s knowledge, and filed a fraudulent warranty deed with forged signatures in the county clerk’s office.

Michaelson stole over $1 million from her victims through her real estate scheme.

Michaelson was previously charged with forgery, theft by conversion, and false statements in Dawson County for defrauding real estate clients.  As a result, she lost her real estate license in 2014.  Even after surrendering her license, Michaelson continued to act as an unlicensed real estate agent and engage in fraudulent real estate transactions.  Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

This defendant stole her clients’ hard-earned money by pretending to purchase properties for them, while pocketing their funds for her own personal use,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “She then tried to cover her tracks with fake sales agreements and forged deeds.  Michaelson is a repeat offender, having previously lost her real estate license for defrauding clients.”

This case demonstrates the commitment the Secret Service and our law enforcement partners have in aggressively pursuing those who defraud innocent victims,” said Steven R. Baisel, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Atlanta Field Office.  “This guilty plea should serve as a reminder to other like-minded individuals that we will protect our economic system and arrest criminals who violate public trust for personal gain.”

We are grateful to all the involved criminal justice agencies who worked so diligently to help close these cases. It is our continued desire that justice will be served in hopes of deterring these types of crimes,” said Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson.

The U.S. Secret Service, the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office are investigating this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen H. McClain, Chief of the Complex Frauds Section, is prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

 

Theodore Kurz, 70, New Orleans, Louisiana, pled guilty on September 12, 2019 to mortgage fraud.

According to court documents, Kurz obtained mortgages for three properties through the State of Louisiana, Division of Administration, Office of Community Development.  He then forged mortgage cancellations that he filed with the Orleans Parish Clerk of Court to falsely make it appear that the loans had been satisfied.  Kurz then obtained mortgages through a different lender, falsely claiming that there were no outstanding mortgages or liens on the properties.

Kurz faces 30 years of imprisonment, 5 years of supervised release and a $1,000,000 fine. Sentencing has been set for December 12, 2019.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser.

U.S. Attorney Strasser praised the work of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in investigating this matter.  The prosecution of this case is being handled by Assistant U. S. Attorney G. Dall Kammer, Supervisor of General Crimes.

 

Penny Bradley, 54, New York, New York, a real estate developer, was indicted today for residential mortgage fraud in which Bradley forged member signatures to illegally obtain millions of dollars. Bradley is charged with Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree, Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, and two counts of Forgery in the Second Degree and Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree.

According to the indictment and documents filed in court, from 2014 to 2016, Bradley violated her duties as the managing member of 46 East 82nd Street LLC and stole company funds for personal expenses and unrelated business ventures. Bradley also used company property as collateral to obtain a loan for unrelated real estate investments, and forged member signatures to refinance debt encumbering the townhouse.

In March 2014, 46 East 82nd Street LLC was formed to acquire, renovate, and sell a townhouse located at 46 East 82nd Street. Bradley was the sole member of Norfolk Street Management LLC, the managing member of 46 East 82nd Street LLC. In that capacity, Bradley was solely responsible for managing the renovation and potential sale of the townhouse and safeguarding company money and property, including funds invested by members of 46 East 82nd Street LLC and two loans from Alpine Capital Bank.

Between 2014 to 2016, Bradley stole over $500,000 from 46 East 82nd Street LLC to pay for personal expenses and unrelated business debts. Personal expenditures included rent payments, vacations, monthly payments on her auto loan for her Range Rover, and monthly parking garage fees.

In 2015, Bradley obtained a personal loan from Global Payment Services Limited (“GPS”) to invest in unrelated real estate projects. To procure the loan, Bradley agreed to allow GPS to record a lien against the 46 East 82nd Street townhouse if she failed to pay $2.6 million by its maturity date. Subsequently, Bradley defaulted on the loan and GPS recorded a mortgage against the townhouse.

In 2016, Bradley attempted to refinance the GPS mortgage by encumbering the townhouse with a junior mortgage from Atlas Union Corp (“Atlas”). Atlas and First American Title Insurance Company (“First American”), the title insurance company insuring the loan, required the defendant to obtain a new company operating agreement executed by all the members of the company. In August 2016, Bradley falsely claimed that all the members were contacted and requested to close on the Atlas loan without submitting the new operating agreement; Atlas denied the defendant’s request.

Thereafter, in late August 2016, Atlas agreed to refinance the existing loans from both Alpine and GPS with a loan for $11.5 million to 46 East 82nd Street LLC. However, to obtain this loan, Atlas required the defendant to get written consent of a majority in interest of members of 46 East 82nd Street LLC.

In September 7, 2016, the defendant emailed her attorney the “Consent of Majority in Interest of Members of 46 East 82nd Street LLC” and its six signatures pages for purposes of closing on the Atlas loan. The signature pages included forged signatures of two LLC members. Two days later, on September 9, 2016, the defendant signed the required documents on behalf of 46 East 82nd Street LLC and certified as to the validity of the signatures on the Consent of Majority in Interest of Members of 46 East 82nd Street LLC document to close on the Atlas loan of $11.5 million.

In December 2017, the Atlas loan matured and 46 East 82nd Street LLC defaulted on the loan.

Bradley has been charged with

  • Residential Mortgage Fraud in the First Degree, a class B felony, 1 count
  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 1 count
  • Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts

Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts

The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court, including the indictments, and statements made on the record in court.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. made the announcement.

As alleged, Penny Bradley cashed in on her insider position and stole company funds to support her lavish lifestyle,” said Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance, Jr. “My Office is dedicated to protecting the integrity of our City’s residential mortgage market and holding those who attempt to undermine it criminally responsible.

Assistant D.A. Jaime Hickey-Mendoza is handling the prosecution of this case under the supervision of Assistant D.A.s Judy Salwen, Principal Deputy Chief of the Rackets Bureau; Michael Ohm, Deputy Bureau Chief and Jodie Kane, Chief of the Rackets Bureau, as well as Executive Assistant D.A. Michael Sachs, Chief of the Investigation Division. Supervising Financial Investigator Wei Man Tang assisted with the investigation, under the supervision of Irene Serrapica, Deputy Chief of FAFI, and Robert Demarest, Chief of FAFI. Supervising Rackets Investigator Donato Siciliano, Rackets Investigator Samuel Morales, and paralegals Madeleine Lippey and Maximilian Perkins also assisted with the case.

 

Peter Cash Doye, 43, San Diego, California, a financial executive was sentenced today to 15 years in prison for his role as the “driving force” in a massive real estate loan scheme in which he and his co-conspirators stole nearly $50 million dollars from San Diego residents and lenders.

His co-defendant, Raquel Reid, 40, San Diego, California, a notary public and real estate broker, was previously sentenced to 65 months for her role in the fraud. The court also ordered Doye and Reid to pay more than $43 million in restitution to the victims.

According to the indictment and the evidence introduced at trial, the defendants defrauded lenders into making enormous loans against four multi-million dollar mansions in La Jolla and Del Mar, California then used forged documents to make it appear that the loans had been paid off, thereby enabling them to secure additional loans from new lenders who believed the mansions were owned “free and clear.”

Doye, a senior executive at the real estate investment firms Conix, Inc. and Variant Commercial Real Estate (“VCRE”), negotiated the financing from unsuspecting lenders and investors based on a host of lies about the collateral used to secure the loans.  To pull off the scam, Doye, Reid, and their co-conspirators created forged real estate lien “releases” and recorded fraudulent records at the San Diego County Recorder’s Office, complicating the chain of title for these homes.  Reid notarized the forged documents, helping to make the fraudulent paperwork appear authentic.

Doye’s business partner, Courtland Gettel,43, Coranado, California and Arizona attorney Jeffrey Greenberg, 67, Tucson, Arizona, who testified at the trial on behalf of the government, previously pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme and are serving sentences of 135 and 51 months, respectively. Gettel and Greenberg were also ordered to pay more than $43 million in restitution to victims, and to forfeit the proceeds of the crime.  Gettel was the owner of Conix and VCRE, which refurbished single-family homes, purchased distressed debt, and purchased and refurbished commercial real estate projects.

During trial, the government proved that Gettel, Greenberg, and Doye acquired the high-end homes in La Jolla and Del Mar, California by claiming they would be used as luxury rentals and investment properties, although in fact, Gettel and Doye lived in the properties along with their families. When they needed money to fund other business deals, Gettel and Doye began negotiating with new lenders, pretending that the first loans never existed or had already been paid off.  Greenberg admitted that he used his expertise as a lawyer to generate and record fraudulent records, making it appear that prior loans were paid off and helping to close the fraudulent deals.

In late 2014, the lenders began to uncover the fraud and learn that their secured interests in the properties were worthless.  In response to questions from these lenders, Doye, Reid and Gettel denied knowing anything about the fraudulent loans, and created yet more fraudulent documents to cover their tracks. For example, Reid destroyed her notary book and cut up her notary stamp, and then falsely reported to the California Secretary of State that her book had been lost.

This crime was a colossal $50 million swindle by a greedy, brazen thief who squandered the stolen money on lavish parties in Las Vegas, penthouse apartments, private jets and abundant drug use,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “The defendant’s extravagant lifestyle was funded by the hardships of his victims, who suffered health problems, emotional stress, financial uncertainty and strain on relationships. This sentence underscores the significant harm victims to and the integrity of our financial system, and is a testament to the hard work of FBI agents and prosecutors Emily Allen and Andrew Young.”

Today, final justice has been served in this multi-million dollar loan fraud scheme. All four defendants, including Doye, who was sentenced to 15 years in custody today, are no longer able to perpetrate their deceit and lies to fulfill their personal greed,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner.   “The FBI remains committed to pursuing fraud schemes that erode the integrity of our financial system.”

During the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes described the defendant as “cold blooded” and the “driving force” behind an “overwhelmingly selfish act” that was motivated by “pure unmitigated greed.” He scolded the defendant for having a “callous attitude” toward his victims, and remarked about his testimony during trial. “After you said your name, I’m hard-pressed to remember anything you said that was truthful,” Judge Hayes said.

The pair was indicted on September 19, 2017 on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft.  Reid was also charged with lying to a federal agent.  On November 20, 2018, after a two-week trial, a jury returned a guilty verdict on all charges against both defendants.

 

Angela Fawn Wallace, 57, West Hills, California, a former attorney, pleaded not guilty today to the charges, which include multiple counts each of identity theft, grand theft, forgery and procuring a false document for recording. Wallace has been charged with 72 felony counts for taking $2 million from elderly property owners and others in a real estate fraud scheme

From June 2014 through January 2017, Wallace allegedly befriended elderly victims or located properties where the owners were already deceased in order to get her name placed on the title to the properties.

The defendant is accused of using her legal expertise to ingratiate herself with the victims, said Deputy District Attorney Walter Mueller of the Real Estate Fraud Section, who is prosecuting the case.

The scheme targeted four properties in different areas of Los Angeles, California and affected about two dozen victims, including property owners, estates, trusts, investment companies, property management companies and notaries, Mueller said. Wallace allegedly either obtained loans secured by the properties or sold them to innocent purchasers, purportedly keeping virtually all of the proceeds for herself, the prosecutor said.

In one case, she allegedly had her name placed on the title, then rented several of the units and kept the rental proceeds for herself instead of giving them to the estate of the deceased owner.

The defendant has several prior felony convictions, including grand theft in 2003, 2007 and 2013; forgery in 2003; and recording false documents in 2007.

She also denied special allegations that include taking of more than $200,000 and prior convictions.

Wallace faces a maximum possible sentence of 40 years and four months in state prison if convicted as charged. Bail was set at $2.32 million.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 1, 2018 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Case BA468922 was filed July 2, 2018.

Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office made the announcement.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Bureau of Investigation.

 

Thomas M. Murtha, 61, attorney, Newtown, Connecticut, and Birmingham, Michigan, was indicted by a grand jury and charged with four counts of wire fraud.  Murtha previously operated a law practice in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

As alleged in the indictment, between approximately November 2011 and April 2017, Murtha fraudulently obtained and converted hundreds of thousands of dollars from his victims, including clients of his law practice, family members and friends.  Murtha falsely represented to client-victims that he had safeguarded and disbursed the proceeds from legal representations when, in fact, he had used their money for his own benefit, including making payments to other victims.  In furtherance of the fraud, Murtha used false and forged documents, including at least one mortgage and a trust document.

It is alleged that Murtha used some of the stolen funds to purchase a $725,000 house in Michigan, a 2.11 carat diamond engagement ring, and other items.

If convicted, Murtha faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years on each count of the indictment.

The indictment seeks the forfeiture of the Michigan house and the engagement ring, as well as a money judgment of at least $1,991,628.83, which constitutes proceeds of the alleged fraud scheme.

Murtha was arrested on a criminal complaint on April 5, 2017, and is released on a $10,000 bond.  His arraignment is not yet scheduled.

In September 2016, Murtha resigned from the bar after three grievance complaints were filed against him.

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced the indictment and noted that the investigation is ongoing.  Anyone with information that may be helpful to the investigation, or those who believe they have been victimized by this alleged scheme, are encouraged to contact Detective Robert McKiernan at (203) 382-6660.

The matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Greenwich Police Department.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Laraia and David Huang.

Edgar Avila aka Michael Mendez aka Michael Edgar Avila-Mendez, aka Michael AvMen was indicted on one charge of mail fraud and one charge of bank fraud in connection with two separate fraud schemes.

According to the affidavit in support of the arrest warrant, in January 2014, Avila submitted a loan application to purchase a residence at 2915 Legend Hill Drive, Katy, Texas.  On the application, he represented that he worked for AvMen Entertainment at 924 Town and County 800, Houston for a year and a half as a line producer with a salary of $13,600 per month.  He also stated he attended Devry College of Business from September 2009 through May 2013 to account for his history prior to working at AvMen. Paystubs along with a VOE faxed to the mortgage company confirmed this employment. The officer attesting to the affidavit stated that he was unable to find a legitimate business under the name AvMen and discovered that Avila created the entity as part of his fraud scheme.  An assumed name certificate for AvMen was filed in August 2010 using the same address as listed on Avila’s driver’s license.  The affiant also stated that he confirmed through several sources that Avila and Michael Avmen were the same person. Avila’s disclosed bank accounts did not reveal any income associated with AvMen – nor did they substantiate income nearing $13,000 per month.

To support his claims of attending Devry University, according to the affidavit, Avila submitted a college transcript containing the signature of John J. Getek, as college registrar.  Investigation showed that the Getek was not registrar for Devry, instead, in 2001 he was the Deputy Inspector General of Audit for the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General – and Getek’s digital signature was available online from his annual reports to Congress.

In March 2015, according to the affidavit, Avila defaulted on the loan.  In September 2015, the mortgage lender modified the loan and negotiated a payment plan, based on a statement from Avila that he was diagnosed with “cephalic neuralgias” and “Bell’s palsy.”  He claimed his illness caused him to lose his job and that his current job did not pay the same.  The affiant stated that while he could not rule out an illness, Avila was arrested by the Houston Police Department in 2015 “which is the more likely reason for his sudden lack of income.”

The loan was guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

The affidavit also details a vehicle related fraud scheme underlying the mail fraud charges where Avila allegedly provided a fake social security card, false Texas driver’s license and fake Devry University transcript to obtain a vehicle loan. According to the affiant, he then cleared title to the vehicle through a mechanic’s lien sale to himself and sold the vehicle to a Lexus dealership.

Alison Gu, a/k/a “Alison Ling,” “Ally Koo,” “Ai J. Chen,” “Ai Jen Chen,” “Ai Chen,” “Jing Shao,” “Yijing Gu,” “Yijing Lin,” “Alison Yi Gu,” was indicted by a federal grand jury in Vermont on June 16 2016 and charged with bank fraud, false statements and fraud with identification documents.

According to the indictment between March 2015 and September 2015, Gu executed a scheme to defraud financial institutions to obtain funds through submission of mortgage loan applications and refinancing applications containing false information. According to the indictment, Gu established false identities using the social security number of a deceased individual, submitted altered bank statements, forged employment identification forms, forged pay statement and a forged IRS W-2 form.  In addition, she submitted to Emigrant Mortgage Company false information regarding the actual identities of loan applicants, a forged signature of a U.S. consular official in Beijing, China, purporting to vest power of attorney in the name of one of the loan applicants, false visa identification information and a false certification of a non-existent accountant in China purporting to verify income.  Gu obtained mortgage loan of $417,000 from the Bank of Bennington, $230,250 from the First National Bank of America and $412,400 from Emigrant Mortgage.

The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, seeking forfeiture of, among other things, 389 Read Farm Road, Dorset, Vermont; 385 Cedar Avenue, Cocoa Beach, Florida; and 6 Old Snow Valley Road, Winhall, Vermont.

Gu’s arraignment was scheduled for June 29, 2016.

Aruna Kumari Chopra, 66, of Modesto, today to one year and one day in prison, to be followed by a year of home confinement, for her mail fraud conviction in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme

According to court documents, in 2008, Chopra purchased property on Dale Road, Modesto, California, that she intended to develop into a shopping center to be called “The Plaza at Dale.” She defrauded lenders by filing documents with the Stanislaus County Recorder’s Office that contained forged signatures in an attempt to conceal liens on the property from her lenders. The loans made by the defrauded lenders on the property totaled approximately $8.9 million. Chopra pleaded guilty on November 30, 2015. Continue Reading…