George Heaton, 73, West Palm Beach, Florida, Deborah Dentry Baggett, 54, Greenville, Tennessee (formerly of Palm Beach County), and Eric Granitur, 59, Vero Beach, Florida were charged by a federal grand jury in a nine-count Superseding Indictment with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and various substantive bank fraud offenses.
According to allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment:
From 2006 through 2009, defendants Heaton, Baggett, Granitur and others conspired to perpetrate a complex mortgage fraud scheme against various FDIC-insured lenders by concealing incentives offered and paid to buyers of condominium units at the Vero Beach Hotel and Club, Vero Beach, Florida, a luxury ocean-front condo-tel developed by Palm Beach County based real estate developer George Heaton.
The defendants and their coconspirators concealed and misrepresented the amount of seller paid incentives, including cash-to-close, cash rebates, and seller-provided cash deposits, and transferred incentive money through a Palm Beach County law firm’s bank account in order to conceal the fact that the funds were coming from the seller, and not the buyer, as was required by the mortgage lenders.
On several occasions, defendant Baggett took large sums of money, without permission, from the bank account of another client of her accounting business to use for deposit and down payment money for condo purchases. Defendant Baggett also forged client names on sale and purchase contracts, and provided the personal financial information of those other clients without their permission, all to give defendant Heaton’s commercial lender the false impression that he had obtained actual buyers for the units, in order to maintain construction financing.
The fraud scheme caused financial institutions to fund mortgage loans, totaling more than $20 million.
If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum term of 30 years’ imprisonment, a $1 million fine, and mandatory restitution, on each count in the indictment.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Timothy Mowery, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agent, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Southeast Region, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Division, made the announcement.
Mr. Ferrer commends the investigative efforts of the FHFA-OIG and FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Joseph A. Capone.