Archives For HELOC

Jorge Flores, 48, Oakdale, New York; Joseph A. Gonzalez, 45, Henderson, Nevada; and Jose L. Piedrahita, 57, and Yorce Yotagri, 52, both of Freeport, New York, have been indicted for carrying out a scheme to use phony information and simultaneous loan applications at multiple banks to fraudulently obtain home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

From 2010 through 2018, Flores and Simon Curanaj, a real estate broker in the Bronx, New Yourk who has previously pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing, ran a mortgage fraud scheme in which they applied for more than $9 million in HELOCs from banks on residential properties in New Jersey and New York.

For instance, Gonzalez and Flores used a property in Jersey City, New Jersey, as part of the scheme. Gonzalez had been allowed to live at the property by the owner in exchange for management services, but neither he nor Flores owned the property. Gonzalez also recruited an individual with good credit to act as a straw buyer (Individual 1). Later, unbeknownst to the owner of the property, a “quitclaim” deed – a deed which contains no warranties of title – was prepared transferring the property to Individual 1. The signatures on the deed were forged.

Gonzalez and Flores then applied for two HELOCs from multiple banks using the Jersey City property as collateral in Individual 1’s name. They concealed the fact that the property offered as collateral was either already subject to senior liens that had not yet been recorded, or that the same property was offered as collateral for a line of credit from another lender. The applications also contained false information concerning Individual1’s income, which was stated to be higher than his actual income. At the time the applications were made, the value of the property was less than the amount of the HELOC loans for which Gonzalez and Flores applied.

The victim banks eventually issued loans to Individual 1 in excess of $500,000. After the victim banks funded the HELOCs and deposited money into Individual 1’s bank account, Individual 1 disbursed almost all of it to Gonzalez, Flores, and others. Gonzalez used $43,000 of the illicit proceeds to buy a luxury car. Individual 1 eventually defaulted on both HELOC loans.

In another example, Flores, Piedrahita, and Yotagri used a property in Freeport, New York, to carry out a similar scheme.

Each defendant is charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Flores and Gonzalez are also charged with two substantive counts of bank fraud. Yotagri was arraigned July 8, 2019, before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark federal court. Flores and Piedrahita remain at large. Gonzalez will be arraigned at a date to be determined.

The conspiracy to commit bank fraud and substantive bank fraud counts carry a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million or twice the gross pecuniary gain to the defendants or twice the gross pecuniary loss to others, whichever is greater.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Robert Manchak; and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Criminal Division in Newark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory of the FHFA, Office of the Inspector General.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presume innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

Anthony Garvin, 49, Jersey City, New Jersey was charged in a superseding indictment returned June 25, 2019 for his role in running a large-scale mortgage fraud scheme that involved properties in Jersey City, Union, and elsewhere in New Jersey and caused losses of millions of dollars.

According to the documents filed in this case:

From January 2011 through November 2017, Garvin and others engineered fraudulent short sale “flips” of various New Jersey properties with mortgages that were in default, and also fraudulently obtained numerous home equity lines of credit, or “HELOC” loans, using fraudulent documents and information.

The conspirators allegedly arranged simultaneous fraudulent transactions on the same target property. In the first transaction, which involved the sale by the current owner, the conspirators convinced the financial institution holding the mortgage to accept the sale of the target property at a loss, usually to a buyer who was secretly a conspirator or an entity controlled by the conspiracy.

In the second transaction, the conspirators flipped the same target property from the first buyer to a second buyer, who typically obtained a mortgage from another financial institution using false loan applications, pay stubs, bank account statements and title reports provided by members of the conspiracy. The second transaction frequently closed for significantly more or even double the price of the first transaction.

Garvin and others allegedly rigged the short sale process at each step to maximize the difference in price between the two transactions and keep the victim financial institutions from detecting the fraud. The conspirators used various kinds of phony documents and misrepresentations, including generating false pre-approval letters from a New Jersey corporation controlled by a conspirator and generating phony deeds that backdated the closing date of the first transactions.

To obtain HELOC loans, the conspirators allegedly submitted loan applications in the name of straw borrowers, who did not in fact reside at the subject properties, and used false and fraudulent information – including false pay stubs and tax information – to make it appear as though the straw borrowers made more money than they actually did. The conspirators frequently applied for multiple HELOC loans on the same property nearly contemporaneously, withholding from each lender the existence of other applications.

The conspirators then disbursed the funds received from financial institutions – which totaled millions of dollars – into various accounts they controlled to conceal their illegal activities and split the profits.

The count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and each substantive count of bank fraud are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Garvin was charged with one count of bank fraud conspiracy and five counts of bank fraud. Garvin was originally indicted on one count of bank fraud conspiracy and one count of bank fraud on January 11, 2019.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement today.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James Buthorn, and special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) – Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Steven Perez in Newark, with the investigation leading to the superseding indictment.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Feder and Zach Intrater of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.

The charges and allegations in the superseding indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Defense counsel: Murdoch Walker II Esq., Atlanta, Georgia; Charles D. Dawkins Jr. Esq., Elizabeth, New Jersey.

 

Thomas Scott Brown, 47, Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to three years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for his role in a bank fraud scheme that resulted in losses of approximately $2.7 million. Brown pled guilty to bank fraud and false statements to a financial institution on June 9, 2017. According to court documents, from approximately 2006 through 2007, Brown purchased properties for buyers with his own money and then directed those individuals to apply for home equity loans with Navy Federal Credit Union, claiming that they owned the properties free and clear of any liens when, in fact, they still owed Brown for the properties. In applying for these home equity loans, Brown instructed the buyers to submit false documentation to the bank, including fraudulent Housing and Urban Development Settlement Statements and false membership applications. Brown further ordered these individuals to pay him from the proceeds of the home equity loans.

In most instances, the homes went into foreclosure after the bank approved the loans. In total, 51 properties Brown sold eventually went into foreclosure, causing Navy Federal Credit Union losses of $2.7 million.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamar K. Walker prosecuted the case.

Rafael Popoteur, 65, Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to an information charging him with conspiring to commit bank fraud between 2012 and 2014.  He admitted his role in a scheme to use false information and simultaneous loan applications at multiple banks to fraudulently obtain home equity lines of credit, a practice known as “shotgunning,”

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

From 2012 through January 2014, Popoteur, Simon Curanaj, and others conspired to fraudulently obtain multiple home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) from banks on a residential property in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. To get the banks to extend lines of credit they would not have otherwise approved, Popoteur, Curanaj, and others transferred ownership of a Ridgefield Park property to Popoteur, who also lived at the property.

Popoteur, Curanaj, and others then applied for three HELOCs from multiple banks using the Ridgefield Park property as collateral. They hid from the lenders the fact that the property was either already subject to senior liens that had not yet been recorded, or that the same property was offered as collateral for a line of credit from another lender. The applications also falsely inflated Popoteur’s income. The equity in the property was far less than the amount of the HELOC loans Popoteur and others applied for.

The victim banks eventually issued loans to Popoteur in excess of $495,000. After the victim banks deposited money into Popoteur’s bank accounts, Popoteur disbursed portions of it to Curanaj and others. In 2014, Popoteur defaulted on all three HELOC loans.

The conspiracy to commit bank fraud count carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 10, 2017.

The charges against Curanaj are still pending and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced the plea and credited special agents of the U.S. Federal Finance Housing Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Steven Perez; and special agents of the FBI, under the direction Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher of the Newark office, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Criminal Division in Newark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory of the FHFA, Office of the Inspector General.

Defense counsel: Jean Barrett Esq., Montclair

Rachel Siders, 41, Roseville, California, was sentenced to 14 and a half years in prison for her involvement in mortgage fraud schemes that cost financial institutions over $17 million.

Federal juries returned verdicts in two trials, in March 2015 and December 2015 finding her guilty of multiple counts of bank fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, making a false loan application, and committing aggravated identity theft.

According to evidence presented at the first trial, in 2008 Siders and co-defendant Theo Adams, 50, Roseville, California, applied for a home equity line of credit using his relative’s name on an underwater Roseville property owned by Adams. They submitted false tax returns in the relative’s name with significantly inflated income along with mortgage application documents with forged signatures. Siders, a notary public, falsely notarized the loan application documents, which were sent to Washington Mutual Bank. The bank relied upon the false documents to provide a $250,000 line of credit. Siders received $170,000 of the proceeds. After making minimal payments, the defendants defaulted on the loan.

According to evidence presented at the second trial, from mid-2006 through early 2008, Siders and Vera Kuzmenko, 46, Loomis, California, and other defendants engaged in a mortgage fraud scheme involving over 30 properties in the Sacramento area. They secured more than $30 million in residential mortgage loans on more than 30 homes purchased through straw buyers. The loan applications contained materially false information as to the straw buyers’ income, employment, assets, and intent to occupy the residences. Records introduced at trial showed that Vera Kuzmenko received millions of dollars, and that Rachel Siders received hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Vera Kuzmenko, was a licensed real estate agent for part of the scheme, and Rachel Siders ran the Rocklin office of the escrow company used on the majority of the transactions. She helped funnel millions of dollars to her co-defendants, which was not disclosed to the lenders.

U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez imposed the sentence.

On March 15, 2016, Judge Mendez sentenced Vera Kuzmenko to 14 years in prison. She was found guilty of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, money laundering and witness tampering. On April 19, 2016, Theo Adams, 50, of Roseville, was sentenced to two years in prison. Previously, Judge Mendez sentenced co-defendants Peter Kuzmenko, 38, West Sacramento, California, to 19 years in prison; Aaron New, 42, Sacramento, California, to 11 years and three months in prison; Nadia Kuzmenko, 37, formerly of Loomis, California, to eight years in prison; and Edward Shevtsov, 52, North Highlands, California, to eight years in prison. They were found guilty on February 13, 2015, after a 21-day trial, of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud associated with the mortgage fraud scheme. In addition, Peter Kuzmenko, Edward Shevtsov, and Aaron New were found guilty of money laundering associated with the scheme, and Nadia Kuzmenko was found guilty of witness tampering.

The sentence today reflects the seriousness of Siders’ crimes, which included participation in two separate mortgage fraud schemes. Over the course of two years, Siders oversaw and participated in numerous fraudulent loans and diverted money into shell accounts for her own benefit. She abused her position as an escrow officer and as a notary public to make this criminal enterprise succeed,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Talbert. “The sentence imposed is a significant reminder that those who engage in such conduct will be held accountable.”

Today’s sentence sends a clear message; anyone profits from fraudulent mortgage transactions—whether by creating the scheme or facilitating it—will not escape justice,” said Supervisory Special Agent Dan Bryant at the FBI Sacramento field office. “The FBI aggressively pursues those involved in such large-scale, complex financial fraud matters to seek justice for the victims and protect the regional economy.”

Rachel Siders was driven by greed in her participation in this mortgage fraud which targeted the Sacramento area,” said Michael T. Batdorf, Special Agent in Charge, IRS‑Criminal Investigation. “Today’s sentencing is a reminder how serious our courts consider this criminal activity and our commitment in providing financial expertise to our federal partners in these types of crimes.”

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lee S. Bickley, Michael D. Anderson, and Matthew D. Segal prosecuted the case.

 

Alla Samchuk, 45, Roseville, California, was found guilty in a mortgage fraud scheme involving three properties after a four day jury trial in Sacramento, California.  Samchuk was convicted of six counts of bank fraud, six counts of making a false statement to a financial institution, one count of money laundering, and one count of aggravated identity theft. After the verdict, U.S. District Court Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. ordered Samchuk taken into custody.

According to court documents, from 2006 through 2008, Samchuk, a licensed real estate salesperson, orchestrated a mortgage fraud scheme involving three properties in the Sacramento area using straw buyers. Two of the houses were purchased so that Samchuk herself could occupy them. She lacked the ability to qualify for a loan, so she instead recruited straw buyers to apply for the loans in their names. Samchuk caused the submission of loan applications containing false representations of income, employment, assets, and a false indication that the straw buyers would occupy the homes as their primary residence.

A second objective of the scheme was to obtain HELOC (home equity line of credit) funds. According to evidence at trial, on two of the properties, Samchuk diverted or attempted to divert HELOC funds to her own benefit. Samchuk caused the HELOC loans to fund by submitting false statements and documents to the lender regarding the qualifications of the straw buyers.

The scheme involved two properties in Roseville, California and one in El Dorado Hills, California. In 2007, Samchuk filed an application for a HELOC on one of the properties without the straw buyer’s knowledge or consent. To obtain the HELOC, she forged the signature of the straw buyer on a short form deed of trust that she caused to be notarized and recorded. The stated purpose of the HELOC was home improvement, but once the line of credit was funded, Samchuk quickly diverted all of the funds to her own use, spending the proceeds on a Lexus and the repayment of a substantial personal debt.

Sentencing is set for October 21, 2016. Samchuk faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for each count of bank fraud and false statements to a financial institution, 10 years in prison for money laundering, and two years in prison for aggravated identity theft.

The verdict was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert. This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Audrey B. Hemesath and Andre M. Espinosa are prosecuting the case.

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