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Sergey Shchirskiy, 41, Sacramento, California, was sentenced to seven years and 10 months in prison for his participation in two mortgage fraud schemes and one tax fraud scheme.

According to court documents, Shchirskiy pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in each of the two mortgage fraud cases, as well as one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of aggravated identity theft in the third tax fraud case.

According to the plea agreement, Shchirskiy was a loan processor in one mortgage fraud scheme (2:11-cr-514). Between April 2007 and November 2007, the co-conspirators used straw buyers to buy properties and then take out Home Equity Lines of Credit on the houses using fraudulent documents and statements. Shchirskiy helped to create the fraudulent supporting documents. All of the properties were foreclosed on, resulting in at least $1.5 million in losses to lenders.

According to the plea agreement in the second mortgage fraud scheme (2:12-cr-060), in April 2007, Shchirskiy recruited straw buyers to purchase a houses based on fraudulent loan applications. The applications gave false information about the buyer’s employment, income, assets, and intention to occupy the properties. The properties were foreclosed upon and resulted in a loss of more than $1.2 million to lenders.

According to the plea agreement in the tax fraud scheme (2:14-cr-198), between March 2011 and April 2011, Shchirskiy conspired with others to obtain false tax refunds by submitting fraudulent claims using the identities of various individuals, at least eight of which were stolen. Shchirskiy claimed Earned Income Tax Credit based on false claims of employment from California’s In-Home Supportive Services program. Shchirskiy and his co-conspirators made approximately 80 attempts to file fraudulent tax returns, attempting to receive $661,286 in fraudulent returns from the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS ultimately issued approximately $88,728 in fraudulent refunds.

U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced the sentenced and U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley presided.  The cases were the product of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heiko Coppola and Michele Beckwith prosecuted the cases.

Dianna Woods, 60, Citrus Heights, California, was sentenced to three years in prison for four counts of making false statements on loan applications.

According to evidence presented at her four-day trial in December 2016, Woods was a licensed real estate salesperson who worked at a company called VLD Realty, doing business as Trade House USA, in the Sacramento area. VLD built and sold houses in residential developments in Sacramento, Carmichael, and Copperopolis, Caifornia. As the housing market began to weaken from 2006 through 2008, VLD sought to sell the houses by offering money to buyers in the form of paying the down payment or giving the buyers money after the transaction, neither of which was disclosed to the lenders.

For her part, Woods purchased two houses based on the undisclosed kickbacks. Further, for the purpose of obtaining mortgage loans to purchase the properties, Woods also signed and submitted loan applications and other documents that contained false statements as to Woods’s income, employment, assets, the purpose of the property, the sales price, and whether the down payment was borrowed. Woods also assisted another buyer in making false statements to the lenders to get loans for the purchase of two properties in the housing developments and falsely verified his employment. The banks suffered nearly $2 million in losses with respect to fraudulent transactions in which Woods was involved.

Woods was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb. The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert and the case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shelley Weger and Todd Pickles prosecuted the case.

Miguel Soto, Jr., 46, Miami, Florida; Hector Raul Santana, 38, Miami Lakes, Florida; Miguel Faraldo, 52, Miami, Florida; Barbara E. Zas, 46, Miami, Florida; Maria Rosa Diaz, 45, Miami Springs, Florida; Heberto Elias Gamboa, 31, Miami, Florida; Michael Jose Gonzalez, 31, Miami, Florida; Jenny Nillo, 50, Miami, Florida; Jaime Jesus Sola Avila, 59, Miami, Florida; Jorge Angel Sola, 31, Miami, Florida; Emily Marie Echavarria, 50, Miami, Florida; Eduardo Cruz Toledo, 50, Miami, Florida;  Yanet Huet, 44, Miami, Florida; Carlos Mesa, Jr., 36, St. Petersburg, Florida;  Yipsy Rabelo Clavelo, 45, Pompano Beach, Florida; Jose Salazar, 49, Miami, Florida; and Cynthia Velasquez, 39, Miami, Florida were charged a 17-count indictment with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and various substantive bank fraud offenses.

According to allegations contained in the indictment:

During 2007 and 2008, the defendants conspired to perpetrate a complex mortgage fraud scheme against various FDIC-insured lenders.

The defendants conspired to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans for unqualified buyers of units in two condominium projects on the west coast of Florida: Portofino at Largo, also known as Indian Palms, Largo, Florida; and Bayshore Landing, Tampa, Florida.

Miguel Soto, Jr. was the acting manager of two Florida companies that sold the condominium units to the unqualified buyers: Indian Palms Holdings, LLC, and 5221 Bayshore, LLC. Hector Raul Santana served as the Director of Sales for Indian Palms Holdings, LLC.

Maria Rosa Diaz was the president of Crisvan Investment Group, Inc., a Miami-based mortgage broker business that prepared and submitted the unqualified buyers’ fraudulent loan applications and supporting documents to the lenders.

Miguel Faraldo, Jenny Nillo, Jorge Angel Sola, and Heberto Elias Gamboa operated “marketing companies” that were used to launder the fraudulently obtained loan proceeds and perpetuate the fraud scheme. In particular, Faraldo operated All Florida Marketing, Inc., Nillo and Jorge Sola operated One Stop Consulting Solutions, Inc., and Gamboa operated HHWC Management Group, Inc.

Soto, Santana, Faraldo, Zas, Diaz, Nillo, Jaime Sola, Emily Echavarria, Eduardo Cruz Toledo, and other co-conspirators recruited unqualified buyers to purchase units in Portofino at Largo and Bayshore Landing. These unqualified buyers included Michael Gonzalez, Yanet Huet, Carlos Mesa, Jr., Yipsy Rabelo Clavelo, Jose Salazar, Jorge Sola, and Cynthia Velasquez.

Soto, Santana, Faraldo, Zas, Diaz, Nillo, Jaime Sola, Echavarria, Cruz, and other co-conspirators, made fraudulent statements to unqualified buyers to induce their purchases.

The defendants submitted fraudulent loan applications to induce the lenders to make mortgage loans to the unqualified buyers. The submitted loan applications contained false and fraudulent statements relating to: the borrower’s occupation of, or intent to occupy, the mortgaged property as a residence; the borrower’s employment, income, and assets; the borrower’s liabilities; the borrower’s payment of an earnest money deposit and cash-to-close; the sellers’ payment of kick-backs to the borrowers; and other information that was material to the borrower’s qualifications to borrow money from the lenders and the values of the mortgage properties.

Miguel Soto, Jr., Hector Santana, Maria Diaz and their co-conspirators agreed to submit the unqualified buyers’ fraudulent mortgage loan applications to the lenders through certain mortgage broker firms, including Diaz’s company, Crisvan Investment Group, Inc.

Miguel Soto, Jr. and Hector Santana agreed with one another, and with other co-conspirators, that the settlement agents for the purchase transactions would disburse mortgage loan proceeds for the purchase of condominium units in Portofino at Largo and Bayside Landing, even though the borrowers would not pay the earnest the money deposits and/or cash-to-close required by their loan applications and HUD-1 Settlement Statements.

Miguel Soto, Jr. and Hector Santana agreed with Miguel Faraldo, Jenny Nillo, Jorge Sola, and Heberto Gamboa, and with other co-conspirators, that the settlement agents would use some of the proceeds from certain of the fraudulently obtained mortgage loans to pay a fictitious “marketing fee” to one of the “marketing companies.” Faraldo, Nillo, Sola, and Gamboa would then cause their companies to pay some of those funds to the unqualified buyers as an undisclosed kick-back for buying their units.

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, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Division, and Juan J. Perez, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), made the announcement.

Mr. Ferrer commends the investigative efforts of the FHFA-OIG, FBI and MDPD. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dwayne E. Williams.

Sam Tuttle, a vice-president and loan officer at PC Bank Home Loans, Ben Leske, a loan officer at PC Bank Home Loans, Angela Crozier, a senior loan processor at PC Bank Home Loans, and Ed Rounds, a loan officer at PC Bank Home Loans, were indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Tacoma and charged with conspiracy to make false statements on loan applications and to commit bank fraud and bank fraud, .

According to the indictment, from 2004 through 2008, Tuttle, Leske, Crozier and Rounds, along with Shawn Portmann, a vice-president and loan officer at PC Bank Home Loans, Craig Meyer, a vice-president and loan officer at PC Bank Home Loans, and Alice Barney, Portmann’s personal assistant, and other co-conspirators, knowingly made false statements and willfully overvalued property for the purpose of influencing the actions of Pierce Commercial Bank and other federally insured financial institutions, in connection with applications for mortgage loans.  PC Bank Home Loans was a mortgage lending office of Pierce Commercial Bank. During the time they were employed at PC Bank Home Loans, the alleged conspirators originated in excess of 5,000 mortgage loans representing in excess of $1 billion in loan proceeds. The loans detailed in the indictment are alleged to have contributed to the failure of Pierce Commercial Bank.

The indictment alleges that the conspirators solicited individuals, including through mass marketing, who were seeking to purchase homes.  They were solicited to prepare and submit mortgage loan applications regardless of whether they might qualify for the loans. The co-conspirators caused loan applications to be prepared based upon fraudulent representations related to gross monthly income, employment status, rental status, assets and liabilities and whether the property would be used as a primary residence.  Sometimes the false statements were made with the knowledge of the borrowers and in other cases, the borrowers did not know the false statements were being inserted. If the borrowers did not qualify, co-conspirators would, at times, seek the assistance of Portmann and other co-conspirators for advice on how to falsely modify the loan applications to ensure they passed underwriting.  Among the assistance provided by Portmann was the use of his assistant, Barney, to provide a Verification of Rent form for inclusion in the loan package, that falsely asserted the borrower was paying rent for an apartment owned by Portmann when, in fact, the borrower was not residing in, and had never resided in, the apartment.

The indictment further alleges that the co-conspirators would collude with third parties, including appraisers, to ensure the loans successfully closed.  The co-conspirators would pressure appraisers to generate specific values, even when told that the values were not supported by appraisal methods.

The indictment also alleges that when there were defaults on loans that were sold into the secondary market, the co-conspirators would take steps to ensure that Pierce Commercial Bank and the secondary investors did not discovery the underlying fraudulent statements.  The efforts included Portmann, Tuttle and Meyer forming a separate company to buy defaulted loans back from secondary investors so that no further investigation would be done on the defaulted loans.

According to the indictment, the fraudulent scheme caused in excess of $9.5 million in losses to Pierce Commercial Bank, secondary investors and HUD/FHA.

Ross D. Pickard, 63, Naples, Florida, was indicted and charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of loan and credit application fraud.

According to the indictment, Pickard was a senior loan officer at JP Morgan Chase Bank. He conspired with others in a scheme to defraud the bank by completing, certifying, and submitting mortgage loan applications on behalf of borrowers that contained false and fraudulent statements. The false statements included, but were not limited to, false occupancy, overinflated income and assets, as well as the understated liabilities. By relying on Pickard’s false and fraudulent statements on the loan applications, JP Morgan Chase was induced into funding mortgage loans for otherwise unqualified borrowers.

If convicted, he faces up to 5 years in federal prison for the conspiracy count and up to 30 years on each of the fraud counts. The indictment also notifies him that the United States is seeking a money judgment for the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct.

United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announced the indictment.  The case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations Division. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

James Bayfield, 44, Queens, New York, a self-described mortgage specialist, was convicted by a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, on all four counts charging bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud for his role in defrauding mortgage lending institutions and large financial institutions, including Amtrust Bank (Amtrust), Bank of America N.A. (BOA) and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (Chase), in a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme. The jury’s verdict followed a two-week trial before United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano. Bayfield is the sixth and final defendant convicted in the case.

The evidence at trial established that Bayfield, together with others, caused mortgage loan applications with false information to be submitted to lending institutions in connection with the purchase of residential properties located within the Eastern District of New York. These applications contained fraudulently inflated purchase prices, as well as false information about the assets and income of the purchasers of the properties, many of whom were being compensated as part of the scheme to act as straw purchasers. The defendant and his co-conspirators also provided false down payment checks to make it appear as if the straw purchasers and the other borrowers had made down payments in connection with the purchase of the properties, which was a condition of the lending institutions for issuing the mortgage loans.

To carry out their scheme, the defendant conducted simultaneous purchases and sales of the properties, sometimes called “flips,” in an effort to conceal their criminal involvement and to inflate the value of the properties. For example, a conspirator would purchase a property from a homeowner. That same day, the conspirator would sell the property to a straw purchaser at an inflated value. The defendant and his conspirators, through the use of backdated and falsified documents, concealed from the lending institutions the fact that the purchase and sale had occurred on the same day and made it appear as if the transaction between the homeowner and the conspirator had occurred over 60 days prior to the sale from the conspirator to the straw purchaser.

As a result of the false applications and appraisals, the lending institutions were fraudulently induced to issue millions of dollars of mortgage loans secured by properties that had inflated appraisal values to individuals who had insufficient income and assets to qualify for the mortgage loan. In many instances, the straw purchasers and the other borrowers failed to make required mortgage payments to the lending institutions, which caused the mortgage loans to be placed into default status.

When sentenced by United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano, Bayfield faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The guilty verdict was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Mr. Capers thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG); the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG); the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG); and the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) for their hard work and dedication over the course of this multi-year investigation and prosecution.The government’s case was prosecuted by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section. Assistant United States Attorneys David Pitluck, Mark Bini and Michael Keilty are in charge of the prosecution.

 

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.

 

Luis Francisco Moreno, Greer, South Carolina, was charged by information in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina and pled guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

According to the Information, Moreno was a licensed real estate broker and real estate developer.  Moreno was experiencing financial difficulties in his business ventures.  Moreno was encouraged by Person A, a closing attorney residing in Lexington, North Carolina who is now deceased, to serve as a loan applicant with Wells Fargo Bank, to purchase two pieces of property in North Carolina. Moreno provided materially false information about his assets and income in the loan applications and provided false documents, including bank statements and tax returns.  Moreno also signed false HUD-1 statements. The scheme diverted the loan proceeds from Wells Fargo.

 

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.

Murray O. Wilhoite, Jr., 68, Franklin, Tennessee, was convicted of three felony charges following a trial before U.S. District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger.  The jury convicted Wilhoite of making a false statement to a bank, making a false statement in a federal bankruptcy filing, and making a false statement under oath during a bankruptcy hearing.

Evidence presented during the trial demonstrated that Wilhoite obtained a $1.2 million loan in December 2007 by pledging, as collateral, a Franklin, Tennessee property that he did not own. During trial, testimony and exhibits proved that Wilhoite knowingly misrepresented to an FDIC-insured bank that he owned certain real property that he pledged as collateral. However, as trial evidence proved, the property was owned at all relevant times by his father.

In documents signed during the closing for this loan, Wilhoite falsely represented that he was the owner and titleholder of the property, and the bank relied on his statements in permitting him to obtain a loan using the Franklin property as collateral in lieu of a down payment.  Wilhoite subsequently lied during a 2011 bankruptcy filing, by again misrepresenting that he owned the Franklin property, and did so for the purpose of preventing the bank from foreclosing on this property after he defaulted on his loan. Wilhoite lied again at a 2013 hearing before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, during which he perjured himself by falsely stating that he had not known that the Franklin property was designated as collateral for the loan. The evidence at trial proved that Wilhoite made the bankruptcy-related false statements knowingly and with the intent to deceive.

Wilhoite faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000 on the false statement to a bank charge, and up to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on the other charges. Wilhoite will be sentenced by Judge Trauger on September 23, 2016. The sentence will be imposed by the Court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and applicable federal statutes.

The conviction was announced by announced United States Attorney David Rivera.  The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the United States Trustee. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sandra G. Moses and William F. Abely.