Archives For Mortgage Assistance Scheme

Christopher Lee Horn, 58, and Sondra Horn, 57, both of Richville, Minnesota, a former Mount Vernon, Ohio couple pleaded guilty today to accepting federal mortgage assistance in Ohio while living in another state and renting the Ohio property to a tenant.

Part of the relief programs funds targeted aid to families in states hit hard by the 2008 economic and housing market downturn. The program provided state housing finance agencies funding to develop locally tailored foreclosure prevention solutions. In Ohio, the housing finance agency created “Save the Dream Ohio,” a statewide program focused on unemployed and underemployed homeowners at risk of mortgage loan default or foreclosure.

According to court documents, the Horns admitted to receiving more than $14,000 in Save the Dream Ohio mortgage assistance funds to which they were not entitled.

In September 2014, the couple received more than $2,800 in rescue payment assistance and was approved to receive 18 monthly mortgage assistance payments of $692 each for their property at 18 Marion Street in Mount Vernon.

Also in September 2014, Christopher and Sondra Horn negotiated to rent their Marion Street residence to a tenant for $655 per month. In later months, the amount increased. The couple requested the tenant pay his monthly rent in cash or personal check to a third party, who then deposited the money into a joint credit union account controlled by the Horns.

Both pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Each pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit theft of government property, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Today the defendants join 388 defendants convicted of crimes the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief (SIGTARP) investigated,” said Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero. “Christopher and Sondra Horn knowingly defrauded a TARP program that helps unemployed homeowners stay in their primary home. The Special Inspector General commends the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio for standing with SIGTARP to combat rescue fraud.”

Congress sets the maximum statutory sentence. Sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the Court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

David M. DeVillers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; and Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero, Troubled Asset Relief Program; announced the plea offered today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King. Assistant United States Attorney Sheila G. Lafferty is representing the United States in this case.

 

Willis Edwards III, 49, formerly of East Orange, New Jersey, and currently of Lithonia, Georgia, the former acting business administrator for the Township of Orange, New Jersey, has been charged in a 28-count indictment with conspiracy, bribe-taking, money and property fraud, federal tax fraud, and making false statements in connection with a mortgage.

According to documents filed in this case:

In January 2015, Edwards had his friend, Franklyn Ore, from Urban Partners LLC (Urban Partners), using cash provided by Edwards, funnel to himself a stream of concealed kickbacks in exchange for Edwards’ official action as an Orange public official and assistance in the affairs of Orange and in violation of his duties in connection with:

  • A Saturday literacy program for which Orange and the Orange Public Library were awarded a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered by Essex County, to provide tutoring services for low and moderate-income families (the Saturday Literacy Program);
  • A project for which an urban planning company located in Montclair, New Jersey, had received a one-year, $150,000 contract from Orange to provide professional economic planning services to analyze the conditions within the Central Orange Redevelopment Area (the “redevelopment project”); and
  • A project to acquire the Orange YWCA building and develop it into a community recreation center.

Making False Statements in Connection with a Mortgage

In 2014, Edwards also made false statements to obtain mortgage relief on a $248,000 30-year mortgage loan that he obtained in 2005 to purchase a residence in East Orange, New Jersey. As of February 11, 2014, Edwards had fallen substantially in arrears on his mortgage payments. On April 7, 2014, Edwards submitted a completed Request for Mortgage Assistance form to the mortgage servicer. Edwards disclosed that he was employed by Orange and falsely indicated that he did not have a second employer, when, at the time, he also was employed by a New Jersey County College at an annual salary of approximately $45,000. On October 8, 2014, Edwards and the mortgage servicer entered into a Home Affordable Modification Agreement. In reliance upon false representations made by Edwards, the mortgage servicer provided the following benefits, among others, to Edwards: (1) $95,590 of Edwards’s debt was forgiven between July 2015 and July 2017, and (2) the real estate property was taken out of foreclosure.

The Saturday Literacy Program Fraud and Kickbacks

Despite knowing that Urban Partners did not provide any services to the library in connection with the Saturday Literacy Program, Edwards caused false and fraudulent vouchers to be submitted in March 2015 and in May 2015 to Essex County seeking Saturday literacy grant funds for expenses purportedly paid to Urban Partners. In support of the fraudulent vouchers, Edwards had phony documents submitted to Essex County, including: (1) a sham contract between Urban Partners and the library, backdated to over six months before Urban Partners had been formed, (2) false statistical data about the children who supposedly attended the literacy sessions, (3) fake Urban Partners invoices, and (4) backdated library checks payable to Urban Partners that had not been negotiated when submitted to Essex County to give the false impression that the Library had paid Urban Partners, when it had not done so.

Between April 2015 and June 2015, Essex County provided the Library with $50,000 in HUD funds for the Saturday Literacy Program. Between May 2015 and August 2015, Edwards caused the library to pay Urban Partners approximately $36,000, despite knowing that Urban Partners had not provided the library with any services in connection with the Saturday Literacy Program. Edwards received kickbacks from Ore from the money paid to Urban Partners by the library. At Edwards’s direction, Ore also provided a portion of the proceeds from the library to an associate of Edwards. Ore spent the remaining proceeds for his own personal benefit.

The Redevelopment Project Fraud and Kickbacks

Edwards used his influence as an Orange public official to arrange for the planning company to hire Urban Partners after the planning company had received its contract with Orange. Ore provided services to the Planning Committee and, between August 2015 and February 2016, the planning company, which was receiving payments from Orange, paid Urban Partners $33,220. Edwards received kickbacks from Ore from the money that the planning company paid to Urban Partners.

The YWCA Project Fraud and Kickback

In December 2015, aware that his resignation as an Orange public official would become effective on December 31, 2015, Edwards took further steps to use his position for corrupt and fraudulent purposes. Edwards advised Ore that Edwards had access to Orange discretionary funds and wanted to use them by the end of the year. At Edwards’s instruction, Ore generated and submitted a fraudulent invoice from Urban Partners to Orange, billing Orange $16,800 for services purportedly related to the YWCA Project. Edwards, knowing that no services has been rendered, approved the issuance of a purchase order and Orange paid Urban Partners $16,800.  On December 30, 2015, Edwards received a substantial amount of the $16,800 in a kickback from Ore.

The Plagiarism Scheme

From June 2015 to June 2016, Edwards duped Orange into making payments to a consultant, which were, at least in part, for academic papers that the consultant arranged to have written for Edwards. Edwards, who was enrolled in a graduate program at a university in New Jersey, plagiarized the papers that Orange paid for and passed them off as his own work. Between December 2015 and March 2016, with Edwards’s approval, the consultant submitted three fraudulent invoices to Orange calling for payments of $12,000, $16,000, and $10,000 for purported professional services. Orange paid the money to the consultant and Edwards received from the consultant academic papers that had been written for him. On June 20, 2016, Edwards submitted several papers which were virtually identical to the papers that he had received from the consultant. In emails to the professors, to which the papers were attached, Edwards asked the professors to grade the attached outstanding assignments so that he did “not receive a failing grade for all of the hard work that [he had] done.”

The Graduate School Payments Scheme

The indictment also charges Edwards with fraud in connection with funding his graduate studies. Between December 2015 and July 2016, Edwards engaged in a scheme to defraud Orange of $25,142 in payments to himself and University 1 related to Edwards’s graduate courses there and at another university in New Jersey through the use of a fraudulent approval memorandum. In February 2016, when Edwards was no longer an Orange public official, he dictated the following language to an employee in Orange’s Finance Department (Orange Employee 1) for use in a fraudulent approval memorandum addressed to Edwards: “As per the employee handbook, this memorandum serves as consent for you [Edwards] to enroll in the courses as discussed. Please forward the invoices to process for payment.” Edwards instructed Orange Employee 1 to backdate the memorandum to Aug. 17, 2015, to give the false impression that Edwards had received approval for Orange to pay for academic courses in which he had enrolled.

On February 10, 2016, at Edwards’s direction, Orange Employee 1 sent an email to a senior public official in the office of the Mayor of Orange (Orange Employee 2) containing a draft of the fraudulent approval memorandum. Orange Employee 2 later provided Orange Employee 1 with a final copy of the fraudulent approval memorandum on Orange letterhead, purportedly from the Mayor of Orange, addressed to Edwards, and backdated to August 17, 2015. It included the language that Edwards dictated to Orange Employee 1 and bore the stamp of the initials of the Mayor of Orange to give the false impression that the Mayor of Orange had approved Edwards’s reimbursement for the courses, when the Mayor of Orange had not done so.

Federal Tax Fraud

Edwards also caused a false 2015 federal tax return to be filed with the IRS. From January 2016 to April 15, 2016, Edwards conspired with his tax return preparer, Zenobia Williams, to defraud the United States and the IRS by claiming bogus labor expenses of $27,055 for his business, Natural Care Municipal Cleaning Services LLC (Natural Care), on that tax return. In addition to falsifying business expenses, Edwards also underreported Natural Care’s income. He reported $40,000 in gross receipts, when Natural Care actually received approximately $52,000 in payments from a New Jersey law firm and approximately $32,500 in payments from a local Board of Education. Edwards also did not report the ill-gotten gains that he obtained in 2015 in connection with the Saturday Literacy Program, the Redevelopment Project, and the YWCA Project.

The charges carry the following maximum potential penalties:

Offenses Charged Maximum Term of Imprisonment Maximum Fine
False statement concerning a mortgage 30 years $1,000,000
Conspiracy to commit wire fraud or wire fraud and mail fraud 20 years $250,000
Wire fraud 20 years $250,000
Mail fraud 20 years $250,000
Theft from a federally-funded local government 10 years $250,000
Bribery in connection with the business of a federally funded local government 10 years $250,000
Conspiracy to defraud the United States and the IRS Five years $250,000
Subscribing to a false tax return Three years $250,000
     

On January 13, 2020, Ore entered a guilty plea to an information charging offenses related to the Saturday Literacy Program, the Redevelopment Project, and the YWCA Project. On February 13, 2020, Timur Davis, the former Executive Director of the Orange Library, entered a guilty plea to an information charging an offense related to the Saturday Literacy Program and another HUD-funded program to replace an HVAC/Chiller unit at the Library. On December 30, 2019, Williams entered a guilty plea to conspiring to defraud the United States and the IRS.

Edwards was charged with 14 counts of wire fraud, two counts of bribery in connection with the business of a federally funded local government, two counts of theft from a federally funded local government, two counts of mail fraud, two counts of false statements concerning a mortgage, one count of bribery in connection with the business of a federally funded local government and organization, one count of theft from a federally funded local government and organization, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and the IRS, and one count of filing a false tax return. A date for Edwards’ arraignment has not yet been scheduled.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Joe Denahan in Newark; special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi; and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez with the investigation leading to the charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cari Fais and J Fortier Imbert of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division.

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

Steven Rogers, Robert Sedlar, and Audrey Gan, the operators of Grand View Financial, were indicted today on a 121-count felony indictment for allegedly operating a mortgage fraud scheme throughout California.

The victims, many of whom were elderly and in financial distress, sought mortgage relief services from Grand View Financial in the Counties of San Diego, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Placer, Solano, Mendocino, San Francisco, El Dorado, and Sacramento.

Between 2015 and 2019, the defendants allegedly conspired to steal money and homes from distressed homeowners using a company called Grand View Financial. The company launched a mortgage and foreclosure assistance program that advertised assistance to desperate homeowners facing foreclosure. The defendants promised consumers that if they transferred their house and paid money to Grand View Financial, the company would eliminate the mortgage lien and deed the home back to the homeowner, clear of any liens. During this time, the defendants allegedly filed false court proceedings, false documents with the county recorders offices, and false bankruptcies.

The trio was indicted by a grand jury in the Sacramento Superior Court for conspiracy, grand theft, elder abuse, filing false or forged documents in a public office, and engaging in a prohibited act as a foreclosure consultant.  The scheme resulted in a combined loss of over $7 million.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra made the announcement.

Individuals who prey on vulnerable communities to enrich themselves will be held accountable by the California Department of Justice,” said Attorney General Becerra. “My office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute those who disregard the rule of law.”

The indictment and arrests are the result of a joint investigation by the California Department of Justice, Fraud and Special Prosecutions Section and White Collar Crime Team; the United States Office of Inspector General, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; the United States Office of Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency; the United States Trustee Program; the United States Marshals Service; the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office; and the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.

Attorney General Becerra is committed to protecting Californians from mortgage fraud and other financial crimes. If you believe you may have been targeted by Grand View Financial, please contact the California Department of Justice. For those located in California, please call: 1-800-952-5225. For those located outside of California, please call: 1-916-322-3360.

It is important to note that a criminal indictment contains charges that must be proven in a court of law. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

A copy of the indictment can be found here.

Eliseo Delgado Jr., 40, Corona, California plead guilty on Monday to federal charges for fraudulently obtaining tens of thousands of dollars in mortgage assistance benefits under the portion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) intended for homeowners hardest hit by the 2007-09 economic downturn.

Delgado made the first known guilty plea by an individual to fraud charges regarding TARP’s mortgage assistance program.

According to court documents, in November 2014, Delgado knowingly submitted a false application for homeowner relief benefits under the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program (UMA).

Delgado’s November 2014 application for homeowner relief benefits fraudulently stated that Delgado’s income had been reduced because of unemployment. In a “hardship letter” in support of his application for UMA benefits, Delgado wrote, “I have lost my job…I fell behind on my mortgage payments in 01/01/2014, earlier this year due to lack of income.” In fact, from 2009 to 2016, Delgado was self-employed at various businesses he had founded, and at no point was he unemployed. In total, Delgado fraudulently received $52,373 in UMA benefits from January 2015 until June 2016 – 18 months, the maximum length of time permissible under the program, according to court documents.

UMA was a federally funded program under TARP that was administered in California by the California Housing Finance Authority’s Mortgage Assistance Corporation under the name “Keep Your Home California.” The program was designed to help homeowners by providing temporary mortgage assistance to eligible low-to moderate-income homeowners who became unemployed. Congress passed TARP to stabilize the nation’s financial system during the financial crisis of 2008. In 2010, using TARP money, Congress established the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF), to provide targeted aid to families in states hit hard by the economic and housing market downturn.

United States District Judge Jesus G. Bernal has scheduled an October 28, 2019 sentencing hearing, where Delgado faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

This case was investigated by SIGTARP and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Benjamin Weir of the Riverside Branch Office.

About SIGTARP

The Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) is a federal law enforcement agency that targets crime at financial institutions or in TARP housing programs and is an independent watchdog protecting the interests of the America people. SIGTARP investigations have resulted in the recovery of $10 billion and 278 defendants sentenced to prison.

To report a suspected crime related to TARP, call SIGTARP’s Crime Tip Hotline: 1-877-744-2009. To receive alerts about reports, audits, media releases, and other SIGTARP news, sign up at

www.SIGTARP.gov. Follow SIGTARP on Twitter @SIGTARP.

Lawrence Adell Sefa, 65, Fenton, Michigan has pleaded guilty today to racketeering. The guilty plea follows charges filed against him in 2017 for using a fake mortgage assistance scheme to steal tens of thousands of dollars from 33 Michigan residents who were facing foreclosures.

Between 2012 and 2016, Sefa, through his company LAS Loan Assistance Centers, promised victims that he could negotiate mortgage modifications and save their homes from foreclosure. Instead of delivering on the services he promised, Sefa did little to nothing to obtain modifications for the victims and many lost their homes in the process. Following an investigation by the Department of Attorney General, it was determined a large portion of Sefa’s clients, in addition to those who already filed complaints, did not receive the promised services from Sefa or LAS.

Sefa pleaded guilty to one count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a 20-year felony late last month. The plea agreement includes three key stipulations:

  • If Sefa pays the entire restitution of $116,615 at or before sentencing, he agrees to be sentenced to 12 months of incarceration;
  • If Sefa pays half of the restitution at or before sentencing, his sentencing guidelines will be 24-40 months of incarceration; or
  • If Sefa pays no restitution at or before sentencing, his sentencing guidelines will be 30-60 months of incarceration.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel made the announcement.

At a time when Michigan families are on the verge of losing their homes, the last thing they should have to worry about is Michigan businesses that take advantage of them in the process,” Nessel said. “These are hardworking men and women who needed help, but instead got cheated out of money they could not afford to lose. My office is dedicated to protecting these residents and ensuring bad actors are brought to justice.”

Any restitution that remains unpaid at the time of sentencing will be paid to qualifying victims out of the $97 Million Homeowner Protection Fund to ensure they receive timely payments. The State of Michigan will then seek reimbursement from Sefa.

Sefa will be sentenced by Judge Cavanaugh Friday, Aug. 2, 2019.