Archives For New Jersey

George Bussanich Sr., 60, of Park Ridge, New Jersey and George Bussanich Jr., 39, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, a father and son, were sentenced today to 27 months in prison and eight months of home detention, respectively, for their roles in a scheme to use straw buyers and short sales on properties to defraud mortgage lenders out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and to avoid paying taxes on the proceeds of the scheme.

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

Between 2009 and 2012, Bussanich Sr. and Bussanich Jr. conspired to defraud mortgage lenders through the sham short sales of two properties, located on Jefferson Avenue, Emerson, New Jersey, and Lillian Street, Park Ridge, New Jersey.

Bussanich Sr. controlled various purported medical clinics and surgical centers in New Jersey. He recruited his business partner and an employee from a sleep clinic in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, to pose as legitimate, unrelated buyers of the properties. In order to conceal his involvement, Bussanich Sr. used a business entity he controlled to fund each short sale transaction and the subsequent repurchase of those properties. Bussanich Jr., the owner of record of both properties, negotiated the short sales with the lenders using materially false information that misrepresented the circumstances of the short sales, the relationships of the parties, and the source of funding for the transactions.

Approximately two years after the fraudulent short sales, Bussanich Sr. bought the properties back from the straw purchasers using money that he owed his business partner from an earlier venture.

Bussanich Sr. and Bussanich Jr. also failed to disclose on their tax returns income that they received from the purported medical clinics and surgical centers. Bussanich Sr. and Bussanich Jr. used those funds to purchase high-end luxury vehicles and to purchase official bank checks to fund the fraudulent short sales.

Bussanich Sr., was sentenced to 27 months in prison. He previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi to a superseding information charging him with one count of bank fraud conspiracy and one count of tax evasion. Bussanich Jr., was sentenced to eight months of home detention. He previously pleaded guilty to tax evasion. Judge Cecchi imposed both sentences today in Newark federal court.

In addition to the prison terms, Judge Cecchi sentenced Bussanich Sr. to five years of supervised release and Bussanich Jr. to three years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, and special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencings.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ari B. Fontecchio of the Office’s Economic Crimes Unit, and Nicholas P. Grippo, Attorney in Charge of the Trenton Office.

Defense counsel: Stacy Biancamano Esq., Jersey City, New Jersey

 

George Bussanich Sr., 60, Park Ridge, New Jersey, today admitted his role in a scheme with his son to use straw buyers and short sales on properties to defraud mortgage lenders out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and to avoid paying taxes on the proceeds of the scheme.

Bussanich Sr. pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Claire C. Cecchi in Newark federal court to a superseding information charging him with one count of bank fraud conspiracy and one count of tax evasion. His son, George Bussanich Jr., 39, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to tax evasion before Judge Cecchi in October 2017 and is scheduled to be sentenced September. 25, 2019.

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

Between 2009 and 2012, Bussanich Sr. and Bussanich Jr. conspired to defraud mortgage lenders through the sham short sales of two properties located on Jefferson Avenue, Emerson, New Jersey, and Lillian Street, Park Ridge, New Jersey.

Bussanich Sr. controlled various purported medical clinics and surgical centers in New Jersey. He recruited his business partner and an employee from a sleep clinic in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, to pose as legitimate, unrelated buyers of the properties. In order to conceal his involvement, Bussanich Sr. used a business entity he controlled to fund each short sale transaction and the subsequent repurchase of those properties. Bussanich Jr., the owner of record of both properties, negotiated the short sales with the lenders using materially false information that misrepresented the circumstances of the short sales, the relationships of the parties, and the source of funding for the transactions.

Approximately two years after the fraudulent short sales, Bussanich Sr. bought the properties back from the straw purchasers using money that he owed his business partner from an earlier venture.

Bussanich Sr. also failed to disclose on his tax returns hundreds of thousands of dollars in income that he received from his purported medical clinics and surgical centers. He used those funds to purchase high-end luxury vehicles worth a total of over $300,000, including two Land Rover sport utility vehicles and a Ferrari Spyder. He also used those funds to purchase official bank checks to fund the fraudulent short sales.

The bank fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a maximum potential fine of $1 million. The tax evasion charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum potential $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 23, 2020.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, and special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ari B. Fontecchio of the Office’s Economic Crimes Unit, and Nicholas P. Grippo, Attorney in Charge of the Trenton Office.

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.

 

Lawrence Humphrey, 50, Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced today to five years in state prison for engaging in a fraudulent scheme in which he conspired with a woman to use bad checks to purchase three homes in New Jersey.

Humphrey was indicted in December 2016 along with his co-conspirator, Tara Stokes, 51, Flushing, New York, as the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Stokes pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception and was sentenced on May 18, 2018 to four years in prison by Judge Smith. Humphrey was wanted as a fugitive in this case for two years.

The investigation revealed that Stokes and Humphrey presented checks drawn on a closed bank account to buy three homes in New Jersey. In each case, Stokes used the name “Tara Humphrey.” Two of the properties are located in Gloucester County, Greenwich Township and Monroe Township, and one is located in Winslow Township, Camden County, New Jersey. The closed bank account was in the name of a fictitious law firm, Law Offices of Tara Humphrey. Tara Stokes is not a lawyer.

Stokes and Humphrey wrote multiple bad checks for two of the properties, writing new checks when the first checks bounced. Three bad checks for $240,000 were written for the Monroe property, all from the account of the fictitious law firm. Bad checks for $296,639 and $299,139 were issued for the Greenwich property, with the second check being drawn on a different bank account, which was open but did not have sufficient funds. A bad check for $305,684 drawn on the law firm account was written for the Winslow property. Bad checks for $2,500 and $10,000 were also written from that account to pay deposits on the Greenwich and Winslow homes.

While titles for the three properties changed hands at the closings, in each case the fraud was quickly uncovered, and two of the deeds were not recorded. The state’s investigation began with a referral from a law firm representing the title company that handled the closing for the Monroe Township property.

Humphrey pleaded guilty on April 29, 2019 to a charge of second-degree theft by deception.

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal made the announcement.

Because of the large sums of money involved, real estate transactions and mortgage loans are a prime target for con artists, who impose major costs on the industry that are passed on to honest consumers,” said Attorney General Grewal. “By sending criminals like Humphrey and Stokes to prison, we deliver a strong deterrent message to others who might consider committing this type of fraud.

Financial fraud disrupts commerce and imposes major costs on individuals as well as businesses,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We are committed to fighting fraud by aggressively investigating and prosecuting white collar criminals like Humphrey and his co-conspirator, Stokes. I commend the attorneys, detectives, and staff in our Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau who ensured that both of these defendants received substantial prison sentences.”

Deputy Attorney General William N. Conlow was the lead prosecutor on the case, and Deputy Attorney General Derek Miller handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. Detective Richard Loufik was the lead detective for the Division of Criminal Justice.

A settlement agreement was reached today with 800 New Yorkers for a $45 million settlement with New Jersey-based mortgage lender and servicer PHH Mortgage Corporation.

The settlement agreement reached by 49 states, the District of Columbia and 45 state mortgage regulators resolves allegations that PHH, the nation’s ninth largest non-bank residential mortgage servicer, improperly serviced mortgage loans from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2012. The $45 million settlement includes $30.4 million in payments to borrowers, and additional payments to states and mortgage regulators for costs and fees related to the investigation.

Over 800 New York borrowers applied for payments. Rust Consulting, the settlement administrator, issued checks to claimants on Friday, May 31, 2019. Borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure during the eligible period will receive approximately $1,500, and borrowers referred (but did not ultimately lose their home) to foreclosure will receive approximately $540. Total payments to New York State borrowers exceeds $666,000.

The settlement agreement also requires PHH to adhere to comprehensive mortgage servicing standards, conduct audits, and provide audit results to a committee of states. The settlement does not release PHH from liability for conduct that occurred beginning in 2013.

Attorney General Letitia James made the announcement.

Today, homeowners who were unfairly and unwittingly victimized receive a piece of justice that they deserve,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “It is unfortunate that New York homeowners were victimized by improper mortgage servicing in the first place, but are at least now receiving the financial compensation owed to them. We will continue to use every resource at our disposal to reverse the damaging practices that helped to create the foreclosure crisis, and hold bad-acting mortgage companies accountable.

Empire Justice Center applauds Attorney General Letitia James for representing New York homeowners in the recent multi-state settlement with PHH Mortgage Corporation,” said Kirsten Keefe, Senior Attorney and Program Director for HOPP Anchor Partner Program at the Empire Justice Center.The settlement requires PHH to clean-up its mortgage servicing practices so that they help, rather than harm homeowners. In addition, over 800 New Yorkers will share in a total of cash payments of more than $660,000. Fortunately in New York State, many homeowners who might have otherwise lost their homes because of the misconduct of PHH, received assistance from housing counseling and legal service providers funded through the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) and so remain in their homes. We are very fortunate to have an Attorney General who is continuing to press for the rights of New York’s homeowners and communities.”

We commend the Attorney General’s office for holding mortgage servicer’s accountable for their actions to protect New Yorker’s homes, which is their largest and most important asset,” said Susan Boss, Executive Director of The Housing Council at PathStone. “Along with the A.G’s office, we will continue to advocate for all New York homeowners.

We are thankful to Attorney General James for her dedicated support of New York homeowners,” said Christie Peale, CEO and Executive Director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods. “This settlement provides direct compensation to hundreds of families, some of whom lost their homes to foreclosure during the financial crisis. Just as importantly, it shows that New York State will hold other mortgage lenders and servicers accountable for fully complying with all servicing regulations, and treating homeowners equitably.

The case was handled Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia in the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, and Executive Deputy Attorney General of Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo.

Steve Young Kang, a/k/a “Steven Young Kang and “Young Tae Kang,” 64, Ridgefield, New Jersey, and Young Jin Son, a/k/a “Joshua Son,” 49, Norwood, New Jersey, pleaded guilty today for their respective roles in a scheme to defraud financial institutions and others.

According to documents filed in these cases and statements made in court:

Kang, Son and others fraudulently induced mortgage lenders to participate in “short sale” transactions. In a typical short sale transactions, a financial institution agrees to allow a house owner in financial distress to sell his or her home for less than they owe on their mortgages. Such transactions are called short sales because the market value of the house is less than the amount owed by the house owner and the lender agrees to accept a payment “short” of the amount owed by the house owner.

Kang, a real estate broker and agent, admitted to a scheme in which, from June 2013 to January 2017, he sold his own properties and recruited others to sell properties in short sales to a co-schemer, Mehdi Kassai, who was able to obtain the properties for substantially less than the properties were actually worth through false documents, straw buyers, cosmetic damage to properties, and restricting the ability of others to bid on and buy those properties. Kassai then sold many of those properties to third-parties at a substantial profit. Kang defrauded financial institutions and others of $2.7 million in this manner.

Son, a real estate broker and agent, admitted recruiting others to sell properties in short sales to Kassai, who obtained the properties for substantially less than they were actually worth through false documents, straw buyers, cosmetic damage to properties, and restricting the ability of others to bid and buy those properties. Kassai sold many of those properties to third-parties at a substantial profit. Son defrauded financial institutions and others of $1.9 million in this manner.

The bank fraud and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum potential statutory penalties of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Kang and Son have both agreed to forfeit the proceeds of the scheme. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Oct. 1, 2019. Kassai previously pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and is awaiting sentencing.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Mark Musella; special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge, Robert Manchak; and special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael, with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas.

The government is represented by Senior Trial Counsel Andrew Leven of the Healthcare & Government Fraud Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charlie Divine and Kevin Di Gregory of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.

 

Rafael Peralta, 46, Clifton, New Jersey, and Philip Puccio Jr., 40, Mahwah, New Jersey were arraigned today for their respective roles in a reverse mortgage scheme that took advantage of several elderly homeowners.

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

From November 2007 through December 2010, Peralta and Puccio, home repair contractors, allegedly conspired to fraudulently obtain Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), also known as reverse mortgage, proceeds by submitting inflated and fraudulent documentation to various victim banks to influence their decision to approve and fund HECMs. Peralta and Puccio recruited a conspirator to prepare inflated real estate appraisals that falsely increased the value of the properties securing the HECMs, thereby influencing each lender’s decision to provide loans in amounts greater than what would otherwise be available.

Peralta and Puccio also caused the submission of false and fraudulent loan documents that actively concealed the disbursement of loan proceeds to Peralta, Puccio, and entities they owned and controlled. The diverted loan proceeds were deposited into bank accounts controlled by Peralta and Puccio and used for their personal benefit and to further the conspiracy.

Peralta and Puccio Jr., were indicted February 8, 2019, by a federal grand jury on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and six counts of bank fraud. They were arraigned March 15, 2019, before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson in Trenton federal court.

The conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud charges carry a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million, or twice the gross pecuniary gain by 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 Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Manchak; special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie; and special agents of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, with the investigation leading the charges.

The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Di Gregory and Charlie Divine of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of the Inspector General.

 

George Gilmore, 69, Toms River, New Jersey, was charged today in a six-count indictment with one count of income tax evasion for calendar years 2013, 2014, and 2015; two counts of filing false tax returns for calendar years 2013 and 2014; failing to collect, account for, and pay over payroll taxes for two quarters in 2016, and making false statements on a 2015 loan application submitted to Ocean First Bank N.A.

According to documents filed in this case:

Gilmore worked as an equity partner and shareholder at Gilmore & Monahan P.A., a law firm in Toms River, New Jersey where he exercised primary control over the firm’s financial affairs. Gilmore filed on behalf of himself and his spouse federal income tax returns declaring that he owed $493,526 for calendar year 2013, $321,470 for 2014, and $311,287 for 2015. Despite admitting that he owed taxes for each of these years, Gilmore made no estimated tax payments and failed to pay the federal individual income taxes that he owed. Rather, between January 2014 and December 2016, Gilmore spent more than $2.5 million on personal expenses, including substantial home remodeling costs, vacations, and the acquisition of antiques, artwork, and collectibles. By Dec. 31, 2016, based on the tax due and owing that Gilmore reported on the returns, he owed the IRS $1,520,329 in taxes, penalties, and interest.

Gilmore also submitted a loan application to Ocean First Bank containing false statements. On Nov. 21, 2014, Gilmore reviewed, signed, and submitted to Ocean First Bank a Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA) to obtain refinancing of a mortgage loan for $1.5 million with a “cash out” provision that provided Gilmore would obtain cash from the loan. On Jan. 22, 2015, Gilmore submitted another URLA updating the initial application. Gilmore failed to disclose his outstanding 2013 tax liabilities and personal loans that he had obtained from others on the URLAs. Gilmore received $572,000 from the cash out portion of the loan, the proceeds of which he did not apply to his unpaid taxes.

To evade and defeat the payment of his taxes Gilmore concealed information from the IRS and falsely classified income, made false and misleading statements to IRS personnel, and filed false tax returns that materially understated the true amount of income that he received from the law firm:

  • From January 2014 to December 2016, Gilmore used the law firm’s bank accounts to pay more than $2 million worth of personal expenses, including obtaining checks to cash and cash advances on a corporate credit card. Gilmore falsely classified payments as “shareholder loans” instead of income to him.
  • On Oct. 16, 2014, Gilmore sent the IRS a $493,526 check as payment for his 2013 taxes despite having no more than $2,500 in his personal bank account at the time. Gilmore’s check bounced and he never resubmitted payment in lieu of the bounced check. From November 2014, when he was notified by the IRS concerning the bounced check, to the end of December 2014, Gilmore spent more than $80,000 toward the construction of his home and to purchase artwork, antiques, and collectibles and more than $25,000 in mortgages and related expenses for five real estate properties that he owed.
  • From November 2014 to October 2015, Gilmore falsely represented to the IRS collections officer that he would make partial payments to the IRS for his outstanding tax liability, but made none.
  • Gilmore filed false tax returns for 2013 and 2014, which under reported his actual income from the law firm.

Because he exercised significant control over the law firm’s financial affairs, Gilmore was a person responsible for withholding payroll taxes from the gross salary and wages of the law firm’s employees to cover individual income, Social Security and Medicare tax obligations.  For the tax quarters ending March 31, 2016, and June 30, 2016, the law firm withheld tax payments from its employees’ checks, but Gilmore failed to pay over in full the payroll taxes due to the IRS.

The tax evasion count and the two counts of failing to collect, account for, and pay over payroll taxes each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The two counts of filing a false tax return each carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison, and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The count alleging loan application fraud carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Gilmore will be arraigned at a date to be determined.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig made the announcement.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, special agents with U.S. Attorney’s Office under the direction of Supervisory Special Agent Thomas Mahoney, and special agents of the FBI Red Bank Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, for the investigation leading to today’s indictment.

The government is represented by Deputy U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Skahill; Assistant U.S. Attorney Jihee G. Suh of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division; and Trial Attorney Thomas F. Koelbl of the U.S. Department of Justice – Tax Division.

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

Daniel Sheehan, 44, Gloucester City, New Jersey, was sentenced today after pleading guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen property, and smuggling narcotics into a federal prison

The convictions stem from Sheehan’s operation of a scheme to obtain payments from people who sought his assistance in refinancing their home mortgages.  Instead of providing the promised assistance, Sheehan stole his clients’ money.  As a result of his illegal scheme, 110 people were defrauded, several of whom lost their homes. While being held in a federal prison awaiting trial, Sheehan arranged to smuggle narcotics into the facility for further distribution.

Between September 2012 and February 2015, Sheehan, a mortgage modification professional, represented to clients that he could help them modify their mortgages through the Home Affordable Mortgage Program (“HAMP”) or the Home Affordable Refinance Program (“HARP”).  He found clients who wished to refinance the mortgages on their residences or other properties. Sheehan assured his victims that they would qualify for a modification that would substantially reduce both the principal and interest components of the victim’s monthly payment.  Sheehan collected a fee of between $700 and $1,500 from each victim for the service of preparing and submitting the paperwork necessary to obtain the promised loan modification.

Despite collecting a fee, Sheehan often failed to submit mortgage refinance applications. In most cases, Sheehan falsely advised his clients that in order to qualify to have their mortgages refinanced, they would need to stop paying their mortgages.  These clients generally received correspondence from financial institutions demanding payment and threatening foreclosure.  Sheehan explained to his victims that these were scare tactics employed by the banks, and that if the client made any additional payments, the client would jeopardize the mortgage modification process.  He also told his clients that they should not communicate with the bank because the collections departments would not have any information about the pending modification.  As a direct result, some clients received court foreclosure complaints and told Sheehan; Sheehan assured them that he or his attorney would handle the situation.  Instead, Sheehan took no action, and some of his victims were evicted and lost their homes.

Additionally, Sheehan falsely told some clients that their modification had been approved.  The defendant often told his clients that their loan modification would not become “final” until they made “trial payments” of their new refinanced mortgage amount.  Sheehan told his victims to make these payments to Sheehan or a person designated by Sheehan.  Sheehan assured his victims that their “trial payments” would be held in escrow by Sheehan.  Although Sheehan sometimes gave his clients what purported to be escrow account statements, he converted his victims’ funds to his own personal use.

Sheehan has been detained at the Federal Detention Center (“FDC”) since April 2016. While incarcerated, the defendant arranged for a friend to illegally send him sheets of the drug Suboxone. On about August 29, 2016, a letter addressed to Sheehan arrived at the FDC purportedly from an attorney in New Jersey. The letter contained eight sheets of Suboxone, which Sheehan intended to use to pay off gambling debts that he owed to other inmates at the FDC.

Sheehan was sentenced to 121 months’ imprisonment and ordered to forfeit $493,075 in criminal proceeds.  Sheehan was also sentenced to a term of three years’ supervised release after his term of imprisonment.

U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain made the announcement.

This defendant has absolutely no shame,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “His victims were often looking to refinance mortgages on their homes due to tragic personal circumstances, such as the death of a spouse or the loss of employment. The defendant repeatedly lied and said he would help them, but instead preyed on their vulnerability and made many of them lose their homes. He is a menace to society who has no respect for the law.

What Daniel Sheehan did to his victims was despicable,” said Michael T. Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “In feigning assistance with refinancing their mortgages, he gave people hope that better days were ahead. Instead, he blithely pocketed their money despite knowing foreclosure loomed. The FBI takes great pride in bringing defendants like Mr. Sheehan to justice.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Paul G. Shapiro.

Victor Santos, a/k/a “Vitor Santos,” 58, Wachtung, New Jersey; Arsenio Santos, a/k/a “Gaspar Santos,” 51, Warren, New Jersey; and Fausto Simoes, 65, Millington, New Jersey were arraigned today on multiple charges in connection with their alleged roles in a mortgage fraud scheme.

The three were charged on Sept. 24, 2018, in a 19-count indictment. They were each charged with one count of conspiring to commit bank fraud. Victor Santos was charged with nine counts of bank fraud and nine counts of making false statements in an application for credit. Arsenio Santos was charged with four counts of bank fraud and four counts of making false statements in an application for credit. Simoes was charged with seven counts of bank fraud and seven counts of making false statements in an application for credit.

According to documents filed in this case:

From September 2007 through November 2008, Victor Santos, a real estate investor; Arsenio Santos, a builder; and Simoes, a real estate settlement attorney, and others allegedly conspired to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans with a total value of more than $4 million.

Victor Santos, Arsenio Santos, and their conspirators allegedly recruited “straw buyers”, individuals who purchase a property for another in order to conceal the identity of the actual purchaser, usually in exchange for a fee, to purchase properties in Newark, New Jersey.

In exchange for the use of the straw buyers’ identity and credit history, Victor Santos, Arsenio Santos, and others allegedly agreed to pay each of the straw buyers a fee of at least $5,000, provide the straw buyer’s down payment and cash required for closing, secure tenants to lease the purchased property, and make the mortgage payments on each of the fraudulently obtained mortgages. These secret agreements were not disclosed to the bank. Shortly after the properties were acquired the mortgages went into default.

For the three representative schemes highlighted in the indictment, Victor Santos, Arsenio Santos, and their conspirators prepared and submitted mortgage applications containing false information to the bank and obtained loans totaling more than $1.3 million. The conspirators allegedly arranged transactions for the Newark properties whereby the straw buyers would nominally purchase the properties for far more than the sellers had agreed to sell them, and the conspirators diverted excess loan proceeds for their own benefit and to further the conspiracy.

Simoes was the closing attorney on approximately 10 of the fraudulent transactions and signed and certified the final settlement statements. These statements falsely stated that the cash required for closing for each transaction came from the straw buyer. In fact, Victor Santos and his conspirators provided those funds to Simoes and the funds were deposited into Simoes’ attorney trust account. For certain transactions, a shell company – whose bank account was controlled by Victor Santos and a conspirator – and to which funds from fraudulently obtained mortgage loans were disbursed – was the source of the cashier’s checks given to Simoes to fund the straw buyer’s cash required at closing. For other transactions, down payments came from an account owned and controlled by Arsenio Santos or from the proceeds of a previously obtained fraudulent loan.

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

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.

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

The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charlie Divine and Kevin DiGregory of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit in Newark and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.