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Kimberlee E. Himmell, 62, Massillon, Ohio, is alleged to have defrauded financial institutions out of more than $2 million by having escrow funds on home purchases deposited into her personal account.  Himmell was charged with 18 counts of bank fraud and one count of theft of government funds.

Himmell owned and operated Netwide Title Agency, Inc., located at 3711 Lincoln Way East, Massillon, Ohio. General Title Insurance Company, located in Cleveland, Ohio, was Netwide’s underwriter and responsible for auditing Netwide, according to the information.

Netwide, at the direction of Himmell, began in 2007 instructing all lenders doing business with Netwide as a title agency and utilizing its escrow services to wire all incoming lending proceeds to Himmell’s personal account, instead of Netwide’s corporate account, according to the criminal information filed in the case.

Himmell then used the deposited funds for her own personal use and for Netwide’s operational expenses without disclosing to lenders that she was not holding the funds in escrow, as she represented she would, according to the information.

Himmell closed at least 19 real estate transactions in 2013 and 2014 wherein Netwide received escrow funds and failed to pay or release the funds to the prior owner’s pre-existing mortgage. This causes financial losses to lenders and/or sellers of homes in Richmond Heights, North Canton, Willowick, Concord, Strongsville, Newbury, Brunswick, Wadsworth, Medina, Painesville, Parma, Akron, Twinsburg, Brecksville and Millersburg, Ohio according to the information.

Netwide’s underwriter, General Title, was contractually obligated to make lenders whole. The loss to General Title as a result of Himmell’s conduct was at least $2,111,014, according to the information.

The case was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark S. Bennett following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Jason J. Keating, 38, Toledo, Ohio, was sentenced to nine years in prison and Christopher J. Howder, 40, Perrysburg, Ohio, was sentenced to seven years in prison in after  stealing more than $1.1 million from hundreds of people through a fraudulent loan-modification scheme,

Keating was ordered to pay $1.1 million in restitution while Howder was ordered to pay $561,000 in restitution.

Both pleaded guilty last year to charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and multiple counts of mail fraud and wire fraud.

Keating and Howder worked at Making Home Affordable USA (MHAUSA) from 120 10th Street, Toledo, Ohio where Keating was self-described president and Howder was the self-described underwriting manager.

According to court documents filed in the case:

The company used various names but homeowners were told MHAUSA had a very high rate of success and that customers could achieve modified interest rates as low as 2 percent.

Prospective participants were told there was a flat fee for service, generally between $495 and $795. Participants were told to stop making monthly mortgage payments to their lenders and instead to pay a percentage of their mortgage to MHAUSA.

Participants were told MHAUSA would hold these payments in a “stimulus reserve” account to demonstrate the participants could reliably make payments, and that once the loans were modified, the money would be turned over to the lenders.

The money obtained through the fraud was spent on concessions at professional sports venues, restaurants, cash withdrawals, gentlemen’s clubs, a tanning salon, a Las Vegas hotel, a jewelry store and a lingerie store.

These defendants took more than $1 million from people struggling to hold onto their homes,” said Acting U.S. Attorney David A. Sierleja for Ohio.

They used money obtained through fraud to pay for expensive restaurants and vacations,” said Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland office.

The investigating agency in this case is the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General. The case was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Gene Crawford.

Timothy R. Bradley, 41, formerly of Toledo, Ohio, now of Cary, North Carolina; and Martha E. Ednie, 54, Toledo,  Ohio, were each sentenced to 30 months in prison for their roles in a $1.5 million conspiracy to defraud several banks.  Both defendants worked in the real estate business.

Bradley was previously found guilty of one count commit bank fraud and 11 counts of bank fraud. Ednie was previously found guilty of one count commit bank fraud and 20 counts of bank fraud.

Bradley worked as a real estate agent working for various brokerages in the Toledo, Ohio area, while Ednie was a mortgage broker who operated Apex Mortgage Company. Bradley and Ednie conspired with others, beginning in 2005, to obtain fraudulent mortgage loans by concealing the true purchase price of the underlying properties from banks making the loans, according to court documents.

The true purchase price was represented by an “addendum” to the real estate contract, which lowered the purchase price. These addendums were signed near the time of closing and were concealed from the lenders. Unbeknownst to the lenders, they were loaning the home purchasers between 82 percent and 135 percent of each home’s value based on the adjusted addendum purchase price, according to court documents.

Bradley was listed as the real estate agent on the contracts and Ednie secured financing in her role as mortgage broker. Bradley and others attracted buyers to the scheme by advertising the properties as good sources of rental income and assuring cash back at closing, according to court documents.

Carole S. Rendon, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Kathy Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigations made the announcement.  The investigating agency in the case is the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, Toledo.  The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Gene Crawford.

Angelo Alleca, 46, Buffalo, New York, and Mark Morrow, 54, Cincinnati, Ohio, were arraigned on charges of orchestrating a multi-million dollar investment fraud scheme.  The Defendants marketed several funds that were supposed to invest in certain assets/investments, such as hedge funds managed by a professional money manager of mortgage debt.  According to the new indictment, they instead used the money to pay redemptions to earlier investors, to acquire and operate several businesses, and to pay personal expenses.

According to U.S. Attorney John Horn, the indictment, and other information presented in court: From on or about 2004 until 2012,  Alleca acted as the President and Chief Operating Officer of Summit Wealth Management, an investment adviser headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. During that time, Alleca started several funds and falsely misrepresented that money would be invested in hedge funds and debt securities and managed by professional investment managers. Continue Reading…

Sharrock denied shortened prison sentence

A federal judge has rejected David R. Sharrock’s request to overturn or shorten his 135-month sentence for mortgage fraud, concealment of property and fraudulent transfer in a bankruptcy.

U.S. District Court Judge Donald C. Nugent issued a ruling saying he believes testimony given during a July 28 hearing in Cleveland where Sharrock’s attorney, James McDonnell, told the court the 73-year-old inmate never asked him to file an appeal after he plea no contest in September 2013.

The Ohio Attorney General brought a lawsuit against the operators of a California-based loan modification scheme accused of taking thousands of dollars from Ohioans while falsely promising to help them avoid foreclosure.

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Constance Kanary, 52, Toledo, Ohio, is the subject of a two-count indictment charging her with participating a fraudulent home loan modification conspiracy.

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Brenda Ashcraft, 45, Milford, Ohio, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to defrauding investors of at least $15 million between 2009 and 2013 in a fraudulent investment scheme to purchase and sell real estate through real estate investment trusts (REITs).

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Damone Tyson, 49, Cleveland, Ohio, was indicted on bank fraud charges related to the fraudulent purchase of a Richfield, Ohio, home for nearly $1.2 million.

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Joe Spaqi, 60, Cleveland, Ohio, has been indicted and charged with fraudulently obtaining nearly $1 million from the now-closed St. Paul Croatian Federal Credit Union.

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