Brent Kaufman, 50, Commack, New York, a former unlicensed mortgage broker, pleaded guilty today to criminal information charging him with stealing $4.7 million in mortgage refinancing proceeds that were meant to pay off the existing mortgages of his clients.
According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, Kaufman worked as an unlicensed mortgage broker and often assisted clients in Queens and Long Island with refinancing their mortgages. At the closing for a mortgage refinancing, the money from the new mortgage is supposed to be wired to the financial institution that holds the existing mortgage so that it can be paid off. Between 2016 and 2019, Kaufman, together with others, engaged in a scheme to defraud Home Point Financial Corporation, LoanDepot.com LLC and United Wholesale Mortgage and other mortgage lenders (the “Lenders”) by obtaining, and attempting to obtain, monies and funds from the Lenders by means of materially false representations. Specifically, Kaufman provided incorrect wire routing information to the Lenders for the existing mortgages. Instead of wiring the funds to the correct financial institution, the funds were instead transferred to bank accounts controlled by Kaufman. As a result, the existing mortgages were not paid off, leaving the clients with two mortgages on their homes, and Kaufman stole the funds for his own personal use.
During the period of the charged conduct, Kaufman stole more than over $4.7 million, some of which he used to make mortgage payments on the existing mortgages or to eventually pay off those mortgages to avoid detection of his scheme. When Kaufman stopped paying the existing mortgages, several of his clients’ homes were foreclosed on. Victims of the scheme ultimately suffered a loss of approximately $2.5 million.
When sentenced, Kaufman faces up to 30 years in prison, as well as forfeiture and a fine of up to $1 million.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), Robert W. Manchak, Special Agent-in-Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), and Darnell D. Edwards, Acting Inspector-in-Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, New York Division (USPIS), announced the guilty plea.
“With today’s guilty plea, Kaufman admits to stealing millions of dollars in a brazen mortgage fraud scheme that defrauded numerous lenders and left his homeowner-clients in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis. “This Office is committed to prosecuting defendants like Kaufman who are driven by greed to abuse the trust of innocent homeowners.” Ms. Kasulis expressed her grateful appreciation to the FBI, FHFA-OIG and the USPIS for their outstanding work and assistance in this investigation and prosecution.
“Not only did Kaufman steal his victims’ money, but he also violated their trust, leaving them financially vulnerable and at risk of significant financial complications,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll. “Collectively, his victims suffered millions of dollars in losses. Today’s guilty plea reminds us of the threat posed by those who prioritize their own financial interests above all else.”
“Brent Kaufman betrayed the trust of unsuspecting homeowners by stealing millions of dollars in mortgage payoffs and failing to repay lenders. As demonstrated by these charges, FHFA-OIG and its law enforcement partners will investigate and hold accountable those who seek to victimize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and misuse the lending process to unjustly enrich themselves,” stated FHFA-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge-Manchak.
“This is a classic case of greed overcoming honest business practices, as Mr. Kaufman took advantage of his access to clients funds to enrich his own lifestyle. His actions left many in financial ruin, holding two mortgages and facing the threat of foreclosure. Law enforcement will always work tirelessly to bring individuals to justice for their crimes against the American public,” stated USPIS Acting Inspector-in-Charge Edwards.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan Siegel and Laura Mantell.