Archives For Texas

Bruce Kevin Hawkins, 52, Desoto, Texas, was sentenced to serve 41 months in prison and pay $219,109 in restitution for his role in a foreclosure rescue scheme that exploited vulnerable homeowners facing foreclosure.

Hawkins pleaded guilty in June 2017 to one count of mail fraud.  He has been in custody since the time of his arrest in January 2017.

A federal grand jury in Dallas returned an indictment in December 2016 charging Hawkins and three others with felony offenses stemming from a “foreclosure rescue scheme” they ran from approximately February 2012 through January 2013.  Richard Bruce Stevens, 51, San Antonio, Texas, and Christina Renee Caveny, 37, Dallas, Texas, also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this year.  Mark Demetri Stein, 36, Carrollton, Texas, is awaiting trial.

According to documents filed in the case, Stein operated Real Estate Solutions, Stevens used Texas Real Estate Services, and Hawkins formed ERealty Mortgage Group, LLC, as foreclosure rescue companies.  The conspirators used third parties to contact homeowners and offer them an opportunity to get out of their present home loans and receive a new home loan with a reduced interest payment and reduced monthly payment.  Hawkins and other conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that they had “investors” standing by who were ready to quickly purchase the homeowner’s present loan from the lender holding the current mortgage.  They also falsely represented that they would use investors to purchase the homeowner’s loan from the original lender at a greatly reduced price through a “short sale” process.

Furthermore, Hawkins and other conspirators falsely represented to the homeowners that the homeowners had the legal authority to transfer their homeowner’s deed to the defendants.

As part of the scheme, the conspirators fraudulently required homeowners to start making all future loan payments to them based on fraudulent so-called “loans,” and they also told homeowners to ignore late payment notices sent by lenders.  As part of the scheme, the conspirators conducted a fraudulent “closing” for each homeowner where they caused the homeowner to pay them a large down payment on the new “loan,” and they also had the homeowner sign fraudulent documents, such as a promissory note, deed of trust, special warranty deed, and/or a so-called “land trust.”

Further, according to plea documents, the conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that the conspirators could “sell” their property back to the homeowner with a new loan, when the conspirators well knew they did not legally own the property.  The conspirators also told homeowners to ignore notices of nonpayment from their present lender as they continued to unlawfully collect monthly so called “mortgage payments” from homeowners.  In fact, conspirators instructed several homeowners to file for bankruptcy but to not follow up with the bankruptcy process as an additional means to delay foreclosure and conceal the conspirators’ criminal conduct.  Conspirators concealed that all down payment and monthly mortgage payments fraudulently collected from homeowners was spent for their own personal benefit.

The defendants recruited at least 70 distressed and vulnerable homeowners who were facing the imminent threat of foreclosure on their homes and fraudulently collected a total of at least $242,000 from them.

Hawkins was sentenced before U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey and the sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas

The Dallas FBI investigated the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis prosecuted.

Francisco Javier Gonzalez, a/k/a “Javier Gonzalez,” 45, Duncanville, Texas, vice-president of Dallas County Community Action Committee, Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud

According to documents filed in the case, the DCCAC was a non-profit entity, accredited by HUD between October 1990 and mid- February 2016, to provide housing counseling. It was created in 1965 by the Dallas Commissioners Court to support the efforts of the Johnson administration to combat poverty. Gonzalez served as DCCAC’s Vice President and one of the directors. Gonzalez also leased space in the DCCAC offices for another entity, known as Residential Counseling FJ LLC.

According to the charging documents filed in the case, between 2009 through 2016 Gonzalez through his work at DCCAC, defrauded homeowners under the guise that he was assisting them with mortgage assistance. Gonzalez specifically sought out victims who were facing financial difficulty and who had contacted the DCCAC seeking mortgage loan and foreclosure prevention assistance. He also identified victims facing such financial distress by subscribing to the Foreclosure Listing Service, a/k/a Roddy List, which offers listings of foreclosure and pre-foreclosure homes, by county, through a review of public records. Once identified, Gonzalez would meet with these victims in the DCCAC offices and in the victims’ homes. He would explain a plan to reduce the victim’s mortgage payment and to prevent foreclosure; the plan often included a loan modification application. These applications often contained information that had been falsified by Gonzalez and were otherwise incomplete.

According to plea documents, on February 28, 2013, Gonzalez prepared and submitted a false and fraudulent Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) application to a bank in an effort to delay foreclosure and extract additional funds from victims. As a result of Gonzalez’s scheme to defraud homeowners, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and certain banks suffered a loss of $611,740.55.

Gonzalez faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. Restitution could also be ordered. He has been in custody since the time of his arrest in October 2016.

U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas announced the plea. HUD Office of Inspector General, FHFA Office of Inspector General, and the USPIS investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney P.J. Meitl is in charge of the prosecution.

Richard Bruce Stevens, 52, San Antonio, Texas, appeared in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez and pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud,

Stevens faces a maximum statutory penalty of twenty years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Restitution could also be ordered. Stevens will remain on bond pending sentencing, which is set for October 30, 2017.

A federal grand jury in Dallas returned an indictment in December 2016 charging Stevens and three others with felony offenses stemming from a “foreclosure rescue scheme” they ran from approximately February 2012 through January 2013. Mark Demetri Stein, 36, Carrollton, Texas, is scheduled for trial August 28, 2017. Bruce Kevin Hawkins, 52, Desoto, Texas, and Christina Renee Caveny, 37, Dallas, Texas, both pleaded guilty to their role in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing.

According to documents filed in the case, Stein operated Real Estate Solutions, Stevens used Texas Real Estate Services, and Hawkins formed ERealty Mortgage Group, LLC, as foreclosure rescue companies. The conspirators used third parties to contact homeowners and offer them an opportunity to get out of their present home loans and receive a new home loan with a reduced interest payment and reduced monthly payment. Stevens and other conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that they had “investors” standing by who were ready to quickly purchase the homeowner’s present loan from the lender holding the current mortgage. They also falsely represented that they would use investors to purchase the homeowner’s loan from the original lender at a greatly reduced price through a “short sale” process.

Furthermore, Stevens and other conspirators falsely represented to the homeowners that the homeowners had the legal authority to transfer their homeowner’s deed to the defendants.

As part of the scheme, the conspirators fraudulently required homeowners to start making all future loan payments to them based on fraudulent so-called “loans,” and they also told homeowners to ignore late payment notices sent by lenders. As part of the scheme, the conspirators conducted a fraudulent “closing” for each homeowner where they caused the homeowner to pay them a large down payment on the new “loan,” and they also had the homeowner sign fraudulent documents, such as a promissory note, deed of trust, special warranty deed, and/or a so-called “land trust.”

Further, according to plea documents, the conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that the conspirators could “sell” their property back to the homeowner with a new loan, when the conspirators well knew they did not legally own the property. The conspirators also told homeowners to ignore notices of nonpayment from their present lender as they continued to unlawfully collect monthly so called “mortgage payments” from homeowners. In fact, conspirators instructed several homeowners to file for bankruptcy but to not follow up with the bankruptcy process as an additional means to delay foreclosure and conceal the conspirators’ criminal conduct. Conspirators concealed that all down payment and monthly mortgage payments fraudulently collected from homeowners was spent for their own personal benefit.

The defendants recruited at least 70 distressed and vulnerable homeowners who were facing the imminent threat of foreclosure on their homes and fraudulently collected a total of at least $242,000 from them.

This case is one of several felony prosecutions of bankruptcy-related crimes prosecuted as a result of the Bankruptcy Fraud Initiative in the Northern District of Texas. These prosecutions are identified following a careful review of many criminal referrals sent by the Office of the United States Trustee in Dallas to the United States Attorneys Office. Since May 2013, a total of 26 defendants have been charged as part of that initiative. To date, 23 defendants have been convicted, one resulted in a mistrial, and two are pending trial.

The plea was announced by U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas. The Dallas FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis is in charge of the prosecution.

Christina Renee Caveny, 37, Dallas, Texas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.  Bruce Kevin Hawkins, 52, Desoto, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.

Caveny faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine while Hawkins faces a maximum statutory penalty of twenty years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Restitution could also be ordered. Caveny will remain on bond pending sentencing, which is set for September 18, 2017.  Hawkins has been in custody since the time of his arrest in January 2017. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

A federal grand jury in Dallas returned an indictment in December 2016 charging Caveny, Hawkins, and two others with felony offenses stemming from a “foreclosure rescue scheme” they ran from approximately February 2012 through January 2013. Mark Demetri Stein, 36, of Carrollton, Texas, and Richard Bruce Stevens, 51, of San Antonio, Texas, are scheduled to begin trial on August 28, 2017.

According to documents filed in the case, Stein operated Real Estate Solutions, Stevens used Texas Real Estate Services, and Hawkins formed ERealty Mortgage Group, LLC, as foreclosure rescue companies. The conspirators used third parties to contact homeowners and offer them an opportunity to get out of their present home loans and receive a new home loan with a reduced interest payment and reduced monthly payment. Hawkins and other conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that they had “investors” standing by who were ready to quickly purchase the homeowner’s present loan from the lender holding the current mortgage. They also falsely represented that they would use investors to purchase the homeowner’s loan from the original lender at a greatly reduced price through a “short sale” process.

Furthermore, the conspirators falsely represented to the homeowners that the homeowners had the legal authority to transfer their homeowner’s deed to the defendants.

As part of the scheme, the conspirators fraudulently required homeowners to start making all future loan payments to them based on fraudulent so-called “loans,” and they also told homeowners to ignore late payment notices sent by lenders. As part of the scheme, the conspirators conducted a fraudulent “closing” for each homeowner where they caused the homeowner to pay them a large down payment on the new “loan,” and they also had the homeowner sign fraudulent documents, such as a promissory note, deed of trust, special warranty deed, and/or a so-called “land trust.”

Further, according to plea documents, the conspirators falsely represented to homeowners that the conspirators could “sell” their property back to the homeowner with a new loan, when the conspirators well knew they did not legally own the property. The conspirators also told homeowners to ignore notices of nonpayment from their present lender as they continued to unlawfully collect monthly so called “mortgage payments” from homeowners. In fact, conspirators instructed several homeowners to file for bankruptcy but to not follow up with the bankruptcy process as an additional means to delay foreclosure and conceal the conspirators’ criminal conduct. Conspirators concealed that all down payment and monthly mortgage payments fraudulently collected from homeowners was spent for their own personal benefit.

The defendants recruited at least 70 distressed and vulnerable homeowners who were facing the imminent threat of foreclosure on their homes and fraudulently collected a total of at least $242,000 from them.

This case is one of several felony prosecutions of bankruptcy-related crimes prosecuted as a result of the Bankruptcy Fraud Initiative in the Northern District of Texas. Since May 2013, a total of 26 defendants have been charged as part of that initiative. To date, 20 defendants have been convicted, one resulted in a mistrial, and five are pending trial.

U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas announced the pleas..The Dallas FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis is in charge of the prosecution.

Oscar Cantalicio Ortiz, 53, a contractor who had resided in Kingwood, Texas, prior to becoming a fugitive in this case, was sentenced in absentia to 262 months in prison for his role in a $16 million loan fraud scheme.  Ortiz pleaded guilty June 30, 2016, to conspiring to commit bank, mail and wire fraud. He was set for set for sentencing April 24, 2017, but failed to appear for that hearing.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt further ordered Ortiz to pay $5,462,800 in restitution. At the hearing, the court heard testimony that Ortiz was aware of the previous hearing and that he had cut off his ankle monitor and left it on the side of the road.

He is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 713-693-5000.

Seung Min Santillan, aka Suzy, 57, real estate agent, Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements on a loan application in September 2016. She was previously sentenced to 168 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $5,299,500 in restitution.

Ortiz and Santillan operated a mortgage fraud scheme in which they recruited straw borrowers to purchase residential properties in the Houston, Texas, area. Loans were obtained from lending institutions to purchase these properties in the names and using the credit of the straw borrowers. The lenders were provided materially false information to induce them to fund these residential loans, including fraudulent appraisal reports. The loans were funded and ultimately fell into default when all the mortgage payments were not made as promised.

Ortiz and Santillan utilized several business entities during the execution of the scheme to defraud including Uptown Builders LLC, Americorp Builders LLC, Luxury Quality Homes LLC and Santi Investments. In recruiting straw borrowers during the scheme, the borrowers were told the residential property would be in their name for a short period while Ortiz made modifications to the property prior to reselling the house. Ortiz and Santillan promised the straw borrowers that they would handle all the costs associated with purchasing and holding these properties.

Once the loans to purchase the residence funded, one or more of the business entities Ortiz utilized would receive a large portion of the loan proceeds. This occurred even when the same property was purchased for the second time in the name of a new straw borrower. The defendants were able to take a large portion of the loan proceeds since the value of the residence was inflated with fraudulent appraisal reports.

The sentenced was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Annis is prosecuting the case.

Luis Antonio Rodriguez, 36, Mission, Texas, and Rogelio Ramos Jr., 36, Pharr, Texas were convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in a “second chance” mortgage lending scheme.  The convictions followed a seven-day-trial and approximately nine hours of deliberation by the jury.

Guadalupe Artemio Gomez, 31, Mission, Texas, pleaded guilty before trial and testified against both Rodriguez and Ramos.

All three were accused of operating a “second chance” financing business under the names of T.G. and Wealth, Infinite Properties and Me In 3D, focusing on individuals who were financially unable to apply for traditional home financing. The investigation revealed Gomez, Rodriguez and Ramos conducted business in McAllen, Mission, Edinburg, Houston and San Antonio, Texas, by hiring recruiters to funnel prospective home buyers to Infinite Properties. The homebuyers then gave 10 percent of the purchase price as a down payment to Infinite Properties.

During trial, the jury heard from victims, law enforcement and an FBI forensic accountant who testified that instead of using the down payments as intended, the money was used for personal expenses, trips to Las Vegas and to purchase other real estate.

The defense claimed they had no intent to defraud the victims because they had attempted to get a $10 million loan. The jury was not convinced and found both men guilty as charged.

Rodriguez and Ramos defrauded 106 people out of more than $1.8 million in down payments.

Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud in relation to this investigation or any other similar crime may contact the FBI at 210-225-6741.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane presided over the trial and set Rodriguez and Ramos for sentencing on Aug. 8, 2017. Gomez will be sentenced July 25, 2017. All face up face up to up to 30 years in federal prison and a possible $1 million fine.

The convictions were announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.

The FBI and police departments in McAllen, Mission and Edinburg conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert L. Guerra Jr. and Andrew Swartz prosecuted the case.

Oscar Cantalicio Ortiz, 53, Kingwood, Texas, a Houston-area contractor, failed to appear for sentencing in a $16 million loan fraud scheme, and has been charged with failing to appear. Ortiz pleaded guilty June 30, 2016, to conspiring to commit bank, mail and wire fraud. He was set for sentencing in that case Monday, April 24, 2017, but failed to appear at the hearing. A federal grand jury returned a new indictment against him for failure to appear.

He is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 713-693-5000.

His codefendant – Houston realtor Seung Min Santillan, aka Suzy, 57, Houston, Texas – pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and making false statements on a loan application in September 2016. She was sentenced to 168 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $5,299,500 in restitution.

Ortiz and Santillan operated a mortgage fraud scheme in which they recruited straw borrowers to purchase residential properties in the Houston area. Loans were obtained from lending institutions to purchase these properties in the names and using the credit of the straw borrowers. The lenders were provided materially false information to induce them to fund these residential loans. The loans were funded and ultimately fell into default when Ortiz and Santillan failed to make all the mortgage payments as promised.

Ortiz and Santillan utilized several business entities during the execution of the scheme to defraud including Uptown Builders LLC, Americorp Builders LLC, Luxury Quality Homes LLC and Santi Investments. In recruiting straw borrowers during the scheme, the borrowers were told the residential property would be in their name for a short period while Ortiz made modifications to the property prior to reselling the house. Ortiz and Santillan promised the straw borrowers that they would handle all the costs associated with purchasing and holding these properties.

Once the loans to purchase the residence funded, one or more of the business entities Ortiz utilized would receive a large portion of the loan proceeds. This occurred even when the same property was purchased for the second time in the name of a new straw borrower. The defendants were able to take a large portion of the loan proceeds since the value of the residence was inflated with fraudulent appraisal reports.

The announcement was made by Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Annis is prosecuting the case.

Guadalupe Artemio Gomez, 31, Luis Antonio Rodriguez, 36, and Rogelio Ramos Jr., 36, all of the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, were charged in a criminal complaint with federal wire fraud arising out of a fraudulent mortgage lending scheme.  The criminal complaint was filed under seal on January 12, 2017. Authorities arrested Gomez and Ramos the following day, at which time they made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ignacio Torteya. The case was unsealed in its entirety after Rodriguez, who was previously incarcerated on unrelated charges, was taken into federal custody. He made his initial appearance before Peter Ormsby and ordered to remain in custody pending further criminal proceedings.

The charges allege they all operated a “second chance” financing business under the names of T.G. and Wealth, Infinite Properties and Me In 3D, focusing on individuals who were financially unable to apply for traditional home financing. The defendants allegedly offered these individuals financing at a rate of 8.5 percent interest on the principal for a 20-year-term if they could afford a 10 percent down payment on the house of their choice.

Gomez, Rodriguez and Ramos allegedly conducted business in the area of San Antonio, Texas, by recruiting realtors to funnel prospective home buyers to Infinite Properties. According to the charges, part of the scheme involved sending fraudulent bank account information through email correspondence to the realtors in order to create the appearance that Infinite Properties had millions of dollars in its accounts to finance the purchase of houses. Based on these false accounts, realtors allegedly introduced home buyers in need of second chance financing to Infinite Properties.

The criminal complaint alleges buyers entered fraudulent purchase agreements for properties they selected. These buyers made down payments to Infinite Properties to be used toward the purchase of their intended properties and were told closings would occur within 45-60 days, according to the charges.

The charges allege, however, that closings did not occur and the payments were never used for the purchases of the properties. In August 2016, Infinite Properties allegedly ceased to do business and the victims never received their money back.

If convicted, the defendants all face up to up to 30 years in federal prison and a possible $1 million fine.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson made the announcement. The FBI investigated the case along with police departments in McAllen, Mission and Edinburg. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert L. Guerra Jr. is prosecuting the case.

Barbara Jean Dennis, 60, Las Vegas, NV, a  former Nevada real estate agent who owned at least 12 rental properties in Nevada and Texas and filed multiple bankruptcy petitions to avoid paying the mortgages, has been sentenced to 11 months in prison, two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a fine of $10,000 and restitution of $83,000.  She was sentenced on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 by U.S. District Judge Kent J. Dawson. Judge Dawson also entered an order restricting Dennis from engaging in real estate business during the period she is on supervised release.

Dennis pleaded guilty in February to bankruptcy fraud, admitting that she used the automatic stay provision in bankruptcy proceedings to avoid paying the mortgages, while at the same time, collecting rent from her tenants.  Dennis filed three bankruptcy petitions in the District of Nevada and two in the Southern District of Texas between August 2009 and November 2010. The filing of the bankruptcy petitions caused the bankruptcy court to issue an automatic stay, which prevented the mortgage lenders from filing foreclosure proceedings on her properties during the pendency of the bankruptcy proceedings. Dennis also delayed the bankruptcy cases by failing to appear at hearings and meetings, failing to submit supporting financial documents and other paperwork to the Court, and failing to disclose prior bankruptcy cases. In one case, Dennis filed the bankruptcy petition under a false name and failed to disclose the other petitions and the names under which they had been filed. Over the course of the fraud scheme, from Aug. 31, 2009, through Dec. 17, 2010, Dennis received at least $150,000, but not more than $250,000 in rental income.

As this case demonstrates, the fallout from the housing crisis in Nevada is still impacting federal investigations and prosecutions,” said U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden for the District of Nevada in announcing the sentence.  “The prosecution of these cases typically takes years and requires a significant amount of resources. This sophisticated fraud scheme involved mortgage fraud, bankruptcy fraud, 12 properties in two states, and five bankruptcy petitions.”

The sen case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn C. Newman and investigated by the FBI.

 

 

Edgar Avila aka Michael Mendez aka Michael Edgar Avila-Mendez, aka Michael AvMen was indicted on one charge of mail fraud and one charge of bank fraud in connection with two separate fraud schemes.

According to the affidavit in support of the arrest warrant, in January 2014, Avila submitted a loan application to purchase a residence at 2915 Legend Hill Drive, Katy, Texas.  On the application, he represented that he worked for AvMen Entertainment at 924 Town and County 800, Houston for a year and a half as a line producer with a salary of $13,600 per month.  He also stated he attended Devry College of Business from September 2009 through May 2013 to account for his history prior to working at AvMen. Paystubs along with a VOE faxed to the mortgage company confirmed this employment. The officer attesting to the affidavit stated that he was unable to find a legitimate business under the name AvMen and discovered that Avila created the entity as part of his fraud scheme.  An assumed name certificate for AvMen was filed in August 2010 using the same address as listed on Avila’s driver’s license.  The affiant also stated that he confirmed through several sources that Avila and Michael Avmen were the same person. Avila’s disclosed bank accounts did not reveal any income associated with AvMen – nor did they substantiate income nearing $13,000 per month.

To support his claims of attending Devry University, according to the affidavit, Avila submitted a college transcript containing the signature of John J. Getek, as college registrar.  Investigation showed that the Getek was not registrar for Devry, instead, in 2001 he was the Deputy Inspector General of Audit for the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General – and Getek’s digital signature was available online from his annual reports to Congress.

In March 2015, according to the affidavit, Avila defaulted on the loan.  In September 2015, the mortgage lender modified the loan and negotiated a payment plan, based on a statement from Avila that he was diagnosed with “cephalic neuralgias” and “Bell’s palsy.”  He claimed his illness caused him to lose his job and that his current job did not pay the same.  The affiant stated that while he could not rule out an illness, Avila was arrested by the Houston Police Department in 2015 “which is the more likely reason for his sudden lack of income.”

The loan was guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

The affidavit also details a vehicle related fraud scheme underlying the mail fraud charges where Avila allegedly provided a fake social security card, false Texas driver’s license and fake Devry University transcript to obtain a vehicle loan. According to the affiant, he then cleared title to the vehicle through a mechanic’s lien sale to himself and sold the vehicle to a Lexus dealership.