Archives For Virginia

Sammy Araya, 41, Santa Ana, California, Michael Henderson, 49,Costa Mesa, California, and Jen Seko, 36, Anaheim, California, were convicted by a federal jury in connection with their operation of a nationwide, multi-year “home mortgage modification” fraud that scammed hundreds of victims out of at least $10 million.

This is the same scheme that Kristen Ayala, whose sentence I wrote about in Comment on Sentencing of Kristen Ayala was involved with.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Araya, Henderson, and Seko operated a large-scale “home mortgage modification” scam that victimized vulnerable individuals and families across the country for several years. The conspirators sent targeted mass mailers to homeowners facing foreclosure through Seko’s company, Seko Direct Marketing. The mailers referenced real federal programs designed to help struggling homeowners, such as the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), and were titled “Notice of HUD Relief,” “Notice of Mortgage Relief,” and “New HAMP Benefits,” among other misleading titles. The mailers listed various toll-free telephone numbers for the homeowners to call for assistance. When a victim homeowner who had been solicited via a mass mailing called the toll-free number listed on the mailer, a member of the conspiracy posing as a “customer service representative” would answer the phone and collect financial information from the victim, as well as inquire about the victim’s mortgage and how far behind the victim was on his or her mortgage payments. The victims were told the information would be reviewed to determine if they qualified for a mortgage modification. Instead, the information was used by the conspirators to determine how much money could be stolen from the victim. Henderson served as one of the purported “customer service representatives” and helped to distribute the money collected by the scam, while Araya was the mastermind and principal beneficiary of the entire fraudulent operation.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, after being contacted by another member of the conspiracy and told that their mortgage modification had been approved, the victim homeowner would be told that their lender required a “reinstatement fee,” usually in the amount of thousands of dollars. Victims were also told that they were required to make several “trial” mortgage modification payments. After these so-called “trial payments” were completed, their modification would be complete and their new lower mortgage payment would become permanent for the life of the loan.

Throughout this process, the members of the conspiracy represented themselves to homeowners in mass mailings, phone calls, emails, and other communications using a laundry list of aliases and fictitious entity names. Some of those fictitious entities included “Equity Restoration Group,” “Neighborhood Counseling Services of America,” and “Home Retention Center,” among many others. The conspirators changed their aliases and entity names regularly, in an effort to evade detection by law enforcement. The conspirators also falsely represented themselves as a “non-profit” organization or as affiliated with the federal government or the victims’ lenders, and they directed the victims to make their checks and money orders payable to other fake entities, such as “Payment Processing Services,” “Default Servicing,” and “Trust Funding.” They then opened bank accounts using those false entity names, and used those bank accounts to briefly deposit victim payments before withdrawing the funds and distributing the proceeds among the members of the conspiracy.

The victims of this scheme dutifully sent their payments to the fraudulent entities as instructed by the conspirators, only to discover that they had not been granted a mortgage modification by their lenders. When victims confronted the members of the conspiracy about this fact, the conspirators would make lulling statements designed to reassure the victims, such as telling them that the mortgage modification process takes time, and that they were dealing with individuals at a higher level at the bank than the lender representatives with whom the victims had spoken. In reality, however, the members of the conspiracy were simply diverting the victims’ payments for their own personal benefit, without doing anything to assist in modifying the victims’ mortgages. Araya, the ringleader of the scheme, used the proceeds of the fraud to purchase expensive vehicles, a racehorse, and a variety of luxury goods, as well as to fund his personal travel and a reality television show he produced called “Make It Rain.TV.”

This scheme had devastating consequences for the victim homeowners, all of whom were already in a precarious financial position. Many victims suffered substantially greater financial hardship after falling victim to this conspiracy than they were already facing when they entered into the bogus agreements with the conspirators. In many cases, the lenders ultimately foreclosed on the victims’ homes, after the victims had been induced to make their “trial” mortgage payments to the members of the conspiracy rather than to their lenders.

These defendants scammed hundreds of individuals and families who were trying desperately to save their homes,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Their crimes were rooted in dishonesty and greed, and they shamelessly enriched themselves at their victims’ expense. I am very pleased with the convictions and want to commend the efforts of the Assistant United States Attorneys and our investigative partners for their terrific work on this important and complex case.”

Twelve defendants have been convicted in the Eastern District of Virginia in this case and a related case. They include the following individuals:

Name, Age

Hometown

Result

Sentencing

Sammy Araya, 41

Santa Ana, California

Convicted on Counts 1-11 of superseding indictment at trial todayFaces maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count of conviction
Michael Henderson, 49

Costa Mesa, California

Convicted on Counts 1-6 and 9-11 of superseding indictment at trial todayFaces maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count of conviction
Jen Seko, 36

Anaheim, California

Convicted on Counts 1-6 and 9-11 of superseding indictment at trial todayFaces maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count of conviction
Roscoe Umali, 38

Santa Ana, California

Pleaded guilty March 22, 2016220 months in prison on Aug. 18, 2016
Joshua Sanchez, 37

Las Vegas, Nevada

Pleaded guilty July 8, 2015 in case 1:15cr147151 months in prison on Oct. 29, 2015
Kristen Ayala, 32

Las Vegas, Nevada

Pleaded guilty August 4, 2015 in case 1:15cr147135 months in prison on Oct. 29, 2015
Isaac Perez, 33

Los Angeles

Pleaded guilty March 30, 2016130 months in prison on Sept. 1, 2016
Joshua Johnson, 36

Huntington Beach, California

Pleaded guilty March 30, 2016121 months in prison on July 7, 2016
Jefferson Maniscan, 34

Los Angeles

Pleaded guilty March 29, 2016120 months in prison on Aug. 18, 2016
Raymund Dacanay, 47

Newport Beach, California

Pleaded guilty March 29, 201660 months in prison on July 21, 2016
Nicholas Estilow, 34

Mission Viejo, California

Pleaded guilty January 18, 2017Faces maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on June 1.
Sabrina Rafo, 24

Garden Grove, California

Pleaded guilty January 19, 2017Faces maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on June 1.

 

Araya faces a maximum penalty of 220 years in prison, and Henderson and Seko each faces a maximum penalty of 180 years in prison when sentenced on July 19.

Today justice was served to three scam artists who preyed upon hundreds of desperate homeowners taking money in exchange for empty promises of admission into the HAMP program,” said Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). “This was a scheme of deception and thievery: the defendants pocketed the homeowner dollars but did nothing to help their victims. I thank U.S. Attorney Boente and his team for their hard work and commitment protecting homeowners getting help through HAMP.”

“These defendants preyed upon innocent homeowners when they were at their most vulnerable, and simply trying to save their homes,” said Leslie DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge, Western Region, Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General. “These egregious schemes victimize homeowners and entire communities, and today a jury held them accountable for their actions. We are proud to work with our law enforcement partners on this case, and will continue to work with them to bring to justice all individuals who attempt to defraud unwitting victims.”

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); William Hedrick, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Los Angeles Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Leslie DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA-OIG); and James Todak, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Los Angeles Field Office, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris accepted the verdict. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Samantha P. Bateman and Ryan S. Faulconer are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zach Terwilliger and James Gillis formerly prosecuted the case.

Sultana Siddiqui, a/k/a Sultana Ahmad, 56, North Potomac, Maryland, was sentenced to two years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud arising from an investment fraud scheme.

Siddiqui was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang who also entered an order requiring Siddiqui to forfeit $405,000, and pay restitution of $402,800, the loss resulting from the scheme minus $2,200 in “lulling payments” paid to two of the victims in order to prevent them from going to authorities.  Judge Chuang ordered that Siddiqui be immediately taken into custody after finding that she violated the conditions of her pretrial release by visiting the victims over the weekend before sentencing.

According to her guilty plea, Siddiqui was a mortgage broker who falsely represented to individual victims that co-conspirator Alexander Matthews , 50, Dunn Loring, Virginia, was an investor or developer who could secure substantial returns on the victims’ investments in a short time period. Siddiqui solicited investments from each of the victims, vouched for Matthews’s trustworthiness and business acumen, and received money from the victims. She deposited most of the money from the victims into her personal bank account. Then she and/or Matthews provided each victim with a post-dated check in the amount of the victim’s investment plus the promised return. None of the post-dated checks were negotiable on the promised return date. After the victims discovered that the post-dated checks were not negotiable, Siddiqui and/or Matthews sent lulling payments and/or email communications to the victims.

For example, in 2008, a real estate agent and her husband agreed to invest $300,000, drawn on their home equity line of credit, to renovate a home in Clifton, Virginia, which Siddiqui and Matthews claimed was to be leased by the FBI.  Siddiqui, however, deposited the money in her personal bank account, and no lease agreement existed with the FBI.  Siddiqui and Matthews used the money for their own benefit, providing only a small number of lulling payments to the victims.

In November 2010, at Siddiqui’s urging, another victim agreed to invest $50,000 with Matthews and give Siddiqui a $5,000 personal loan. In return, Siddiqui gave the victim a promissory note for the investment signed by Matthews, and two post-dated checks: one for $6,000 from a bank account held by Siddiqui; and one for $60,000 from an account held by Matthews. When the victim attempted to cash the checks, a bank official told her they were not negotiable.  Siddiqui sent several lulling emails to the victim, claiming that she would be repaid, but the victim has not received any payment.

Siddiqui and Matthews defrauded the victims of approximately $355,000.

Siddiqui admitted to defrauding another individual of $50,000 in a transaction in 2014.

Matthews pled guilty in 2011 in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia to his participation in the conspiracy and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Rene Febles of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General, and Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation and thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Ray D. McKenzie, who prosecuted the case.

 

 

 

Michelle M. Borzillo, 59, Bristow, Virginia, a former attorney with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was sentenced  to 12 months and one day in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for defrauding Wells Fargo Bank in connection with the sham short sale of her home to her live-in boyfriend.  She was also ordered to pay $288,497 in restitution and to forfeit the proceeds of her offense.

Borzillo pleaded guilty on November 17, 2015 to committing bank fraud.  According to court documents, the defendant was a senior attorney at the FDIC until September 2014.  In 2007, she purchased a home in Nokesville, Virginia, for $850,000, with mortgages totaling $807,500 from Wells Fargo Bank.  In 2013, she engineered the short sale of her Nokesville home to her boyfriend, who had been living with her at the property for several years.  Continue Reading…

Mohsin Raza, 51, Chantilly, Virginia, along with his wife, Humaira Iqbal, 39, Chantilly, Virginia, and her two brothers, Farukh Iqbal, 41, Chantilly, Virginia, and Mohammad Ali Haider, 33, Chantilly, Virginia, were convicted by a federal jury on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and various counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution.

The defendants were indicted on April 23, 2015.  According to court records and evidence at trial, in 2005, Raza, then employed at Bank of America, was hired by SunTrust Mortgage (STM) as a vice president tasked with opening an office in Annandale, Virginia.  Raza hired his wife, another former loan officer from Bank of America, and her brothers, Farukh Iqbal and Haider, to work as loan officers.   From 2006 until 2007, they falsified loan applications for borrowers and purchased fake tax documents to support the false loan applications.  Sun Trust Mortgage underwriters in Richmond approved the loans based in large part upon the fake documents in the files, and borrowers were given loans to buy homes that they could not afford. Continue Reading…

Rosita Vilchez, 41, who was a fugitive in Lima, Peru, until she was extradited to the United States in June 2015, was sentenced  to 66 months in prison for leading a wide-ranging mortgage fraud conspiracy that targeted hundreds of victims in the northern Virginia Hispanic community. Vilchez was also ordered to serve a five-year term of supervised release after her prison term.  A forfeiture money judgment of more than $5 million was previously entered against Vilchez.

The mortgage fraud scheme, which operated between August 2005 and August 2007, generated nearly $7.4 million in fraudulent proceeds and caused losses of more than $15 million to lenders, most of which were federally insured. Continue Reading…

Kristen Michelle Ayala, aka Amber Lynch, aka Olivia Benet, aka Grace Williams, 30, formerly of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Joshua Manuel Sanchez, aka Nelson Cruz, aka Chris Ward, aka Daniel Mora, 34, formerly of Las Vegas, Nevada, were sentenced for conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their role in a $3.8 million dollar mortgage modification scam.

Ayala was sentenced to 135 months in prison, while Sanchez was sentenced to 151 months in prison. Both defendants were also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay full restitution to the victims of their crime. Continue Reading…

Rosita Vilchez, 39, a fugitive in Lima, Peru, until she was extradited to the United States in June 2015, pled guilty to leading a wide-ranging mortgage fraud conspiracy that targeted hundreds of victims in the northern Virginia Hispanic community. The mortgage fraud scheme, which operated between August 2005 and August 2007, generated nearly $7.4 million in fraudulent proceeds and caused losses of more than $15 million to lenders, most of which were federally insured. Continue Reading…

Charise Stone, 46, Ashburn, Virginia, was sentenced to 60 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for her role in a real estate short sale scheme that included tax and mortgage fraud, and passing fraudulent financial documents. Stone was also ordered to forfeit $721,552, and ordered to pay restitution of $2,441,174 to the victim financial institutions and the IRS.

Stone was found guilty by a federal jury on May 27, 2015 in the short sale scheme. According to court documents, from 2007 to 2010 Stone targeted distressed homeowners who owed more on their mortgage loan than the market value of the home with false promises of financial recovery. Stone acquired distressed homeowners’ properties in her own name or under entities she controlled, made false representations to mortgage lenders in order to induce approval of the short sales, and then re-sold the properties—often the same day or the next—to new buyers at a price above the short sale amount, in violation of agreements made with mortgage lenders. Continue Reading…

Teresa Wieringo Humphries, 60, Madison Heights, Virginia, the former head teller of the Lynrocten Credit Union, Lynchburg, Virginia, was sentenced on federal embezzlement charges for her role in a scheme whereby she, and the manager of the credit union, used unauthorized and fraudulent origination of loans in the names of credit union members to embezzle and steal funds from the credit union’s deposits.

Continue Reading…

George Kalivretenos, 58, Miami Beach, Florida, who allegedly stole $4 million in borrowers’ funds and lied to federal law enforcement agents, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and false statements.

Continue Reading…