Marleen Shillingford, 44, Nesconset, New York, waived her right to indictment and pleaded guilty before United States Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford, Connecitut to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering stemming from her participation in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme that involved more than 40 properties located in Bridgeport, Conn.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Shillingford was involved in the operation of Waikele Properties Corp., a real estate company with offices at 3770 Main Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut, and 320 Endo Boulevard, Garden City, N.Y. From approximately 2001 to August 2011, Shillingford and others conspired to obtain fraudulent mortgages for the purchase of more than 40 multi-family properties in Bridgeport.
As part of the scheme, Shillingford and her co-conspirators purchased existing multi-family houses, and vacant parcels of land and erected new houses on them to sell. The co-conspirators recruited individuals to purchase the properties, acted as the buyers’ real estate agent and assisted the buyers in applying for residential mortgage loans to purchase the houses. Shillingford and her co-conspirators then prepared loan applications for the buyers that included fraudulent information concerning, among other things, the buyers’ employment, income, assets and liabilities, previous property ownership and intention to make the properties their primary residences. The co-conspirators also provided false and fraudulent supporting documentation, including false letters from fictitious employers, false earnings statements, and fraudulent bank records.
After the loans were approved, the illicit proceeds of the scheme were wired into the Waikele Properties bank account, transferred to Shillingford and others, and used to continue the mortgage fraud scheme.
Contrary to the representations made on the loan applications, several straw purchasers never occupied the houses as their primary residences and subsequently defaulted on the loans. As a result of the scheme, mortgage lenders have suffered more than $7 million in losses.
Shillingford is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on December 30, 2011, at which time Shillingford faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 40 years. The government also is seeking the forfeiture of 20 properties located in Bridgeport, and $26,372.32 that was seized from a bank account held by Waikele Properties.
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced the guilty plea.
“Through this decade-long scheme, dozens of Bridgeport properties ended up in foreclosure, blighting neighborhoods and costing lenders millions,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein. “I want to commend IRS-CI, the FBI, HUD-OIG and SIGTARP for their excellent work in this ongoing investigation and for exposing this scheme.”
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Internal Revenue Service ““ Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Douglas P. Morabito and David T. Huang.
In July 2009, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the formation of the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud cases and related financial crimes occurring in Connecticut. Citizens are encouraged to report any suspected mortgage fraud activity by calling 203-333-3512 and requesting the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Internal Revenue Service ““ Criminal Investigation; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), and State of Connecticut Department of Banking.
This case was brought in coordination with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was established to wage an aggressive and coordinated effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
To report financial fraud crimes, and to learn more about the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov.