Maria Baksh, 50, Hollywood, Florida, Juan Cardenas, 48, Miami, Florida, Gabriel Cifuentes, 63, Hialeah, Florida, Maureen Cifuentes, 35, Hialeah, Lucia Garcia, 58, Pembroke Pines, Florida, Roberto Hernandez, 66, Miami, Maribel Roman, 47, Hialeah, Reinaldo Roman, Jr., 39, Hialeah, and Roberto Rodriguez, 43, Miami, are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with a $12 million scheme.
In a separate but related case, Luis Felipe Perez, 38, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with the $12 million scheme and was sentenced to ten years for this and other related crimes.
In another related case, Berta Sanders, 61, Miami Lakes, Florida, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with this same $12 million scheme. Sanders’ sentencing is scheduled for February 22, 2011 at 9:00 am before U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck.
According to the charging documents, from around September 2005 through September 2008, the defendants conspired to submit false loan applications to Wells Fargo Bank (formerly known as Wachovia Bank) for the purpose of obtaining approximately $12 million in commercial lines of credit. This resulted in approximately $10 million in losses to the bank.
To execute the scheme, Sanders, a Certified Public Accountant, allegedly promoted herself as someone who could help borrowers obtain approval for the lines of credit by preparing their loan applications. Sanders allegedly prepared loan applications on behalf of the defendants. These loan applications contained false information about the defendants’ business income, assets, and accounts receivable. Sanders also prepared false tax returns, bank statements, and personal financial statements for the line of credit applications. The charging documents further allege that, as compensation for preparing the false loan applications that were submitted to Wachovia Bank, the defendants paid Sanders a fee of approximately 10% of the loan amount.
Perez, who pled guilty to the previously charged $40 million securities fraud Ponzi scheme, is alleged to have recruited many of the defendants and referred them to Sanders for assistance in applying for the commercial lines of credit. Perez induced many of these individuals to obtain the fraud-based loans in order to invest the proceeds into his Ponzi scheme. When Perez‘s Ponzi scheme ultimately collapsed in May 2009, most of the fraudulent loans obtained from Wachovia defaulted.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Miami Field Office, and Miguel Exposito, Chief, City of Miami Police Department, announced the charges.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Secret Service, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in Miami, and the City of Miami Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Roger Cruz and Richard Gregorie.
This law enforcement action is sponsored by the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive 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.
An Indictment or Information is only an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.