Donna Sherman, 33, Middleburg Heights, Ohio, and her title company Sherman Title Agency, have been indicted on 46 counts for fraudulently closed 1.4 million dollars in loans from People’s Choice Home Loans that enabled others engaged in fraud to purchase 21 houses in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. 17 of the 21 homes fell into either tax or mortgage foreclosure.
Sherman and her company were indicted by a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury on 46 counts including charges of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records, theft by deception, and telecommunications fraud for their conduct in engaging in a large criminal enterprise from 2002 to 2005. Sherman closed these fraudulent loans while first employed as an escrow officer at Titles, Etc. in 2002 and 2003, and then later as the owner of her own company that she started in 2004.
This enterprise was orchestrated by Fred Loewinger, 62, Strongsville, Ohio, who was a licensed loan officer and owner of Fast Mortgage, and the owner of MJL Processing, Ltd., Inc. In a recent case, Loewinger and others were charged and sentenced for their involvement in this enterprise. On February 15, 2011, Loewinger was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity along with 25 additional felonies. As part of the plea, Loewinger will testify against Sherman.
Mitchel Petti, 39, Sagamore Hills, was another major player of this enterprise along with Loewinger and Sherman. Petti was one of the owners and the president of Titles, Etc. now out of business; he hired Sherman at Titles, Etc. in 2002. For Petti‘s role in the second phase of this enterprise, he was recently found guilty of 13 felony mortgage fraud charges, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. He will be sentenced on March 14, 2011 at 10:00 am by Judge Timothy McCormick. Engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity is a felony of the first degree and carries with it the presumption that Petti will be confined in prison for no less than three years but no more than 10. He faces an additional 10 to 42 years in prison for the other offenses.
This fraudulent enterprise utilized three schemes to deceive lenders: loan application fraud, down-payment scheme, and kickbacks to defendants upon closing the sale of the house. Sherman participated in the latter of the two schemes. She also engaged in a scheme called “double HUD,” where the title company submitted bogus settlement statements, called a “HUD-1,” to the lender showing a higher purchase price and then created another set to the seller with the lower, but actual price.
County Prosecutor Bill Mason and the Cuyahoga County Mortgage Fraud Task Force operating under authorization of Ohio Attorney General and Ohio’s Organized Crime Investigations Commission announced the indictment.
This case was investigated by the Cleveland office of the FBI in connection with their participation in the Mortgage Fraud Task Force.
The Cuyahoga County Mortgage Fraud Task Force, operating under authorization of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Ohio’s Organized Crime Investigations Commission, conducted the investigation. The director of the Task Force is a Cuyahoga County Sheriff Sergeant. The FBI was the lead investigative agency on this case. The Task Force is comprised of federal, state, and local enforcement agencies.