James Merrill Roberts was sentenced to 37 months in prison to be followed by 60 months of supervised release in conjunction with Mail Fraud and Money Laundering charges related to a mortgage fraud scheme. In addition, Roberts was ordered to pay $609,991 in restitution.
As previously reported by Mortgage Fraud Blog, Roberts and his codefendants Christopher Ethington and Janet H. Ethington, both of Riverton, Utah, were charged with mortgage fraud in a 12-count indictment.
According to the indictment, Roberts formed Amerifinance Group, LLC, a company which promoted residential real estate transactions in Utah. Christopher Ethington worked for Amerifinance and recruited individuals to become involved in real estate purchases and loans arranged through the company. Janet Ethington, an unlicensed loan officer, was employed at a home loan brokerage company.
The indictment alleges that although Amerifinance was originally formed to purchase foreclosed homes, repair them, and sell them at a profit, it soon became a framework for identifying residential properties, recruiting straw buyers and, through misrepresentations on loan applications and other documents in loan packages, falsely and deceptively inflating the apparent value of the properties in order to induce lenders to grant loans for amounts in excess of their fair market value.
This case was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation and members of the Utah Mortgage Fraud Task Force.