Stephen Sharkey, 51, Swedesboro, New Jersey, was sentenced to four years and one month in prison, three years of supervised release, for stealing down payments for homes from two different families.

In September 2020, the defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and, one count of money laundering in connection with three brazen and predatory frauds which greatly harmed innocent victims and netted the defendant more than $385,000. Sharkey engaged in two mortgage-closing schemes to defraud potential home buyers – stealing money that the victims had intended to use to purchase residences for themselves and their families. In the third scheme, the defendant stole all of the proceeds of the sale of a house by secretly going to closing without telling the seller.

Sharkey and his associate, Antonio Ambrosio, convinced their victims to provide Sharkey with the down payment funds in advance of the dates set for the real estate closings, with the promise that Sharkey would provide full financing for the purchases. Rather than finance the deals, Sharkey and Ambrosio simply stole the down payment money supplied by the victims and made excuses when the deals did not close. As part of the scam, Sharkey and Ambrosio even defrauded Ambrosio’s own brother-in-law out of $208,000. After receiving this money, Sharkey immediately cut checks to ARMM Investments, LLC, a company owned by George Borgesi. Borgesi and Sharkey were both convicted in United States v. Merlino, et al., 99 CR 363, an early 2000s RICO case in which the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra was named as the enterprise. Borgesi was named as a capo of the Philadelphia LCN in that Indictment, and Sharkey was identified as a bookmaker for the mob.

After Sharkey and Ambrosio stole the down payment from Ambrosio’s brother-in-law, they proceeded to lure a second victim to use Sharkey to finance his mortgage, and the victim wired Sharkey $100,000, which Sharkey promptly converted to his own use. The deal for this property fell through, but Sharkey and Ambrosio induced the victim to send the seller an extra $25,000 to hold the deal open, claiming Sharkey would get the deal done. The victim sent the seller the $25,000, but Sharkey had already disposed of the earlier $100,000 and the deal never closed.

Finally, in the real estate fraud perpetrated on the seller victim, Sharkey promised the victim that Sharkey would sell the house belonging to the estate of the victim’s deceased parents and, after going to a closing the victim knew nothing about, Sharkey deposited all of the proceeds of the sale into his own bank account, stealing over $52,000 from the victim in the process.

Sharkey was ordered to pay $296,000 restitution and to forfeit the same amount of money.

Acting United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams made the announcement.

Sharkey’s greed impacted the lives and security of multiple families, and his shameful actions had severe consequences for these innocent people,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Williams. “Not only did he and his associate steal mortgage down payments, but he also sold a different family’s house right out from underneath them and pocketed all of the cash. For his actions, he will now spend years in prison.

Real estate fraud was just the latest racket for Stephen Sharkey,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “He blatantly preyed on innocent victims here, destroying two families’ plans of buying homes and stealing a third person’s inherited property. A chunk of these fraudulent proceeds was diverted to a longtime Philadelphia mob figure, underscoring Sharkey’s continued association with organized crime. The FBI and our partners are going to keep investigating and locking up those committed to making money through illicit means.”     

This investigation once again reveals how members and associates of the Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra Organized Crime Family are constantly looking to make illicit financial gains by infiltrating legitimate business or exploiting regulatory rules as well as federal and state laws,” said Brandon Corby, Eastern Organized Crime Task Force Commander, Pennsylvania State Police. “The Pennsylvania State Police with our FBI partners are committed to eradicating this type of criminal behavior and hold those engaged in such activities accountable.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Organized Crime Task Force and the Pennsylvania State Police, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael T

 

David Litman, 41, the village of Foosland, Illinois, has been ordered to report to federal prison to begin serving a two-year sentence for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud in connection with a real estate short-sale scheme.

On Dec. 17, 2019, Litman pleaded guilty to conspiring with others, between 2008 and 2010, to defraud lending institutions in a series of short-sale transactions. Specifically, Litman caused false broker price opinions undervaluing residential properties to be submitted to financial institutions holding the mortgages of the properties, which he intended to purchase via a short sale. Litman submitted additional false documents to the financial institutions to induce them to approve requested short sales, including falsified listing agreements and proof-of-funds letters. The financial institutions, relying on the false broker price opinions, false real estate commission expenses, false listing agreements, and other false documentation, approved short sales of properties to Litman for payments that were less than they otherwise would have been likely to receive.

In addition, Litman caused the recording of false expenses, including false real estate commissions, on HUD-1 settlement statements documenting the short sales into which he entered. Litman also attempted to conceal certain of these false real estate commission expenses through the late issuance of commission checks.

Following the March 10, 2021, sentencing, U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid further ordered Litman to pay $279,900 in restitution and to serve two years on supervised release upon completion of his prison term.

The defendant’s repeated acts of fraud over several years caused lending institutions to lose a significant amount of money,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Doug Quivey. “The defendant’s participation in the scheme thwarted the lenders’ ability to accurately value the homes involved and prevented them from recouping a greater portion of their losses on the homeowners’ mortgages. Fraud in any part of the mortgage industry ultimately costs both lenders and borrowers and can’t be tolerated.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Katherine V. Boyle and Eugene L. Miller represented the government in the prosecution. The charges were investigated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

 

Gerald Douglas, 52, East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York was arraigned today on an indictment in which he is charged with second-degree grand larceny for allegedly stealing the down payment toward the purchase of a Brownsville, New York home whose seller he represented.

According to the investigation, the defendant represented a 76-year-old woman in the sale of her Brownsville house, negotiating the contract for her in September 2018. A down payment of $71,700 was allegedly deposited into the defendant’s escrow account. The closing occurred in August 2019, by which time the defendant had allegedly stopped returning his client’s phone calls and she was forced to retain new counsel to close the transaction. The client received the sale proceeds at the closing, but not the down payment despite repeated requests to the defendant.

It is further alleged that in June and July 2018, the defendant asked the same client if she would loan him money, first $6,000 and then $8,000. He allegedly told her he was expecting a rental payment for a property he owned in Flatbush, Brooklyn, though in fact the property had gone into foreclosure five years earlier and he was no longer the owner.

Douglas was released without bail and ordered to return to court on May 12, 2021.

The defendant was disbarred by the Appellate Division Second Department in 2019.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

District Attorney Gonzalez said “The victim in this case was allegedly defrauded of a large sum of money by her own attorney, who had a legal duty to protect her interests. I would like to thank my Public Integrity Bureau for its hard work in seeking to hold the defendant accountable for his alleged criminal act and betrayal of trust.”

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Adam Libove of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Laura Neubauer, Bureau Chief, and Assistant District Attorney Michel Spanakos, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the Investigations Division.

An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.

 

Adolfo Schoneke, 43, Torrance, California and his sister, Bianca Gonzalez, a.k.a. Blanca Schoneke, 38, Walnut, California, a brother-and-sister team were arrested today on federal charges alleging they orchestrated a $6 million real estate fraud scam in which they listed homes without the owners’ consent and collected money from multiple would-be buyers for each of the not-for-sale homes.

According to the indictment, Schoneke and Gonzalez, with the help of co-conspirators, operated real estate and escrow companies based in Cerritos, La Palma and Long Beach, California under a variety of names, including MCR and West Coast. The indictment alleges Schoneke and Gonzalez found properties that they would list for sale – even though many, in fact, were not for sale, and they did not have authority to list them for sale – and they then marketed the properties as short sales providing opportunities for purchases at below-market prices.

Using other people’s broker’s licenses, Schoneke and Gonzalez allegedly listed the properties on real estate websites such as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). In some cases, the indictment alleges, the homes were marketed through open houses that co-conspirators were able to host after tricking homeowners into allowing their homes to be used.

As part of the alleged scheme, the co-conspirators accepted multiple offers for each of the not-for-sale properties, hiding this fact from the victims and instead leading each of the victims to believe that his or her offer was the only one accepted. The co-conspirators allegedly were able to string along the victims – sometimes for years – by telling them closings were being delayed because lenders needed to approve the purported short sales.

The indictment also alleges that Schoneke and Gonzalez directed office workers to open bank accounts in the office workers’ names. Those accounts were used to receive down payments on the homes and other payments from victims who were convinced to transfer the full “purchase price” to these bank accounts after receiving forged short sale approval letters. Schoneke and Gonzalez also allegedly directed the office workers to withdraw large amounts of cash from these accounts and give it to them – a procedure that allowed Schoneke and Gonzalez to take possession of the fraud proceeds while hiding their involvement in the scheme.

Investigators estimate that several hundred victims collectively lost more than $6 million during the scheme.

Each pleaded not guilty this afternoon to nine charges contained in an indictment unsealed after their arrests. The indictment charges Schoneke and Gonzalez with one count of conspiracy, seven counts of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

During the arraignments this afternoon, a trial was scheduled for June 1, 2021. Both defendants will remain in custody at least until detention hearings scheduled for Friday for Schoneke and April 13, 2021 for Gonzalez.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

If convicted of all charges, Schoneke and Gonzalez each would face a statutory maximum sentence of 162 years in federal prison.

This matter was investigated by the FBI and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General. The investigation was initiated by numerous complaints to the Long Beach Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, both of which provided substantial assistance during the federal investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kerry L. Quinn of the Major Frauds Section.

Juliana Martins, 52, North Providence, Rhode Island, has been indicted for allegedly making false statements related to her incarceration and the court-ordered requirement that she pay back the stolen money when she applied for a U.S. Federal Housing Administration-backed home mortgage.

Martins in June 2019, while serving a term of federal supervised release for having conspired to use the stolen personal identity information of numerous individuals to steal nearly $400,000 from the United States Treasury, falsely represented on a home loan application, and in July 2019 on a closing document, that there were no outstanding judgements against her, when in fact she is under court order to pay restitution to the government totaling $385,533.58.

According to the indictment, when responding to requirements to truthfully disclose to the bank her credit report, assets, liabilities, and income, Martins falsely stated to the bank that “the reason I have a job gap in my employment was because I was away on a family emergency for over two years,” when in fact during that time she was incarcerated in federal prison. Additionally, it is alleged, Martins provided a false explanation for an inquiry from the Department of Justice on her credit report.

In March 2014, Martins pleaded guilty to conspiracy to embezzle United States Treasury checks, theft of government property, and aggravated identity theft, admitting that she was a leader of a criminal enterprise that possessed hundreds of people’s personal identifying information that was used to open bank accounts into which fraudulently obtained government checks were deposited. Martins was sentenced in September 2014 to serve 48 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of federal supervised release.

On Friday, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Martins with making false statements on bank loan applications, announced Acting United States Attorney Richard B. Myrus and Christina D. Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General.

The indictment requires, upon conviction, that Martin forfeit to the government her interest in her North Providence house and property.

A federal indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Martins is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Patricia A Sullivan on Tuesday for a supervised release violation hearing.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Hebert.

Christopher Grooms, 41, Savannah, Georgia pled guilty to an Information charging him with a scheme to enrich himself by repeatedly borrowing money against the same pieces of property will go to prison for fraud.

As described in court documents and testimony, Grooms operated several real estate investment companies that acquired and resold real estate. From 2013 to 2018, Grooms devised a scheme in which one of his companies would purchase a property using borrowed funds, and he would then falsify documents to show that the lien against the property had been satisfied. He would then secure additional loans against the property, repeatedly filing fraudulent paperwork to show the property was unencumbered by liens.

Grooms used the scheme at least 24 times for nearly $3 million in fraudulent loans from multiple financial institutions. The properties used in the scheme were located in Georgia cities including Savannah, Hinesville, Glennville, Midway and Allenhurst.

Grooms was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison, ordered to pay $1,645,267.95 in restitution, and a forfeiture money judgment totaling $2,937,881.43, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. After completion of his prison term, Grooms must serve four years of supervised release.

There is no parole in the federal system.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) is committed to holding accountable those who waste, steal, or abuse the resources of the government-sponsored enterprises regulated by FHFA.  We are proud to have partnered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia in this case,” said Edwin S. Bonano, Special Agent-in-Charge, FHFA-OIG, Southeast Region.

This sentence should serve as a stark reminder that such greed as seen in this case comes with a bigger cost,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI recognizes the impact on the banking institution and will continue to dedicate investigative resources to target fraud in its many forms.”

Financial fraud temporarily enriches criminals at the long-term expense of legitimate businesses,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “As Christopher Grooms discovered, our law enforcement partners are adept at rooting out these schemes, and his ill-conceived investment in criminal activity is returning a dividend of time behind bars.

Committing high-level fraud will not be tolerated in Georgia,” said Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Director Vic Reynolds. “The GBI worked hard on this investigation with local and federal partners to bring this case to a successful prosecution.”

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General, the GBI, and the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tara M. Lyons and Asset Recovery Unit Chief Xavier A. Cunningham.

 

David Daughtrey, 60, El Cajon, California was sentenced in federal court today on charges of bank fraud and tax evasion.

In July 2020, Daughtrey pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and tax fraud, and one count of filing a false tax return. Daughtrey’s illegal conduct spanned for a decade, from 2006 until 2016. For several years, Daughtrey evaded income tax by under-reporting his income and orchestrated an illegal scheme to fraudulently obtain a mortgage for his $1.8 million residence using a third party.  The total tax loss to the United States in this case was $1,053,989.63.

According to court documents, from July 2006 until April 2016, Daughtrey conspired with others to commit the crimes to which he pleaded guilty. As part of the bank fraud scheme, Daughtrey directed another individual to submit a mortgage application to a national bank to purchase a $1.8 million five-bedroom residence, and to falsely claim that the funds used as down payment belonged to, and the residence would be used by, the third party.

In reality, Daughtrey provided the funds and the home was intended to be Daughtrey’s primary residence. Daughtrey made monthly mortgage payments of approximately $8,000 for his residence but continued to represent to the bank that the third party owned the house. Daughtrey later submitted a false hardship letter on behalf of the third party in an effort to modify the terms of the loan on the home.

Over several years, Daughtrey conspired to commit tax evasion by filing tax returns listing substantially less income than Daughtrey actually earned.  Daughtrey’s tax return for the year 2012, for example, omitted at least $498,612 in income.  Daughtrey failed to report his total income in tax years 2013, 2014, and 2015, and did not file timely tax returns for subsequent years.  Daughtrey agreed to pay $1,053,989.63 in restitution to the IRS, which includes the total tax loss plus penalties and interest.

Daughtrey was sentenced to 18 months in custody and ordered to pay restitution of $1,519,590.63.

The defendant abused our tax and banking systems for his own financial benefit, and the victims of that crime are ethical taxpayers and bank customers,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Today’s sentence will hopefully remind others that there is a high price to pay for such deception.” Grossman thanked prosecutor Oleksandra Johnson and agents from the IRS and FBI for their excellent work on this case.

While Mr. Daughtrey achieved business success, he failed in his obligations as an American by lying to our banks and cheating the government,” said Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Korner, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Today’s sentencing shows that we will hold accountable those who deceive and exploit our people and financial institutions because of their greed.

The FBI and our partners at the IRS uncovered David Daughtrey’s mortgage fraud and tax evasion scheme using our team’s financial and fraud expertise,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner.  “Today’s sentencing serves as a warning to those who attempt to personally gain by deliberately cheating the government and the integrity of the banking system through financial fraud.  Our team of fraud experts will bring justice in these white-collar cases.”

Ana Cummings61, Davie, Florida, the last of six South Florida family members was sentenced today to a term of imprisonment, and ordered to pay a total of $1,342,928.77 in restitution, following her conviction by way of guilty plea in August 2020, to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

During prior hearings, Cummings’s sons, Valentin Pazmino, 34, and Rene A. Pazmino36, were sentenced to 27 months and 18 months of imprisonment, respectively. Her daughters, Grace Pazmin, 43, and Diana Pazmino, 31, were sentenced to 27 months and 22 months of imprisonment, respectively. Her son-in-law Jared Marble43, Grace Pazmino’s husband, was sentenced to 16 months of imprisonment. All sentences were imposed by United States District Judge Jose E. Martinez following guilty pleas. Pursuant to their plea agreements, the defendants made a full payment of the restitution judgment prior to their sentencings.

According to court documents, various defendants participated in a series of ten fraudulent real estate short sale transactions in South Florida between May of 2012 and June of 2015. Cummings and Grace Pazmino participated in all ten of the fraudulent short sales. Diana Pazmino and Valentin Pazmino each participated in nine of the fraudulent short sales. Marble participated in three of the fraudulent short sales. Rene A. Pazmino participated in two of the fraudulent short sales.  In each short sale transaction in which they participated, the defendants made materially false statements to a financial institution in order to defraud it into approving the short sale. Specifically, the defendants executed short sale affidavits and affidavits of arm’s length transactions falsely attesting that the sales were between unrelated, unaffiliated parties. In reality, the sales were between and among the defendants, companies controlled by the defendants, and/or individuals recruited by a defendant to participate in the fraud scheme. Members of the conspiracy also executed HUD-1 Settlement statements misrepresenting that the named buyer made the required cash-to-close payment.  In reliance on these material representations, various financial institutions authorized property sales for amounts less than the outstanding principal balances due on mortgages they held on the properties, thereby incurring losses.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Tyler R. Hatcher, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Miami Field Office, and Special Agent in Charge Edwin S. Bonano of the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) Southeast Region made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended the investigative efforts of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Miami Field Division and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General Southeast Region.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 19-cr-20606-JEM.

 

Eric Hill, 50, Tyrone, Georgia, Robert Kelske, 52, Smyrna, Georgia,  Fawziyyah Connor, 41, Tyrone, Georgia, Stephanie Hogan, 57, Norcross, Georgia, Jerod Little, 42, McDonough, Georgia, Renee Little, 33, McDonough, Georgia, Maurice Lawson, 36, Powder Springs, Georgia, Todd Taylor, 54, Fairburn, Georgia, Paige McDaniel, 49, Stockbridge, Georgia, Donald Fontenot, 52, Locust Grove, Georgia, and Anthony Richard, 44, Locust Grove, Georgia, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States in a mortgage fraud scheme spanning more than four years and resulting in the approval of more than 100 mortgages based on fabricated documents and false information.

According to the charges and other information presented in court: The defendants participated in a conspiracy in which homebuyers and real estate agents submitted fraudulent loan applications to induce mortgage lenders to fund mortgages.

Listing agents Eric Hill and Robert Kelske represented a major nationwide homebuilder and helped more than 100 homebuyers who were looking to buy a home, but who were unqualified to obtain a mortgage, commit fraud.  The agents instructed the homebuyers as to what type of assets they needed to claim to have in the bank, and what type of employment and income they needed to submit in their mortgage applications.

Hill and Kelske then coordinated with multiple document fabricators, including defendants Fawziyyah Connor and Stephanie Hogan, who altered the homebuyers’ bank statements to inflate their assets and to create bank entries reflecting false direct deposits from an employer selected by the real estate agent.  The document fabricators also generated fake earnings statements that matched the direct deposit entries to make it appear that the homebuyer was employed, and earning income, from a fake employer.  Other participants in the scheme then acted as employment verifiers and responded to phone calls or emails from lenders to falsely verify the homebuyers’ employment.  Defendants Jerod Little, Renee Little, Maurice Lawson, Todd Taylor, Paige McDaniel and Donald Fontenot acted as employment verifiers.  Hill and Kelske coordinated the creation and submission of the false information so that the lies to the lenders were consistent.

In another aspect of the scheme, real estate agent Anthony Richard falsely claimed to represent homebuyers as their selling agent in order to receive commissions from the home sales.  In reality, Richard had never even met the homebuyers he claimed to represent.  To avoid detection, he often notified closing attorneys that he would be unable to attend the closing and sent wire instructions for the receipt of his commissions.  When Richard received his unearned commissions, he kicked back the majority of the commissions to Hill or Kelske for enabling him to be added to the deal, keeping a small share for his role in the scheme.

Many of the loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) resulting in claims being paid for mortgages that have defaulted.

These defendants brazenly manipulated the real estate lending process by using their knowledge of the system,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine.  “Mortgage fraudsters threaten the soundness of the real estate market in our community and divert critical resources away from those borrowers who properly qualify for loans.  Rooting out bad actors who attempt to abuse the system for their own personal gain makes the mortgage lending system safer and fairer for everyone.

These defendants who dragged down our economy by using deception, will now be sentenced and forced to reimburse the victims of their conspiracy,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is committed to combating such criminal activity to protect our citizens and the real estate market from predators who are most interested in pocketing money that they have no right to.”

These offenders engaged in blatant criminal acts with the sole purpose of enriching themselves at the cost of a federal housing program designed to assist millions of American homebuyers.  Their fraudulent undertaking strikes at the fiscal integrity of the FHA and we will work diligently in conjunction with our law enforcement partners to hold them accountable” said Wyatt Achord, Special Agent in Charge, HUD Office of Inspector General.

“The Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) is committed to holding accountable those who waste, steal, or abuse the resources of the Government-Sponsored Enterprises regulated by FHFA.  We are proud to have partnered with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia in this case,” said Edwin S. Bonano, Special Agent-in-Charge, FHFA-OIG, Southeast Region.

These defendants have agreed to pay restitution to the victims of their conspiracy, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which insures many of the residential mortgages in the United States. Sentencing hearings have been set for these defendants before U.S. District Judge Mark H. Cohen.

A twelfth defendant, Cephus Chapman, 49, Warner Robins, Georgia is awaiting trial.  Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contain charges.  The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, and Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Prout and Ryan Huschka are prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

 

Robert Morgan, Todd Morgan, Frank Giacobbe, and Michael Tremiti, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud for their roles in a wide-ranging mortgage fraud scheme.

According to the indictment, between 2007 and January 2019, the defendants conspired with Kevin Morgan, Patrick Ogiony, Scott Cresswell, and others fraudulently to obtain funds from financial institutions such as Arbor Commercial Mortgage, LLC, Berkadia Commercial Mortgage, LLC, UBS and Deutsche Bank, and government sponsored enterprises, including Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae).

During the course of the conspiracy, the defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises by providing false information to lenders in support of applications for mortgage loans to purchase properties, refinance properties or build properties. As part of the applications for mortgage loans, the defendants submitted inflated and false rent rolls which included non-existent tenants and inflated rents to fraudulently increase the income for a building in order to justify a loan amount that they would not otherwise qualify for.  Similarly, in order to further inflate the income, defendants told lenders they were receiving fake fees, such as stating that residents paid for cable when it was actually included in the rent.  Defendants also fraudulently reduced and improperly capitalized expenses in order to make the property appear to generate more income to, again, justify a larger mortgage loan than they would otherwise qualify for.

The defendants took steps to conceal the fraud from the lenders, including by making vacant units appear occupied during inspections by turning radios on in vacant units, by placing welcome mats and shoes in hallways outside vacant units, and by paying individuals to pretend to be tenants in units the inspectors would enter.

In the wire fraud conspiracy to defraud insurers, Todd Morgan and Robert Morgan are accused of conspiring with Kevin Morgan and Scott Cresswell to present false and inflated contracts and invoices to insurance companies for repairs after damages to properties in Robert Morgan’s real estate portfolio.

While the loans which were the subject of defendants’ alleged fraudulent conduct exceeded $400 million in value, the total loss sustained by financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises throughout the mortgage fraud scheme is currently estimated to exceed $9,500,000. The loss resulting from the insurance fraud scheme is currently estimated at approximately $3,000,000.

The defendants were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder and were released on conditions.

Defendants Kevin Morgan and Patrick Ogiony were previously convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and defendant Scott Cresswell was previously convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in the multi-million dollar fraud scheme. All three defendants are awaiting sentencing.

The defendants each face charges of wire and bank fraud. Robert and Todd Morgan are also charged with defrauding insurance companies. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine in the amount of double the loss caused by the crimes.

U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. made the announcement.

Upon executing search warrants in this case, my Office, together with our law enforcement partners, acted quickly to take action in an effort to try to limit the amount of damage occasioned by the defendants’ alleged widespread fraud,” noted United States Attorney Kennedy.  “While that effort succeeded in that objective, the unfortunate truth is that the swiftness with which we moved may have also contributed to the reasons for which the original indictment in this case was dismissed by the Court.  In the end, however, this new indictment now ensures that the defendants will be held to answer for the serious crimes alleged therein.”

The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Manchak, Northeast Region.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.