Archives For Bank Fraud

Alejandro Tobon, 35, Orlando, Florida has been sentenced to 37 months and Carlos Escarria, 61, Largo, Florida has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, for conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. They pleaded guilty on June 9, 2017.

According to court documents, from as early as October 2007 through May 2008, Tobon, Escarria, and others conspired to execute a bank and wire fraud scheme. The goal of the fraud scheme was to sell condominium units at The Preserve at Temple Terrace, a 392-unit condominium complex in Tampa, Florida. To entice buyers to purchase the units, the conspirators offered cash payments to buyers, either before or after closing. The mortgage lenders were not made aware of these payments. The conspirators used several entities to conceal from the mortgage lenders the cash payments to buyers.

The conspirators made false statements on loan documents, such as purchase and sale agreements and loan applications, and on HUD-1 settlement statements, to induce mortgage lenders to approve loans for otherwise unqualified borrowers for the condo unit purchases.

Tobon was the manager of Transcontinental Lending Group’s branch in Tampa, Florida and he was also the President of Tobon Marketing and Consultant. His role in the conspiracy included submitting false and fraudulent loan applications to financial institutions to induce them to provide funding for buyers to purchase Preserve units. He also marketed units to buyers with undisclosed incentives and transferred funds he had received from the developer through Tobon Marketing and Consultant to borrowers’ bank accounts who needed money to close on the purchases. The money was then used to provide the down payment and cash to close requirements.

Escarria worked as a loan officer at Transcontinental Lending Group’s branch in Tampa, Florida. He signed false and fraudulent loan applications to induce financial institutions into providing funding for buyers to purchase condo units. The false representations submitted to and relied upon by the mortgage lenders included occupancy, income, source of funds, and assets.

The mortgage lenders’ total losses resulting from Tobon’s and Escarria’s role in the mortgage fraud conspiracy are approximately $5.8 million.

Tobon and Escarria were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew.

This case was investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor and Assistant United States Attorney Jay Hoffer.

Kirk Lawrence Brannan, 64, Texas has entered a guilty plea to bank fraud for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme.  Brannan admitted to conspiring with others from 2005 to 2009 to execute a scheme to defraud Wells Fargo Bank and other lenders.

Brannan sold 10 beach homes in the Freeport/Surfside, Texas area to “straw buyers” at exorbitant prices. Other co-conspirators recruited straw buyers who created loan applications with misrepresentations that lenders relied upon in deciding to make the mortgage loans. The applications contained misrepresentations of the buyer’s address, employer, income and expenses. The applications also suggested the buyers were much better credit risks than they actually were. Brannan admitted he paid kickbacks to co-conspirators each time one of the beach homes was sold to a straw buyer.

The beach properties were sold at two to three times the appraised values. The mortgage lenders, including Wells Fargo Bank, were induced to lend the inflated amounts for the purchases through flawed or fraudulent appraisals which were based on comparisons Brannan manufactured to further the scheme.

Brannan created settlement statements that suggested he sold three of his properties to his children at exorbitant prices. Appraisers relied upon these “sales” as comparable sales in appraising Brannan’s remaining properties sold to straw buyers. As a result of the fraudulent appraisals, he and his co-conspirators were able to inflate the values for his properties and deceive the lenders into approving home loans at those exorbitant amounts.

All of the straw buyers defaulted on the mortgages, and all 10 of the beach properties ended up in foreclosure.

The fraudulent mortgage loan scheme resulted in a loss of $5,317,350 to Wells Fargo Bank and the other lenders. Brannan paid $2,401,368 to his co-conspirators as part of the scheme.

U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal accepted the plea and set sentencing for Aug. 29, 2018, at which time Brannan faces up to 30 years in federal prison and a possible $1 million maximum fine. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

Co-conspirators Chucoboie Lanier, 41, Houston, Texas, David Lee Morris, 55, Houston, Texas, and Derwin Jerome Blackshear, 50, Houston, Texas, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme. They are set for sentencing Sept. 26, 2018.

U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick made the announcement.

The Texas Department of Public Safety and the FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Johnson and Michael Day are prosecuting the case.

Herzel Meiri, 64, and Amir Meiri, 35, pled guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, in connection with their scheme to fraudulently induce distressed homeowners to sell their homes for little or no consideration to a company they owned and controlled.

According to allegations in the contained documents filed in federal court, including the Indictment and Complaint:

From 2013 to 2015, Herzel Meiri and Amir Meiri defrauded distressed homeowners throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, New York.  The Meiris and others falsely represented to these homeowners – some of whom were elderly or in poor health – that they could assist them with a loan modification or similar relief from foreclosure that could result in the homeowners saving their homes.  But rather than actually assisting these homeowners, the defendants deceived them into selling their homes for less than the homes’ actual values to Launch Development LLC (“Launch Development”), a for-profit company owned and controlled by the Meiris.

Specifically, the Meiris’ direction fraudulently induced the homeowners to engage in a type of short sale in which the homeowner would sell the property to Launch Development.  The Meiris and their conspirators falsely assured the homeowners that their homes would be returned to them after a short period, and that they could remain in their homes throughout the entire process.  At the closing that followed, homeowners were encouraged to sign fraudulent documents, that unbeknownst to the homeowners transferred the homes Launch Development.  Homeowners often were then forced to vacate their homes, and in many cases had no other place to live. Launch Development resold many of the homes, which were purchased at fraudulently deflated prices, for an enormous profit.

Herzel Meiri, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1,000,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.  He also consented to forfeit $6,469,291.41, as well as 31 real properties, four bank accounts, and one escrow account, as proceeds traceable to the offense.

Amir Meiri, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and maximum fine of $1,000,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.  He also consented to forfeit the same 31 real properties, four bank accounts, and one escrow account, as proceeds traceable to the offense.

The defendants will be sentenced by before U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos on July 27, 2018.

Robert S. Khuzami, the Attorney for the United States praised the outstanding work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and the New York State Department of Financial Services for their investigative efforts and ongoing support and assistance with the case.

The prosecution of this case is being overseen by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Thomas and Sheb Swett are in charge of the case.

Joseph Atias, 54, Great Neck, New York was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment and his wife Sofia Atias, 48, Great Neck, New York was sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment, following their March 30, 2017 trial convictions for bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with the sale of their real property to Sacred Heart Academy, Hempstead, New York for athletic fields. They were also convicted of Medicaid fraud.

The Bank Fraud Scheme

At trial, the government’s evidence established that shortly before the sale of their property adjacent to Sacred Heart Academy for $925,000, the defendants sold the property in a short sale to Bank of America for $480,000 to discharge their mortgage debt.  In negotiating the short sale with the bank, the defendants and their co-conspirator attorney concealed Sacred Heart Academy’s pending offer and submitted a fraudulent contract of sale and other false documents representing that they did not have funds to pay off the mortgages in full.  As part of the fraudulent short sale, the defendants used a relative as a “straw buyer” of the property to create the appearance of an arms-length sale.  Shortly after that sale, the defendant’s straw buyer sold the property to Sacred Heart Academy for approximately half a million dollars in profit.

The Medicaid Fraud Scheme

The government’s evidence at trial established that between 2009 and 2015 the defendants fraudulently obtained Medicaid funds, by concealing their self-employment income and available cash resources, including trust fund monies and the $465,000 in proceeds from the bank fraud scheme.

As part of their sentences, United States District Judge Denis R. Hurley ordered the defendants to pay $465,965 in forfeiture and $49,956 in restitution.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the sentence.

Joseph and Sofia Atias committed fraud schemes to try to get out from under mortgage debt and to fraudulently obtain Medicaid funds, essentially flaunting the laws to which we all must adhere,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “This Office and our law enforcement partners will make every effort to ensure that those who would manipulate the system are called to account.

In a clear case of double dipping, the defendants convinced the lending institution of their eligibility to qualify for a short sale on their property, recruited a relative to serve as a straw buyer for the property, and profited from the funds of a subsequent sale of the property,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.  “At the same time they were running this scheme, they were also found to have engaged in significant fraud against the government. May today’s sentencing remind those who exploit government programs and manipulate gaps in the mortgage and banking sectors that they will face the error of their ways.”

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Charles P. Kelly and Burton T. Ryan, Jr., are in charge of the prosecution.  Assistant United States Attorney Madeline O’Connor of the Office’s Civil Division is handling matters related to forfeiture.

Xavier Milton Earquhart, 30, Greensboro, North Carolina, was convicted following a three-day jury trial of an extensive bank lien theft scheme, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.

The evidence at trial showed that, in one bank fraud scheme, the defendant forged a deed on a property owned by an out of state landowner, and then channeled the property ownership through fictitious individuals and a holding company before personally taking title to the property.  The defendant then attempted to secure $495,000 in home equity loans using the property as collateral, becoming successful on three such attempts.

In a second scheme, the evidence showed that the defendant forged bank lien releases on 8 properties, in some instances, by stealing the identities of bank employees, and in other instances, using fictitious notaries.  The defendant created Delaware holding companies to conceal his activities. The defendant then sold the properties off to unknowing third parties.  At trial, the evidence showed that because of the defendant’s actions, some homeowners lost the funds that they had invested into the properties.  Other victims were left uncertain as to the ability of their families to remain in the homes due to the cloud upon their title.

Lastly, the evidence at trial included evidence from law enforcement concerning the tracing of the defendant’s fraudulent gains.  Law enforcement used a note and key found in the defendant’s Prius to uncover a hidden trove of $300,000 worth of gold, concealed in a storage unit in Spring, Texas.  Law enforcement also seized various items of valuable recording studio equipment.

The jury found Earquhart guilty of ten counts of Bank Fraud, two counts of Engaging in Monetary Transactions Involving Criminally Derived Property and one count of Aggravated Identity Theft and Aiding and Abetting.  Following the jury trial, the jury further found that the defendant was obligated to forfeit more than $1.3 Million in fraudulent proceeds, more than $100,000 in recording studio equipment, and $300,000 in gold bullion and coins.

Earquhart is tentatively scheduled to be sentenced by Senior United States District Judge W. Earl Britt in July 2018 and faces up to 30 years imprisonment.

The investigation of this case was conducted by the IRS Criminal Investigation, with the assistance of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of the Inspector General, the Wake County Register of Deeds, Wake County Sheriff’s Office, United States Secret Service and the Bankruptcy Administrator for the Eastern District of North Carolina.  Assistant United States Attorney William M. Gilmore represented the government in this case.

Barclays Capital, Inc. and several of its affiliates (together, Barclays) have reached an agreement with the United States to settle a civil action filed in December 2016 in which the United States sought civil penalties for alleged conduct related to Barclays’ underwriting and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) between 2005 and 2007.

Following a three-year investigation, the complaint in the action, United States v. Barclays Capital, Inc., alleged that Barclays caused billions of dollars in losses to investors by engaging in a fraudulent scheme to sell 36 Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (“RMBS”) deals, and that it misled investors about the quality of the mortgage loans backing those deals.  It alleged violations of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), based on mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and other misconduct.

The scheme alleged in the complaint involved 36 RMBS deals in which over $31 billion worth of subprime and Alt-A mortgage loans were securitized, more than half of which loans defaulted.  The complaint alleged that in publicly filed offering documents and in direct communications with investors and rating agencies, Barclays systematically and intentionally misrepresented key characteristics of the loans it included in these RMBS deals.  In general, the borrowers whose loans backed these deals were significantly less creditworthy than Barclays represented, and these loans defaulted at exceptionally high rates early in the life of the deals.  In addition, as alleged in the complaint, the mortgaged properties were systematically worth less than what Barclays represented to investors.  These are allegations only, which the Defendants dispute, and there has been no trial or adjudication or judicial finding of any issue of fact or law.

Barclays will pay the United States two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) in civil penalties in exchange for dismissal of the Amended Complaint.

Agreement has also been reached with the two former Barclays executives who were named as defendants in the suit:  Paul K. Menefee, Austin, Texas, who served as Barclays’ head banker on its subprime RMBS securitizations, and John T. Carroll, Port Washington, New York, who served as Barclays’ head trader for subprime loan acquisitions.  In exchange for dismissal of the claims against them, Menefee and Carroll agree to pay the United States the combined sum of two million dollars ($2,000,000) in civil penalties.

The settlement was announced by Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Laura S. Wertheimer, Inspector General, of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General (FHFA-OIG).

This settlement reflects the ongoing commitment of the Department of Justice, and this Office, to hold banks and other entities and individuals accountable for their fraudulent conduct,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “The substantial penalty Barclays and its executives have agreed to pay is an important step in recognizing the harm that was caused to the national economy and to investors in RMBS.”

The actions of Barclays and the two individual defendants resulted in enormous losses to the investors who purchased the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities backed by defective loans,” stated FHFA-OIG Inspector General Wertheimer.  “Today’s settlement holds accountable those who waste, steal or abuse funds in connection with FHFA or any of the entities it regulates.  We are proud to have partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York on this matter.”

The government’s case has been handled by this Office’s Civil Division.  Senior Counsel F. Franklin Amanat, and Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew R. Belz, Charles S. Kleinberg, Evan P. Lestelle, Matthew J. Modafferi, Josephine M. Vella and Alex S. Weinberg have been in charge of the litigation.  Mr. Donoghue thanks the FHFA-OIG for its assistance in conducting the investigation in this matter.

Saoud “Sam” Rihan, 57, Bronx, New York was charged today with carrying out a scheme to use bogus information and simultaneous loan applications at multiple banks to fraudulently obtain home equity lines of credit, a practice known as “shotgunning”.

According to the complaint:

Rihan was a business partner of Simon Curanaj, 63, Yonkers, New York. From 2012 through January 2014, Rihan, Curanaj, and others conspired to fraudulently obtain multiple home equity lines of credit (HELOC) from banks on residential properties in New Jersey and New York.

For example, Rihan and Curanaj executed a deed to transfer ownership of a Bronx, New York property to people identified in the complaint as “Individual 1” and “Individual 2,” neither of whom lived at the property. Rihan and Curanaj then applied for three HELOCs from multiple banks in the name of Individual 2.

Rihan and Curanaj hid the fact that the same Bronx, New York property was pledged as collateral in all three applications. The applications also fraudulently inflated Individual 2’s income. In addition, at the time the applications were made, the value of the Bronx, New York property, which was encumbered by a mortgage, was far less than the amount of the HELOC loans that Rihan and the real estate broker applied for.

The victim banks eventually issued loans to Individual 2 in excess of $370,000. After the victim banks funded the HELOCs and deposited money into Individual 2’s bank accounts, Individual 2 disbursed almost all of the funds to Rihan, Curanaj, and others. In 2014, Individual 2 defaulted on all the HELOC loans.

The conspiracy to commit bank fraud charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

Rihan was arrested January 28, 2018 and charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He is scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in Newark federal court.

The charge and allegations against Rihan are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Curanaj previously pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and awaits sentencing.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito made the announcement.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Steven Perez in Newark; and special agents of the FBI, under the direction Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason S. Gould of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory of the FHFA-OIG.

John Ballard, 55, Atwater, California, Judy (Calderon) Ballard, 54, Atwater, California, Sherry Herbert, 54, Fresno, California and Andrea Todd, 53, Fresno, California were charged on October 12, 2017 with conspiracy, wire fraud and bank fraud in connection with a fraudulent short-sale scheme.

According to the court documents, Ballard and Calderon were both licensed real estate salespersons and they owned a home in Atwater, California which was their primary residence. When the couple defaulted on a loan on the property, they asked permission to short-sell the property to Herbert and Todd, but had no intention of actually transferring the property to them. They used a series of false and fraudulent representations to obtain approval from banks to conduct this transaction and caused these financial institutions to approve the charge-off of funds and the financing for the short-sale.

Herbert and Todd were arraigned today before U.S. Magistrate Erica P. Grosjean. Ballard and Calderon’s arraignments are currently set for November 29, 2017, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stanley A. Boone.

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Merced County District Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael G. Tierney and Christopher D. Baker are prosecuting the case.

If any of the four defendants are convicted, they face a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

Victor Santos, a/k/a “Vitor Santos,” 57, Wachtung, New Jersey; Arsenio Santos, a/k/a “Gaspar Santos,” 50, Warren, New Jersey; Fausto Simoes, 64, Millington, New Jersey; and, Raquel Casalinho, 37, Union, New Jersey, were charged today with one count each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud for using “straw buyers” to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans from a bank.

According to the complaint:

From September 2007 through November 2008, Victor Santos, a real estate investor; Arsenio Santos, a builder and Victor’s cousin; Casalinho, a junior home mortgage consultant at the victim bank and Victor’s niece; and Simoes, a real estate settlement attorney, and others allegedly conspired to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans with a total value of more than $5 million.

Victor Santos, Arsenio Santos, and their conspirators allegedly recruited straw buyers to purchase properties in Newark, New Jersey and obtained their identifying information, including Social Security cards and drivers’ licenses. A “straw buyer” was an individual who purchased a property for another in order to conceal the identity of the actual purchaser, usually in exchange for a fee.

In exchange for the use of the straw buyers’ identity and credit history, Victor Santos, Arsenio Santos, and others allegedly agreed to pay each of the straw buyers a fee of approximately $5,000, provide the straw buyer’s down payment and cash required for closing, secure tenants to lease the purchased property and make the mortgage payments on each of the fraudulently obtained mortgages. These secret agreements were not disclosed to the bank.

In accordance with Victor Santos’ instructions, the straw buyers’ information was provided to Casalinho and was used to prepare fraudulent mortgage loan applications that contained a variety of false statements, including the identity of the actual buyer. For the two representative schemes highlighted in the complaint, Casalinho, Victor Santos, Arsenio Santos, and their conspirators prepared and submitted mortgage applications containing false information to the bank and obtained loans totaling more than $900,000. The conspirators allegedly arranged transactions for the Newark properties whereby the straw buyers would nominally purchase the properties for far more than the sellers had agreed to sell them, and the conspirators kept the difference between the contract price and the amounts the sellers received.

Simoes was the closing attorney on approximately 10 of the fraudulent transactions and signed and certified as true the final settlement statements. These statements falsely stated that the cash required for closing for each transaction came from the straw buyer. In fact, Victor Santos and his conspirators provided those funds to Simoes and the funds were deposited into Simoes’ attorney trust account. For certain transactions, a shell company – whose bank account was controlled by Victor Santos and a conspirator and to which funds from fraudulently obtained mortgage loans were disbursed – was the source of the cashier’s checks given to Simoes to fund the buyer’s cash required at closing. For other transactions, down payments came from an account owned and controlled by Arsenio Santos and Victor Santos, the proceeds of the mortgage loan itself after funding or closing, or from the proceeds of a previously obtained fraudulent loan.

The conspiracy to commit bank fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million or twice the gross gain to the defendants or twice the gross loss to others whichever is greater.

Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick made the announcement.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Steven Perez, and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher of the Newark office, with the investigation leading to today’s charges.

The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin DiGregory and Charlie Divine and Senior Litigation Counsel Andrew Leven of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Randy Gard Teall, 67, Post Falls, Idaho, pleaded guilty to bank fraud. Teall was indicted by a federal grand jury in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on June 17, 2014.

According to the plea agreement, Teall admitted he was a loan officer at Global Credit Union, a federally insured financial institution in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. With the intent to defraud, Teall executed a scheme to procure loans from Global Credit Union using false promises or statements on loans he approved to individuals with whom he had a business relationship. Teall failed to disclose his personal and business relationship and the borrowers’ true financial worth. Some of Global’s loan funds were used to pay rent to Teall.

The charge of bank fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, and up to five years of supervised release.

Sentencing is set for December 15, 2015, before Senior U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge at the federal courthouse in Coeur d’Alene.

The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson.The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.