Archives For deed fraud

Vontia Jones, 39, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2,319,278 in restitution for engaging in real estate fraud by purporting to sell properties to buyers using fraudulent documents and obtaining the personal identifying information of people and using that information to file more than 900 fraudulent tax returns with the IRS, netting her over $2,319,000 in fraudulent refunds.

The defendant pleaded guilty in August 2019 to more than 30 fraud charges, including conspiracy to make false claims to the IRS; making, and aiding and abetting the making of false claims to the IRS; wire fraud; and aggravated identity theft. Jones operated a business that she identified by various names including “Jones Tax Service,” “Earned Income Credit Unit,” “EIC Unit,” and “Eelysium,” out of her home in the 1400 block of West Cayuga Street, Philadelphia for a period of roughly seven years.

Jones also organized and operated a scheme to file phony deeds for multiple residential properties in Philadelphia, purporting to transfer ownership of the houses in order to sell them for a profit. The defendant would research homes on real estate websites, typically targeting those where the owner had died or moved away, and would charge several thousand dollars to sell someone else one of these houses that she “deeded up.”

Together with her co-conspirators, Jones solicited the personal information of individuals and their dependents under the guise of getting them “tax money,” even if they never worked. Jones designed flyers advertising her services that stated: “Don’t you deserve some income tax money too? $750 [per child] welfare social security unemployment disability even if you never had a job.” Each of the returns submitted to the IRS was submitted by the defendant or her conspirators as self-prepared, as if it had been done by the individual taxpayer whose information had been stolen.

Together, they filed or directed others to file over 900 fraudulent tax returns claiming fictious self-employment income resulting in tax refund payouts by the IRS of more $2,319,000.

United States Attorney William M. McSwain made the announcement.

In addition to the tax return scheme, “Jones’ greed impacted the lives of many hundreds of victims, and her shameful actions had severe consequences for these innocent people,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Not only did she and her co-conspirators steal personal information in order steal tax return money from the government, but also she sold people’s houses right out from underneath them to other people who believed that they were buying property from her legitimately. For her actions, she will now spend the better part of a decade in prison.”

The degree to which Vontia Jones and her co-conspirators went in order to perpetrate this scheme is astounding,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Thomas Fattorusso. “Not only did Vontia Jones steal the identities of unwitting individuals, she also stole millions of dollars from the US government; and ultimately US taxpayers. Today, she stands a convicted felon who will spend years in federal prison.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony J. Wzorek.

Carol Michaelson, 56, Dawsonville, Georgia, a formerly licensed real estate agent, pleaded guilty today to defrauding her clients by faking property sales, forging contracts and deeds, and then pocketing her victims’ money.

According to the charges and other information presented in court,  Michaelson operated a scheme to defraud her clients while acting as a real estate agent.  She pretended to arrange real estate purchases for her clients and received funds from them to complete the purchases, but then diverted the funds to her own personal use.  In furtherance of the scheme, she prepared fraudulent real estate contracts listing false owners, forged signatures on the contracts and other agreements, and filed fraudulent warranty deeds with forged signatures with the county clerk’s office.  Michaelson also sent emails to her victims impersonating closing attorneys, loan officers, and other financial and real estate personnel, to trick the victims into believing that the real estate transactions were legitimate and progressing.

Michaelson defrauded her victims in a variety of ways.  In some cases, she falsely informed victims that certain properties were for sale by their owners, when in fact they were not; and the true owners were unaware of Michaelson’s false representations.  In another instance, after Michaelson deceived a victim into believing that she had purchased properties for the victim, Michaelson created false tenant identities to deceive the victim into further believing that she had arranged for the properties to be rented.  Michaelson then sent rent checks to the victim, pretending to be the false tenants.  The victim did not know that he was not the true owner of the properties.  In yet another instance, after facilitating a real sale to a victim, Michaelson transferred ownership back to the bank, without the victim’s knowledge, and filed a fraudulent warranty deed with forged signatures in the county clerk’s office.

Michaelson stole over $1 million from her victims through her real estate scheme.

Michaelson was previously charged with forgery, theft by conversion, and false statements in Dawson County for defrauding real estate clients.  As a result, she lost her real estate license in 2014.  Even after surrendering her license, Michaelson continued to act as an unlicensed real estate agent and engage in fraudulent real estate transactions.  Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

This defendant stole her clients’ hard-earned money by pretending to purchase properties for them, while pocketing their funds for her own personal use,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “She then tried to cover her tracks with fake sales agreements and forged deeds.  Michaelson is a repeat offender, having previously lost her real estate license for defrauding clients.”

This case demonstrates the commitment the Secret Service and our law enforcement partners have in aggressively pursuing those who defraud innocent victims,” said Steven R. Baisel, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Atlanta Field Office.  “This guilty plea should serve as a reminder to other like-minded individuals that we will protect our economic system and arrest criminals who violate public trust for personal gain.”

We are grateful to all the involved criminal justice agencies who worked so diligently to help close these cases. It is our continued desire that justice will be served in hopes of deterring these types of crimes,” said Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson.

The U.S. Secret Service, the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office are investigating this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen H. McClain, Chief of the Complex Frauds Section, is 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.

 

Jordan Horsford, 29, East New York, Brooklyn was sentenced today to five months in jail and five years’ probation for stealing and attempting to sell the home of his 85-year-old neighbor, a diabetic man for whom the defendant was a part-time caretaker.

According to the investigation, in August 2016 the defendant, who was known to do odd jobs in the neighborhood, began helping the victim as needed, including carrying his wheelchair up steps and helping him get in and out of vehicles; he was paid for each task by the victim’s family.

In April 2017, the victim’s family began paying the defendant $400 a week to accept Meals on Wheels deliveries and set them out for the victim, to make sure he took his medicine and to check in on him at night.

Between June 19, 2017 and November 1, 2017, the defendant convinced the victim to sign away the deed to his home on Barbey Street, East New York, Brooklyn. The defendant told the victim he risked losing his home if he did not sign a document, and had the document notarized by a notary. The defendant then realized he needed another document notarized, but the notary refused so the defendant cut and pasted her original signature. He then recorded the deed, which had been signed over to him.

Finally, the defendant attempted to sell the house almost immediately after securing the deed, but a title company suspected foul play and refused to insure the home. The would-be purchaser then reached out to the 85-year-old victim’s family. At around the same time, the victim’s daughter, while going through her father’s mail, found a letter from the Department of Finance notifying them about documents filed relating to the property. The daughter pursued the matter with the DOF and the case was ultimately referred to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for further investigation and prosecution.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez made the announcement.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “With today’s sentencing this defendant is being held accountable for preying on his elderly neighbor and abusing his trust. I urge seniors and their family members to protect their homes, especially as property values continue to rise in Brooklyn, by taking care not to sign any documents pertaining to their properties without the advice of a reputable attorney. I remain committed to prosecuting deed thefts like this and assisting all homeowners whenever possible.”

The defendant pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny in June and consented to an order nullifying the fraudulent recorded deed. http://www.mortgagefraudblog.com/?s=Jordan+Horsford

The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Karen Turner of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gavin Miles, Counsel to the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

 

Jason Schiff, 40, Lincolnwood, Illinois is charged with three counts of bank fraud, according to a superseding indictment returned July 24, 2019.  The superseding indictment also charges Jason Schiff’s brother, Yale Schiff, 44, Riverwoods, Illinois with 12 counts of bank fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

According to the charges against the Schiffs, Yale Schiff made false statements in loan applications to obtain millions of dollars in mortgage loans secured by a variety of properties.  The charges allege that Yale Schiff filed with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds fraudulent letters from financial institutions claiming that loans on the properties were paid in full and that the mortgages were released, when, in fact, the loans were not paid in full and the mortgages had not been released.  Yale Schiff then kept the financing paid by the banks, as well as proceeds from the eventual sales of the properties, without paying the mortgages, the indictment states.  The fraud allegedly committed by Jason Schiff arose out of bank loans for vehicles and a loan secured by real estate purchased from Yale Schiff.

A separate indictment returned July 17, 2019, charges Yale Schiff’s business associate, David Izsak, 44, Chicago, Illinois with eleven counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.  During the investigation, federal authorities seized Izsak’s 57-foot Carver 570 Voyager yacht known as the “Flying Lady.”  The indictment seeks forfeiture of the yacht, as well as a personal money judgment against Izsak of approximately $4 million.  Izsak pleaded not guilty at his arraignment earlier this month.

The charges against Izsak accuse him of fraudulently obtaining loans secured by real estate and vehicles.  Izsak allegedly submitted or caused to be submitted to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds fake letters purporting to be from the lender, purporting to congratulate Izsak for paying his loan in full and releasing the lien.  In reality, the letters were not from the lender, the loans were not paid in full, and the liens were not released, the indictment states.

Izsak and Yale Schiff are each accused of fraudulently obtaining loans by using names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth that did not belong to them.  Izsak also used a stolen identity to obtain a credit card, while Yale Schiff used fake and stolen identities to fraudulently obtain a charge card at Nordstrom department store and loans for a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Lexus RX350, the indictment states.

Yale Schiff was initially charged in the case last month.  The Schiffs pleaded not guilty today.

The indictments were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI; and Craig Goldberg, Inspector-in-Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheri H. Mecklenburg.

The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Each bank fraud count is punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while each count of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory sentence of two years.  If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.