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George Kritopoulos, 50, Salem, Massachusetts, a former self-proclaimed Salem real estate developer has been convicted by a federal jury in Boston in connection with a 10-year mortgage fraud scheme involving at least two dozen fraudulent loan transactions totaling $6.5 million and resulting in more than $3.8 million in losses to lenders.

Kritopoulos was convicted on May 27, 2022, of one count of conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud, six counts of bank fraud, one count of aiding the preparation of a false income tax return and one count of obstruction of justice. U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris scheduled sentencing for Sept. 29, 2022. Kritopoulos was charged in September 2018 along with co-defendants Joseph Bates III and David Plunkett.

From 2006 through 2015, Kritopoulos, Bates and others engaged in a scheme to defraud banks and other financial institutions by causing false information to be submitted to those institutions on behalf of borrowers – people recruited to purchase properties – located primarily in Salem. The properties were usually multi-family buildings with two-to-four units, which the co-conspirators then converted into condominiums. Kritopoulos recruited new borrowers to purchase the individual condominium units, which were also financed by mortgage loans obtained by fraud.

The false information submitted to lenders included, among other things, representations concerning the borrowers’ employment, income, assets and intent to occupy the property. Specifically, the false employment information included representations that borrowers were employed by entities that were, in fact, shell companies “owned” by Kritopoulos and were used to advance the fraudulent scheme. The employment information also included false representations about the income that the borrowers received from the entities, when, in fact, the borrowers received little or no income from them. As a result, the income asserted on the borrowers’ loan applications that Kritopoulos submitted to lenders grossly inflated their true income. The false information also included representations that the recruited borrowers intended to live in the properties that they were purchasing, when the borrowers, in fact, did not intend to do so. Kritopoulos brought newly recruited borrowers to Plunkett, who then prepared tax returns that contained false and inflated income. Some of those tax returns were submitted to lenders in support of the fraudulent loan applications.

Because the borrowers did not have the financial ability to repay the loans, in all but two instances among 21 properties, they defaulted on their loan payments, resulting in foreclosures and losses to the lenders of more than $3.8 million.

In addition, Kritopoulos sought to obstruct the federal criminal investigation into the mortgage fraud scheme by encouraging Bates and Plunkett to make false statements and create false documents he hoped would make the companies appear to have been legitimate.

In October 2018, Bates pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, and two counts of bank fraud. A sentencing hearing for Bates has not yet been scheduled by the Court. In February 2019, Plunkett pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of aiding in the submission of false tax returns and is scheduled to be sentenced on September 15, 2022.

Mr. Kritopoulos held himself out to be a prominent real estate developer and believed he was above the law. This guilty verdict makes it clear that he is not,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “Mr. Kritopoulos and his co-conspirators thought they could line their pockets by victimizing innocent lenders and borrowers. When the scheme began unraveling, Mr. Kritopoulos attempted to have his co-conspirators create phony documents, but they refused. In an interview, Mr. Kritopoulos lied to investigators. We are committed to holding those who engage in this type of behavior accountable.

This verdict proves that George Kritopoulos is a predator who repeatedly targeted young, financially vulnerable victims and exploited them to pad his own pockets while driving them deeper into debt. He lied to the banks on behalf of those victims and tried to obstruct our investigation,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “Mortgage fraud cases like this one are important to deter would-be fraudsters from acting, and to ensure those who commit fraud, like Kritopoulos, face justice. After all, this type of crime artificially influences home values and threatens the investments of lawful buyers.”

Mortgage fraud, like many financial crimes, creates untold harm to individuals, communities, businesses and the integrity of the financial system,” said Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, Boston Office. “This guilty verdict is proof of IRS Criminal Investigation’s dedication to protecting the financial health of our communities when they are threatened.”

The charges of bank fraud and wire fraud each provide for sentences of up to 30 years in prison and five years of supervised release. The charge of obstruction of justice provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and five years of supervised release. The charge of conspiracy provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison and three years of supervised release. The charge of aiding the preparation of false tax returns provides for a sentence of up to three years in prison and one year of supervised release. Each charge also carries a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

U.S. Attorney Rollins, FBI SAC Bonavolonta, IRS CI SAC Simpson and Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Northeastern Regional Office, made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the Salem Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Victor A. Wild, of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit, and Brian M. LaMacchia, of Rollins’ Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit, are prosecuting the case.

 

 

Gabriel T. Tavarez, 40, Westminster, Massachusetts, he principal and co-founder of a mortgage short sale assistance company was sentenced yesterday in connection with defrauding mortgage lenders and investors out of nearly $500,000 in proceeds from about 90 short sale transactions.

Tavarez founded and co-operated Loss Mitigation Services, LLC, a short sale assistance company in North Andover, Massachusetts,  with co-conspirator Jaime L. Mulvihill. A short sale occurs where a mortgage debt on a home is greater than the home’s market value—such a mortgage loan is commonly referred to as being “under water”—and a mortgage lender agrees to a sale of the home even though it will take a loss on the transaction. Loss Mitigation Services, purportedly acting on behalf of homeowners whose mortgage loans were under water, negotiated with mortgage lenders for approval of short sales in lieu of foreclosure. Mortgage lenders typically forbid short sale negotiators, such as Loss Mitigation Services, from receiving any proceeds of a short sale.

From 2014 to 2017, Tavarez and Mulvihill, directly or through their employees, falsely claimed to homeowners, real estate agents and closing attorneys that mortgage lenders had agreed to pay Loss Mitigation Services fees known as “seller paid closing costs” or “seller concessions” from the proceeds of the short sales. In reality, the mortgage lenders had never approved Loss Mitigation Services to receive such fees. When the short sales closed, at the instruction of Tavarez, Mulvihill, or others working with them, settlement agents paid Loss Mitigation Services the fees, which typically were 3% of the short sale price above and beyond any fees to real estate agents, closing attorneys and others involved in the transaction. To deceive mortgage lenders about the true nature of the fees, Tavarez or Mulvihill filed, or caused others to file, false short sale transaction documents with mortgage lenders, including altered settlement statements and fabricated contracts and mortgage loan preapproval letters. In addition, Tavarez created, or directed others to create, fake letters from mortgage brokers claiming that the brokers had approved buyers for financing, in order to convince mortgage lenders to approve the additional fees.

Mulvihill pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and was sentenced in February 2020 to six months in prison.

Tavarez was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to seven months in prison and two years of supervised release. Tavarez was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $475,458. In June 2020, Tavarez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Robert Manchak, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region; Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Regional Office; and Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Boston made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian M. LaMacchia of Rollins’ Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit prosecuted the case.

Pilar Rose, 58, Fresno, California was charged today with bank fraud, tax evasion, obstructing an IRS tax audit, and aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents, Rose, who managed her husband’s orthodontics practice, committed bank fraud by submitting false financial information to obtain a $1.4 million home refinance and a loan for a BMW. She committed aggravated identity theft by using an acquaintance’s Social Security number for the latter loan.

Rose evaded over $400,000 in taxes in 2014 and 2015. She then altered and produced financial records to the IRS during an audit to make personal expenses appear to be deductible business expenses.

Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert made the announcement.

This case is the product of an investigation by the IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton is prosecuting the case.

If convicted of evading taxes, Rose faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If convicted of obstructing an IRS audit, she faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If convicted of bank fraud, she faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. If convicted of aggravated identity theft, she faces a penalty of two years in prison consecutive to any other sentence she may receive and a fine of up to $250,000. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

George Gilmore, 70, Toms River, New Jersey, a partner at an Ocean County, New Jersey, law firm, was sentenced today to one year and one day in prison for his conviction on two counts of failing to pay over payroll taxes withheld from employees to the IRS and one count of making false statements on a bank loan application submitted to Ocean First Bank N.A.

According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:

Gilmore worked as an equity partner and shareholder at Gilmore & Monahan P.A., a law firm in Toms River, New Jersey, where he exercised primary control over the firm’s financial affairs. Because he exercised significant control over the law firm’s financial affairs, Gilmore was responsible for withholding payroll taxes from the gross salary and wages of the law firm’s employees to cover individual income, Social Security and Medicare tax obligations. For the tax quarters ending March 31, 2016, and June 30, 2016, the law firm withheld tax payments from its employees’ checks, but Gilmore failed to pay over in full the payroll taxes due to the IRS.

Gilmore also submitted a loan application to Ocean First Bank containing false statements. On November 21, 2014, Gilmore reviewed, signed, and submitted to Ocean First Bank a Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA) to obtain refinancing of a mortgage loan for $1.5 million with a “cash out” provision that provided Gilmore would obtain cash from the loan. On January 22, 2015, Gilmore submitted another URLA updating the initial application. Gilmore failed to disclose his outstanding 2013 tax liabilities and personal loans that he had obtained from others on the URLAs. Gilmore received $572,000 from the cash out portion of the loan.

On April 17, 2019, Gilmore was acquitted of two counts of filing false tax returns for calendar years 2013 and 2014; the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on one count of income tax evasion for calendar years 2013, 2014, and 2015. The verdicts were returned following a trial that began April 1, 2019, before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson, who imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Thompson sentenced Gilmore to three years of supervised release.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Honig for the District of New Jersey and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, special agents with the U.S. Attorney’s Office under the direction of Supervisory Special Agent Thomas Mahoney, and special agents of the FBI Red Bank Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Deputy U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Skahill; Assistant U.S. Attorney Jihee G. Suh of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division; and Trial Attorney Thomas F. Koelbl of the U.S. Department of Justice – Tax Division.

 

Robert Morgan, Frank Giacobbe, Todd Morgan, and Michael Tremiti, have been charged today in a 114-count superseding indictment charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud for their roles in a half billion dollar mortgage fraud scheme.

The defendants each face various additional charges such as wire and bank fraud, and money laundering. Todd Morgan and Robert Morgan are also charged with wire fraud conspiracy to defraud 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, which is currently estimated to exceed $25,000,000.

During the course of the conspiracy:

  • Robert Morgan was the managing member and chief executive officer of Morgan Management. In addition to his role with Morgan Management, he controlled and managed owned a substantial portfolio of real estate holdings;
    • Frank Giacobbe owned and operated Aurora Capital Advisors, identified himself as the Principal, and employed others to assist him in brokering, and attempting to broker real estate loans;
    • Todd Morgan was employed at Morgan Management, and worked as a Project Manager at the company; and
    • Michael Tremiti was employed at Morgan Management, and worked as Director of Finance for the company.

According to the superseding indictment, between 2007 and June 2017, the defendants conspired with Kevin Morgan, Patrick Ogiony, Scott Cresswell, and others to fraudulently obtain moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities, and other property from financial institutions such as Arbor Commercial Mortgage, LLC and Berkadia Commercial Mortgage, LLC, and government sponsored enterprises, including Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae).

The defendants provided false information to financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises overstating the incomes of properties owned by Morgan Management or certain principals of Morgan Management. The false information induced financial institutions to issue loans: (1) for greater values than the financial institutions would have authorized had they been provided with truthful information; and (2) that the financial institutions would not have issued at the time of issuance had they been provided with truthful information. These properties included:

  The Preserve at Autumn Ridge, Watertown, New York;
  The Eden Square Apartments, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania;
  The Rochester Village Apartments at Park Place, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania;
  The Reserve at Southpointe, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania;
  7100 South Shore Drive Apartments, Chicago, Illinois;
  The Avon Commons Apartments, Avon, New York;
  The Morgan Bay Apartments, Houston, Texas;
  Brookwood on the Green, Syracuse, New York;
  The Creek Hill Apartments, Rochester, New York;
  Hickory Hollow, Rochester, New York;
  The Knollwood Manor Apartments, Rochester, New York;
  The Links at Centerpointe, Canandaigua, New York;
  The Nineteen North Apartments, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;
  The Overlook at Golden Hills, Lexington, South Carolina;
  The Penbrooke Meadows Apartments, Rochester, New York;
  The Trails of North Hills Apartments, Raleigh, North Carolina;
  The Rivers Pointe Apartments, Syracuse, New York;
  The Union Square Apartments, Rochester, New York;
  The View at MacKenzi, York, Pennsylvania; and
  The Villas of Victor, Rochester, New York.

To facilitate the conspiracy:

  • Morgan Management provided property management, accounting, and financial reporting services for the properties owned by limited liability companies controlled by defendant Robert Morgan.
    • The defendants conspired to manipulate income and expenses for properties to meet debt service coverage ratios (“DSCRs”) required by lending institutions. The manipulation included, among other things, removing expenses from information reported to lenders and keeping two sets of books for at least 70 properties, with one set of books containing true and accurate figures and a second set of books containing manipulated figures to be provided to lenders in connection with servicing and re-financing loans.
    • The defendants conspired to present lending institutions with false and fraudulent inflated construction contracts and invoices that falsely reported to the lending institution that the contractor constructing a property was being paid more than the contractor was actually being paid.
    • The defendants provided false information to financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises that overstated net incomes of properties and thereby induced financial institutions to: (1) issue loans (a) for greater values than financial institutions would have authorized had they been provided with truthful information; and (b) that the financial institutions would not have issued at the time of issuance had they been provided with truthful information; and (2) forgo contractual rights that would have inured to the financial institutions had the defendants and Morgan Management presented accurate financial information to the financial institutions.
    • The defendants employed various mechanisms to mislead inspectors, appraisers, financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises with respect to the occupancy of properties.
    • The defendants falsely inflated the amounts owed on properties, by among other things, (1) providing false documentation of obligations purportedly associated with the properties, (2) misrepresenting the actual purchase prices of properties by providing false contracts and contract prices, and (3), as set forth above, presenting false construction contracts and invoices.

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 for repairs to insurers after damages to properties in Robert Morgan’s real estate portfolio. These properties include the Summerwood Apartments, Merrillville, Indiana; the Eden Square Apartments, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania; and at thirty-four properties in the Rochester, New York area after a March 2017 windstorm in that area.

The defendants are also charged with money laundering conspiracy for engaging in monetary transactions in excess of $10,000 using the proceeds of wire fraud and bank fraud.

The total loss sustained by financial institutions and government sponsored enterprises throughout the mortgage fraud scheme is currently estimated to exceed $25,000,000. The loss resulting from the insurance fraud scheme is currently estimated at approximately $3,000,000.

The defendants made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer and were released on conditions.
U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. made the announcement.

The charges announced today reflect this Office’s commitment to ensuring that those who do business with the mortgage, banking, and insurance industries act with honesty and integrity,” stated U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “The scope of the dishonesty and deceit alleged here—both in a geographic sense as well as in terms of the dollar value of the mortgages and properties involved—was expansive. This type of fraud strikes at the very heart of those industries, and I commend the FBI and the FHFA-OIG for the significant resources they devoted to this investigation in order to reveal the full scope of the illegal conduct alleged in this superseding indictment.

Today’s charges allege Robert Morgan-and the men he surrounded himself with in business-worked hard with a desire to creatively subvert the integrity of the financial industry,” said FBI Buffalo Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert. “In response, we worked just as hard and creatively to put a stop to it. We hope the indictment returned in this case helps to educate and protect the tens of thousands of investors who own mortgage-backed securities.”

Richard Parker, Acting Deputy Inspector General for Investigations for the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), said, “the financing of multifamily loans is a significant segment of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s portfolio.  As these charges demonstrate, FHFA-OIG will work with our partners in law enforcement to investigate and hold accountable those who seek to victimize the entities regulated by FHFA.”

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 superseding indictment is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert, 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.