Kirk Lawrence Brannan, 65, Lake Jackson, Texas pleaded guilty today for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme, admitting he conspired with others from 2005 to 2009 to execute a scheme to defraud Wells Fargo Bank and other lenders.
At the hearing, the court held that, in committing the crime, Brannan had used sophisticated means and had employed his special skills as an attorney and real estate agent. The court noted that Brannan had created false HUD-1 settlement forms and title documents that purported to show the sale of three of his properties to his children at grossly inflated prices. These HUD-1 forms then became the three comparable sales that appraisers relied upon in over-valuing the rest of Brannan’s beach home properties which Brannan then sold through the fraud scheme at inflated prices.
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.
Previously released on bond, Brannan was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Co-conspirators Chucoboie Lanier, 42, David Lee Morris, 56, and Derwin Jerome Blackshear, 52, all of Houston, Texas previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme. Lanier received a sentenced of 36 months while Morris was ordered to serve a 42-month prison term. Blackshear is set for sentencing April 9, 2019.
Chief U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal handed Brannan a 36-month sentence to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release.
In imposing the sentence, Judge Rosenthal balanced Brannan’s honorable military service and other aspects of what, up to the time of the fraud, had been an exemplary life, with the tremendous damage mortgage fraud had done to the U.S. financial system and economy and the fact that Brannan had been a knowing and willing participant in such a scheme. She also pointed out that some individuals much less sophisticated than Brannan had suffered severe economic harm as a result of Brannan’s scheme.
Brannan was further ordered to pay $5,317,350 in restitution. A money judgement was previously entered in the amount of $2,401,368.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
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.