February 23rd, 2012 at 4:12pm
A Century 21 real estate agent has pleaded guilty to felony bank fraud along with two accomplices in a mortgage fraud scheme that the U.S. Justice Department characterized as “Operation Stolen Dreams.”
The agent, Raul Rocha, Luis Ramos and Rosa Amelia Fernandez entered their guilty pleas in the nationwide mortgage fraud case that included 1,215 defendants and more than $2.3 billion in losses. The bad guys were caught after honest real estate agents went to the Ventura District Attorney’s Office and reported their suspicions of wrongdoing. Amazingly, Rocha’s real estate broker’s license has not been revoked by the California Department of Real Estate.
As the reader might suspect, many of the victims did not speak much, if any, English and belonged to the same ethnic groups as the criminals (affinity fraud, ethnic fraud) Their loan paperwork was fabricated to show they had more assets than was the case (loan fraud).
Defendants who have already pleaded guilty are Oxnard residents Maria Del Rocio Partida, Miriam Sukey Estrada, Adela Naranjo, Rogelio Vega and Richard Ceniseroz; Camarillo resident Patricia Vega; Ventura resident Eduardo Magdaleno; and Santa Paula resident Leticia Hernandez.
Most of the convicted defendants have been ordered to pay restitution in addition to the prison sentences they have received or are going to receive.
Read the original article in the Ventura County Star.
February 23rd, 2012 at 3:57pm
The office of the Ventura County District Attorney has charged Antonio Pena, 39, of Moorpark with two counts of grand theft and one count of money laundering in a real estate fraud involving a home he once owned.
The home, located at 4855 Penrose Avenue in Moorpark, belonged to Pena and another man until April 2008, when it appears to have been foreclosed by Fremont Investment and Loan.
The case arose from Pena allegedly using a straw buyer to refinance the debt on his home.
In addition to the above charges, Pena was additionally charged with “excessive taking enhancements for stealing over $200,000 in a transactions” and with an “aggravated white-collar crime enhancement for having stolen more than $100,000 while committing two or more related felonies,” according to the D.A.’s office. He also allegedly forged numerous signatures on the loans (loan fraud) and the deed of trust (notary fraud).
Read the original article in the Moorpark Patch.
February 23rd, 2012 at 3:44pm
Gabriel Viramontes, 49, of Elk Grove was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edward Garcia to four years and nine months in prison. A jury convicted Viramontes in 2011 of bank fraud and mail fraud.
Viramontes was convicted after his partners, James Roy Martin and Mario Fellini III pleaded guilty in the $8 million mortgage fraud and rolled over on him. Martin and Fellini recruited straw buyers who submitted fabricated loan documents (loan fraud) in order to purchase 19 homes in Sacramento.
Read the original article in the Sacramento Bee.
February 17th, 2012 at 10:28am
A man and woman have been arrested and charged in a real estate fraud case involving a Moorpark home.
Dominic Kardum, a prosecutor in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, announced that Antonio Pena, a resident of Moorpark, and Claudia Xochitl Gil, of San Fernando have been arraigned in connection with loans totaling $500,000 for the mortgage property.
Antonio Pena, 39, was charged with two counts of grand theft and one count of money laundering as well as an enhanced charge of stealing in excess of $100,000 while in the commission of at least two felonies. He used the identity of a straw buyer to acquire the loans (loan fraud, mortgage fraud).
Gil’s role was to forge signatures on the deal, for which she was charged with with three counts of forgery and to fraudulently notarize the deeds of trust, which resulted in two more counts of fraud related to a deed of trust (notary fraud). Gil holds a California real estate license and was a notary at one time.
Read the original article in the Ventura County Star.
February 17th, 2012 at 9:09am
Two San Diego men have been indicted by the U.S. Attorney in San Diego for conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering in a complex, family-style mortgage fraud case.
U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy made the announcement that Simon Saed Alizadeh and Kian Ashkanizadeh have been arraigned on the above charges with respect to two pricey homes on Triton Street in Carlsbad. Ashkanizadeh was working with a restricted license from the California Department of Real Estate and Alizadeh does not appear to be licensed with the DRE.
The indictment charges Alizadeh and Ashkanizadeh with recruiting friends and family as straw buyers to sign loan applications and documents as supposed buyers for the expensive home, which they had no intention of purchasing (loan fraud). Alizadeh and Ashkanizadeh invented income and assets for their relatives and then added phony consulting fees and contractor costs, all of which they took for themselves once the loans were approved.
The press release by the FBI does not reveal how it was the two men were caught.
February 16th, 2012 at 4:48pm
Coming just a week after it was part of a settlement with most of the nation’s attorneys general, CitiMortgage, Inc., a subsidiary of Citibank, N.A., has settled a second lawsuit.
This new settlement was the outcome of a private lawsuit filed last year by a whistleblower, which the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan joined. The settlement, which was filed and settled on the same day this week (Wednesday), requires CitiMortgage to cough up an additional $158.3 million to what it has agreed to pay under the nationwide settlement. In this case, the U.S. AG (and the whistleblower) had claimed that CitiMortgage had made risky loans it never should originated that caused the U.S. Housing and Urban Department (HUD) via the FHA, to suffer great losses.
What was unique and (to me) surprising was that in this case, CitiMortgage “admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility” for the conduct outlined in the complaint against it, including extending loans it knew would not be eligible for the FHA’s mortgage insurance and yet certifying that they were. Usually the banks will settle without admitting any responsibility. Wow.
Most disturbing were the admissions that CitiMortgage‘s business units, as part of their routine business practices, were ordered to apply “brute force” on the firm’s quality control personnel in order to eliminate findings of defects in the risky loans and the underwriting practices that made those loans possible.
This is a quote from Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: ”For far too long, lenders treated HUD’s insurance of their mortgages like they were playing with house money. In fact, they were playing with other people’s money and other people’s homes. CITIMORTGAGE is the latest in a series of cases this office has filed against lenders who flouted HUD requirements for making government-backed loans. We are pleased that, with today’s settlement, CITIMORTGAGE has accepted responsibility for its conduct and agreed to pay damages in an amount that will significantly compensate HUD in this case for losses to the FHA insurance fund.”
As a sidebar, since 2004, at least 30% of the loans that were either originated or underwritten by CitiMortgage have gone into default.
February 8th, 2012 at 9:48pm
A man, his second wife and two mortgage broker have pleaded guilty in a $20 million mortgage fraud plot to charges of wire fraud, tax evasion and harboring illegal immigrants.
One of the alleged victims is Kim Funke, Ronald Nelson’s daughter.
IRS Special Agent Arlette Lee said Ronald Nelson, Edith Nelson and their mortgage broker partners obtained more than 60 fraudulent mortgages, turning many of the properties in senior care homes and hiring illegal aliens to care for the seniors.
The Nelsons would obtain properties, and they turned many of them into senior care facilities and would hire illegal immigrants to work as caregivers for the residents, according to court documents.
When they are sentenced, the
Nelsons could get more than 40 years in federal prison each and be required to pay restitution of $5.2 million.
Their co-conspirators, Nelda Asunción, a real estate agent and co-owner of Realty World Pacific West in Concord, and Cristeta Lagarejos, a real estate agent and broker and the owner of Legacy Financing in Pleasant Hill, also pleaded guilty. They have been ordered to pay restitution of $2.8 million and $318,500 respectively.
Read the original article in KTVU.com and the Silicon Valley Mercury News.
February 2nd, 2012 at 10:21am
Robinson Dinh Nguyen, formerly a real estate agent with the defunct and disgraced Crisp & Cole Associates, has been sentenced to prison for 21 months and ordered to pay $433,000 in restitution. The California Department of Real Estate (DRE) revoked his license in 2008.
In his guilty plea, Nguyen, 31, admitted that he had conspired with others to submit fraudulent loan documentation and used straw buyers in order to obtain mortgage loans from financial institutions (mortgage fraud, loan fraud). Many were 100% loans and others were refis, the purpose of which was to skim equity and then let the homes fall into foreclosure. The lenders, of course, lost millions.
The defendants who have already pleaded guilty are Kevin Sluga, Crisp & Cole’s CPA; Jerald Teixeira and Christopher Stovall, former loan officers for Tower Lending; Megan Balod; and Leslie Sluga. Those defendants still awaiting trial are David Marshall Crisp, Carlyle Lee Cole, Julie Dianne Farmer, Sneha Ramesh Mohammadi, Jayson Peter Costa, Jeriel Salinas, Michael Angelo Munoz, Jennifer Anne Crisp, and Caleb Lee Cole.
Read the original article in the Central Valley Business Times.
January 30th, 2012 at 9:45am
Straw buyers are integral players in mortgage fraud. Criminals who devise schemes are dependent on the straw buyer to “rent” his or her good credit, in exchange for what is no less than a bribe, in order to defaud lenders.
It is unfortunate that the justice system in most cases looks at straw buyers as non-essential players and often trades their testimony for no jail time in order to catch the operators of the schemes. This has certainly been true in California.
A case in Alabama highlights that it is possible to get critical testimony from straw buyers and still make them pay for their crimes. Rodger A. Gulledge testified against his ex-wife Melissa Gulledge and ringleader Lance A. Collins in a sophisticated mortgage fraud case in which the participants defrauded banks and the retirees who unwittingly invested in their scheme (elder financial abuse, real estate investment fraud). Collins pleaded guilty, and for his testimony, Rodger Gulledge received a sentence of one year and 10 months.
It’s time for prosecutors in California to treat straw buyers with the same seriousness as their colleagues in Alabama.
Read the original article in AL.com.
January 30th, 2012 at 9:28am
Two men have been indicted by a federal grand jury in relation to a mortgage fraud in which the lender’s losses may have exceeded $180,000.
Andrey Kim, 28, owned a home in West Sacramento. After obtaining a home equity loan in which, according to prosecutors, Kim lied about his income (loan fraud), he added Sultanmurod Rashidov, 29, as a joint owner to the property. Rashidov, of Brooklyn, New York, then also submitted fraudulent documents as to his financial status and the balance of the mortgage and obtained a $178,000 loan from the lender. Rashidov then defaulted.
The penalties for conviction of the mail fraud and money laundering charges could result in prison sentences for both up to 30 years, along with fines up to $1 million.
Read the original article in the Central Valley Business Times.