FBI: “Former Mortgage Broker Indicted for Defrauding First Coweta Bank”

July 19, 2013

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on July 18, 2013 released the following:

“GAINESVILLE, GA— Amy B. Williams, 48, of Buford, Georgia, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges arising out of a scheme to defraud First Coweta Bank.

“Bank fraud is a critical problem throughout the United States, but it has hit Georgia especially hard,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Georgia leads the nation in bank failures since 2008, with 78 banks failing—including First Coweta Bank, the bank this defendant is charged with defrauding.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the indictment, and other information presented in court: Williams was the sole owner of United International Mortgage (UIM) Corporation in Buford, Georgia, and was in the business of arranging construction loans for residential builders.

In April 2007, UIM closed three construction loans for one of its customers, Mainstreet Builders Inc. The loans were intended to finance the cost of constructing three new houses in Suwanee, Georgia. The loans, which totaled more than $1.7 million, were funded by First Coweta Bank.

Williams directed an unindicted co-conspirator to forge signatures on loan documents and caused those documents to be faxed to First Coweta Bank. The bank then wire transferred the loan proceeds to an account controlled by Williams. Williams was required to hold the money in trust for the builder and to disburse the money to the builder on a draw basis, as work on the three houses progressed. Instead, she used more than $1.1 million of this money to pay off her personal debt at another bank and wire transferred $60,000 into her personal checking account. After converting First Coweta Bank’s money to her own use, Williams attempted to cover up her crime by e-mailing false documents and misleading photos to the bank.

Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “The actions of Ms. Williams, as alleged in the indictment, directly led to the failure of the First Coweta Bank and, as such, clearly demonstrates the serious nature and impact of those actions. The FBI will continue to coordinate its bank fraud investigations with its various law enforcement partners in an effort to effectively identify, investigate, and present for prosecution those individuals who do so much harm to the banking industry.”

Jason T. Moran, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of Inspector General Southeast Region, said, “The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is committed to its partnerships with others in the law enforcement community as we address mortgage fraud and bank fraud cases throughout the country. The American people need to be assured that their government is working to ensure integrity in the financial services and housing industries and that those involved in criminal activities that undermine that integrity will be held accountable.”

Williams was arraigned today before United States Magistrate Judge J. Clay Fuller in Gainesville, Georgia.

The indictment charges one count of conspiracy and six counts of bank fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges, and it will be the government’s burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by special agents of the FBI and the FDIC Office of Inspector General.

Assistant United States Attorney Russell Phillips is prosecuting the case.”

Federal Bank Fraud Crimes – 18 U.S.C. § 1344

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


“Feds crack down on foreclosure auction scams”

June 3, 2013

The Associated Press on June 1, 2013 released the following:

By PAUL ELIAS
Associated Press

“SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — At the height of the financial crisis, bargain hunters would gather each week on county courthouse steps to bid on foreclosed properties throughout Northern and Central California. The inventory lists were long, especially in hard-hit areas such as Sacramento and Stockton. But the auctions were generally short affairs – often because real estate speculators were illegally fixing the bidding process.

In the past three years, federal prosecutors have charged 54 people and two companies in three states for bid-rigging during courthouse auctions of foreclosed properties. Most cases originated in California, the state with the highest foreclosure rate during the financial crisis. Nearly identical rings were also broken up in Raleigh, N.C., and Mobile, Ala.

Working in concert, the would-be buyers would appoint just one person to bid on each property on the auction block, thus securing the “winning” bid. Minutes after the official proceeding was over, they would then conduct an auction among themselves, often on the same courthouse steps.

That’s when a property’s true price would emerge. The conspirators would then divvy up the difference paid at the official auction and the private one.

Federal prosecutors say such schemes have operated for decades, once earning a few thousand dollars per property. But the explosion of foreclosures amid the country’s financial meltdown a few years ago upped illicit gains to millions of dollars. The scammers took money that otherwise would have gone to banks selling the foreclosed properties or beleaguered homeowners who should have been compensated.

The bidding investigations are being driven by a special task force established at the U.S. Justice Department in the wake of the financial crisis to combat mortgage fraud. The probes aim to “stop those who engage in illegal conduct that thwarts the competitive process, and take advantage of American consumers when they are most vulnerable,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer, head of DOJ’s antitrust division in Washington, D.C.

Prosecutors say the circle of conspirators gradually widened at each courthouse: First-time buyers would be brought into the conspiracy as an increasing number of speculators attended the auctions. Those not in on the schemes were often pressured not to return by verbal harassment and, in some cases, physical jostling.

In the last two years, more than 30 people have pleaded guilty to participating in a series of courthouse bid-rigging conspiracies in Northern California counties. Another 11 have been busted in Central California. Similar prosecutions have been carried out in Alabama, where eight people have pleaded guilty in Mobile in the last two years. Five others have pleaded guilty in North Carolina since 2010 to operating a bidding conspiracy around Raleigh.

For many now going to prison, this is their first brush with the law.

Father and son Robert and Jason Brannon were each sentenced to 20 months in prison this month in Mobile, Ala., after pleading guilty to participating in 17 rigged bids. The two opened a real estate investment company in 2003, after Robert Brannon sold a portion of the family farm. When they began attending auctions to acquire rental properties, they discovered that some speculators were rigging the bids and joined in the conspiracy, according to court documents.

In addition to the jail time, the Brannons were ordered to pay restitution of almost $22,000 each, their cut from the rigged auctions.

In April, real estate investor Mohammed Rezaian pleaded guilty to participating in similar scams in Northern California. He has agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of other perpetrators and pay a fine of $213,000. He also faces a little less than two years in prison when sentenced sometime next year. Neither he nor his lawyers returned phone calls.

Federal officials say they expect to charge a few more people in the coming months but that cases are expected to soon drop off now that the heated foreclosure market of late 2008 and 2009 has cooled.

Madeline Schnapp, an economist with PropertyRadar, a company that tracks foreclosures, said sales at auctions have fallen from a height of about 30,000 a month to about 5,000 a month in California as government programs and new laws have made it more difficult for banks to begin foreclosure proceedings.

“There’s not much of a supply now,” she said.

Paul Pfingst, a lawyer who represents another investor charged in participating in a Central California ring, says illegal temptation got the better of many speculators who couldn’t resist victimizing seemingly unsympathetic banks. His client, Andrew Katakis, is accused of participating along with four others in a $2.5 million conspiracy to rig bids in the Stockton area, which has led the nation in foreclosures.

“The amount of money and properties that were changing hands was staggering,” said Pfingst, who maintains his client’s innocence. “It caused many people to cross from legality to illegality.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Klary Arcentales Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury For Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud and Bank Fraud in an Alleged $2 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

May 16, 2013

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on May 15, 2013 released the following:

“Bergen County Woman Indicted in $2 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

NEWARK, NJ— A Bergen County, New Jersey woman was indicted today for her role in a long-running, large-scale mortgage fraud scheme that caused millions of dollars in losses, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Klary Arcentales, 44, of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, was charged in a five-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and four counts of bank fraud, all of which caused losses of at least $2 million.

According to the indictment and other documents filed in this case:

As early as 2006, Arcentales engaged in a mortgage fraud conspiracy through a company called Premier Mortgage Services (PMS). Arcentales, a loan officer at PMS, provided fraudulent documents to financial institutions in connection with mortgage loan applications on behalf of “straw buyers” to induce those financial institutions to fund mortgage loans. Relying upon those false documents, financial institutions funded mortgage loans. Arcentales then profited illegally by receiving a commission from PMS for each mortgage loan that she closed and also profited illegally by diverting portions of the fraudulently obtained mortgage proceeds for herself.

Conspirator Lester Soto, 56, previously charged by complaint, was a part-owner of PMS. He also acted as a loan officer on certain PMS mortgage loan applications. Soto took a percentage of PMS’s profits. Soto employed document makers to create fraudulent documents in furtherance of the scheme and put loan officers at PMS, including Arcentales, in contact with these document makers to create other false and fraudulent documents.

Conspirator Linda Cohen, 55, previously charged by Complaint, was a paralegal who closed transactions on behalf of a licensed New Jersey attorney. Cohen served as the settlement agent on mortgage loans brokered by Arcentales for various properties. Cohen convened closings, received funds from lenders, and prepared HUD-1 forms—which itemize services and fees charged to borrowers for mortgage loans—that purported to reflect the sources and destinations of funds for mortgages on subject properties. In fact, the HUD-1s were neither true nor accurate. At or following the closings, Cohen disbursed mortgage loan proceeds directly to PMS, herself, and others, including in amounts not reflected on the HUD-1s. Cohen received a fee for each fraudulent loan in which she participated.

Conspirator Antonio Pimenta, 45, previously charged by complaint, owned and managed Kelmar Construction Co., which built properties that were then sold to straw buyers utilizing fraudulent mortgage loans brokered by Arcentales.

The indictment charges Arcentales with one count of bank fraud conspiracy and four counts of bank fraud, each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford; special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen, for the investigation leading to today’s charges. Fishman also thanked the Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward Ryan, for its participation in the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Agarwal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office General Crimes Unit and Zach Intrater of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit http://www.stopfraud.gov.

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

Federal Bank Fraud Crimes – 18 U.S.C. 1344

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Leon Benzer Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury of Tax Evasion By Alleging He Was Evading Federal Income and Employment Taxes

May 15, 2013

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on May 14, 2013 released the following:

“Former Construction Company Owner Indicted in Nevada for Income Tax Evasion

WASHINGTON—A federal grand jury in Nevada today returned an indictment against a former construction company owner for evading federal income and employment taxes, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Chief Richard Weber, FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge William C. Woerner of the Las Vegas Field Office, and Sheriff Doug Gillespie of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Leon Benzer, 46, of Las Vegas, was charged in U.S. District Court in the District of Nevada with two counts of tax evasion.

In January 2013, Benzer was indicted in a related case on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. According to court documents, from approximately August 2003 through February 2009, Benzer orchestrated a scheme to direct construction defect litigation and repairs at condominium complexes to a conspiring law firm and Benzer’s construction company, Silver Lining Construction (SLC). As a result of this scheme, the indictment alleges that SLC was awarded a contract worth over $7 million for work at the Vistana Homeowner’s Association (Vistana HOA) in Las Vegas. The case is pending.

According to the indictment returned today, in August 2006, Benzer filed five years’ worth of personal tax forms and business tax returns without any payments accompanying those returns. As of April 2007, Benzer had allegedly failed to pay his personal tax liability of approximately $459,000 and SLC’s employment tax liability of approximately $687,000 and unemployment tax liability of approximately $18,000. In May 2007, the IRS issued a notice of intent to file a levy; Benzer subsequently appealed this process and indicated that he wanted to enter into an “offer-in-compromise” with the IRS to pay a portion of what was owed in full satisfaction of all his tax liabilities. According to the indictment, during this offer-in-compromise process, the IRS requested detailed financial information from Benzer.

Between March 2005 and January 2008, the indictment alleges that Benzer and SLC received over $7 million from the Vistana HOA contract, including a wire transfer of over $1 million on September 21, 2007, to a personal U.S. Bank account that Benzer opened in August 2007. The indictment alleges that when Benzer filed certain IRS forms related to the offer-in-compromise process on September 25, 2007, he failed to disclose this personal U.S. Bank account or the assets contained in it.

The maximum prison sentence for each count of tax evasion is five years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.

The charges and allegations against the indicted defendant are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Chief Kathleen McGovern, Deputy Chief Charles La Bella, and Trial Attorney Thomas B.W. Hall of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case is being investigated by IRS-CI, the FBI, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Criminal Intelligence Section.

Today’s charges were brought in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions; and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit http://www.stopfraud.gov.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


“FBI reportedly investigates Michigan Supreme Court justice”

October 31, 2012

The Detroit News on October 31, 2012 released the following:

“Hathaway’s real estate transactions questioned

By Robert Snell and Chad Livengood

Detroit — The FBI is investigating real estate transactions Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway made last year that allowed her to drop nearly $600,000 in mortgage debt on a $1.5 million Lake St. Clair home, sources familiar with the investigation told The Detroit News.

Sources said the probe was launched after news reports in May revealed Hathaway and her husband, trial attorney Michael Kingsley, transferred at least two of their homes to relatives before a bank allowed them to unload the home on Lakeview Court in Grosse Pointe Park in a November 2011 short sale.

The FBI tried to reach out to Hathaway’s family through interviews, said a source close to the investigation.

Real estate experts and the Democratic Party-nominated justice’s Republican political opponents have questioned whether Hathaway and Kingsley hid assets and committed mortgage fraud after the two homes were returned to the couple shortly after the short sale.

On Tuesday, Hathaway’s lawyer, Steve Fishman, declined to comment, as did the FBI.

Elected in 2008, Hathaway is not on the ballot this year, but Republicans are using questions surrounding her real estate dealings in recent radio and print advertising.

Public records show Hathaway and Kingsley’s Lakeview Court home was sold Nov. 8, 2011, on a short sale for $850,000, approximately $625,000 less than the couple borrowed in 2007.

To get a short sale, banks typically require homeowners to prove they are suffering a financial hardship and check for other assets, such as second homes. Hathaway makes $164,610 annually as a justice. Kingsley is an attorney.

Records show the couple transferred two homes to individuals identified by WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) as Hathaway’s stepchildren. A home in Windemere, Fla., was quitclaim deeded to Hathaway stepdaughter Kathryn Sterr in November 2010, and a home on Windmill Pointe Drive in Grosse Pointe Park was transferred to Michael James Kingsley Jr. in September 2010.

The Florida home was transferred back to Hathaway earlier this year, public records show.

Property records also show Sarah Kingsley — identified as another Hathaway stepdaughter — bought a home on Balfour Street in Grosse Pointe Park in April 2011 with $195,000 cash and quitclaimed the home to Hathaway less than a month after the short sale. No money traded hands, records show.

Dan Pero, president of the American Justice Partnership and a GOP political consultant, has filed an ethics complaint against Hathaway with the Judicial Tenure Commission, and his group has aired radio ads questioning Hathaway’s house swaps.

“There are literally tens of thousands of people in this state whose homes were lost through short sales … and yet Justice Hathaway was able to get out from under $600,000 worth (of debt) while she still owned two other homes,” Pero said.

Hathaway, a former Wayne Circuit Court judge, reportedly lives at the Balfour home and hasn’t commented on the transactions. In May, Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr., a Republican nominee, urged Hathaway to “clear the air” on the transactions. Young recently declined further comment.

State records show Hathaway obtained her real estate broker’s license in 1987 and has maintained her license during her 16 years as a Wayne County judge and four years on the Supreme Court. Hathaway completed a continuing education course on short sales and foreclosures in October 2010, and last month she completed a course in “advanced real estate ethics and standards,” according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

She also has taught real estate law in continuing education courses to brokers, according to her Supreme Court biography.

The News has tried to reach Hathaway for comment about the Republican ads highlighting her real estate transactions.

Southfield attorney Brian Einhorn called the newspaper back recently at Hathaway’s behest.

Einhorn said Hathaway has explained the transactions, but refused to say to whom she explained them.

Einhorn wouldn’t say whether he’s providing legal representation to the justice, only that “I’m a friend of hers.” He also was surprised to learn the FBI is looking into Hathaway’s personal transactions.

“To my knowledge, she’s never been contacted,” Einhorn said. “If that were to happen, I would know about it. I would know if there was an FBI investigation.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


“Madoff Has Met His Match: Mortgage Fraud Crime of the Century”

October 26, 2012

Forbes on October 26, 2012 released the following:

John Wasik, Contributor

“With less than 88 years left in this century, it’s awful tough to say what the crime of this century will be.

Will it be the $60 billion Madoff Ponzi scam? The Dot-Com bubble? My candidate is a slam dunk so far: Mortgage fraud.

Mortgage fraud took place on so many levels for so many years that it eclipses Madoff by a factor of 100. That’s my humble estimate because nobody really knows how pervasive it was. Prosecutors are still issuing indictments more than six years after the real estate market peaked.

The recent $1 billion suit against Bank of America/Countrywide alleging that the bank sold defective loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is but a small piece of this unraveling series of financial flim-flams, which rival most scams because of its pervasive nature and involvement of thousands of financial institutions and intermediaries. The bank says the government’s claims are “simply false.”

Why is mortgage fraud such a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the world of scamdom? Because it combined easy money, greed and securitizing that avarice all over the world. It was based on the myth that home prices don’t decline and quick profits could be had by nearly anyone. You, too, could become an investment banker! More importantly, it may prove to be the mother of all swindles because it nearly took down the world’s largest financial system. And we’re not out of the woods yet.

We have some idea of how many mortgage crimes were out there thanks to the suspicious activity reports supplied to the FBI by banks, starting in the first quarter of 2006. These weren’t necessarily fraud cases that resulted in prosecution. In fact, very few ended up as court cases in which people went to jail, which has been a widespread problem in mortgage fraud.

Starting in 2006, the FBI got wind of some 7,500 suspicious mortgage activities. By 2008, that figure doubled and peaked in the second quarter of last year at nearly 30,000, according to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or FinCen. The number of fraud filings dropped 41 percent from the second quarter of last year through this year’s second quarter.

What do these numbers mean? That bankers suspected foul play in the origination or refinancing of mortgages. And these reports were the proverbial tip of the iceberg, because they only looked at the problem from one step in the process. Here’s what else was going on, although we don’t have any hard numbers:

  • Mortgage Foreclosure “Rescues.” Companies would set up shop to promise defaulting homeowners that they could halt the foreclosure process. They’d fleece the hapless homeowner for a steep fee, then move on.
  • Appraisal Scams. Individuals would hire crooked appraisers to under-appraise a home, obtain a mortgage, then sell it at a much-higher price.
  • Securitization Swindles. This may be the biggest scam of all. Junk mortgages were bundled, given the highest credit ratings, then sold to investors in vehicles like collateralized mortgage obligations. These “sub-prime loans” are still on the books of some of our largest banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • Robo-Signing. Banks eager to sell loans to Wall Street hurried the process along by creating automated, illegitimate pipelines. State attorneys general settled with the banks on this issue, although no one seems to have been prosecuted for these crimes and it’s done little to stem the foreclosure wave.
  • Predatory Lending. Low-income areas were targeted by rapacious brokers and bankers to sell mortgages and home-equity loans with high rates and fees to people who couldn’t afford them.

How much did all of this cost Americans? Again, there’s no reliable estimate, but when this massive house of cards came tumbling down at the end of 2008, trillions were lost. Wall Street and AIG insurance got a $700-billion-plus bailout and American homeowners are still down some $7 trillion in terms of lost equity, according to Robert Reich, an economist and former labor secretary.

While a handful of hedge fund gurus and contrarian investors won big on betting against this mammoth mortgage swindle, “Wall Street’s excesses almost ruined the economy,” Reich said. If the Federal Reserve, U.S. Treasury, Congress, George W. Bush and President Obama hadn’t teamed up to bail out the banks, this year would’ve been worse than 1932, instead of a sluggish 2012.

And the beat goes on as prosecutors dig through layers of the mortgage fraud. Here’s just a typical sampling of some recent activity from the FBI and federal prosecutors:

“A federal indictment charged 17 defendants in Charlotte, North Carolina, and elsewhere with racketeering, investment fraud, mortgage fraud, bank bribery, and money laundering. The government alleges a criminal enterprise engaged in an extensive pattern of racketeering activities, consisting of investment fraud, mortgage fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, and distribution of illegal drugs. Members of the enterprise also bribed bank officials and committed perjury before the grand jury. The co-conspirators stole more than $27 million from more than 50 investor victims. Rather than investing victims’ money as promised, the enterprise diverted victims’ money to finance its mortgage fraud operations and to support its members’ lifestyles.”

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I predicted that there are hundreds more mortgage frauds yet to be discovered and prosecuted. The states are finding them all the time, some four years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The larger problem is that the perpetrators are still at large and the system that allowed huge derivative gambles on mortgages is still in place. The mega-banks behind this devilish casino got larger, and still need to be broken up. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two quasi-public mortgage insurers that bought warehouses of bad mortgages, are still wards of the state. And foreclosures continue to ravage communities from California to Florida.

After what will certainly be one of the closest and contentious elections in decades, Congress needs to get to work to bust up hobbled giants like Bank and America and Citigroup. Then it needs to institute the Volcker rule to isolate speculation from federally insured banking activities or bring back Glass-Steagall, which completely separated trading from regulated lending as part of New Deal reforms.

A tax on speculative trading would also reduce systemic risk. I don’t care if banks gamble on their trading desks, but they shouldn’t do it expecting a big bailout on the taxpayers’ backs.

What can you do? You can report suspicious activity to your state attorney general or the Department of Justice, through its financial crimes site stopfraud.gov. You may not help the government land a big crook — they all seem to be enjoying their fat compensation packages in the Hamptons — but you could give prosecutors a leg up on shutting down an ongoing scam.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Seventeen Members of an Alleged North Carolina Racketeering Enterprise Indicted on Investment Fraud, Mortgage Fraud, and Related Charges

October 25, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on October 24, 2012 released the following:

“Fourteen Others to Plead Guilty on Related Charges; Total of 81 Defendants Have Been Charged to Date in Operation Wax House

CHARLOTTE, NC— A federal indictment charging 17 defendants in Charlotte and elsewhere with racketeering, investment fraud, mortgage fraud, bank bribery, and money laundering was unsealed today in U.S. District Court, announced the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina. Fourteen additional defendants have agreed to plead guilty in connection with the latest round of criminal charges resulting from Operation Wax House, a mortgage fraud investigation that began in the Western District of North Carolina in 2007.

Chris Briese, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Charlotte Division; Jeannine A. Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); and Elaine Marshall, North Carolina Secretary of State join the U.S. Attorney’s Office in making today’s announcement.

The federal racketeering indictment was returned by a federal grand jury sitting in Charlotte on July 26, 2012, but remained sealed until today. The indictment alleges that the 17 defendants and others were part of a criminal organization (the Enterprise) that operated principally in the cities of Charlotte and Waxhaw, North Carolina, and stole more than $75 million from investors and mortgage lenders. The indictment was unsealed following the arrests this week of 11 members of the Enterprise, including three of its leaders, James Tyson, Jr.; his mother, Carrie Tyson; and Victoria Hunt. James Tyson, Jr. was arrested on Sunday, October 21, 2012, at Washington Dulles International Airport upon arrival in the United States from a flight originating in Dakar, Senegal, which is Tyson’s last known residence.

The racketeering charges contained in the indictment are the result of Operation Wax House, an ongoing investigation into securities and mortgage fraud targeting communities in the Mecklenburg and Union Counties of North Carolina’s Western District. The investigation was conducted jointly by the FBI and IRS-CI, along with the North Carolina Secretary of State, Securities Division.

According to allegations contained in the unsealed indictment:

The Enterprise, which operated from about 2005 through the present, engaged in an extensive pattern of racketeering activities, consisting of investment fraud, mortgage fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, and distribution of illegal drugs. Members of the Enterprise also bribed bank officials and committed perjury before the grand jury. The co-conspirators targeted professional athletes and doctors as well as their personal and professional acquaintances and convinced them to invest in a series of sham corporations controlled by the Enterprise. The co-conspirators stole over $27 million from more than 50 investor victims, including money that the investor victims were induced to obtain as loans from financial institutions. Rather than investing victims’ money as promised, the Enterprise diverted victims’ money to finance its mortgage fraud operations and to support its members’ lifestyles. For example, members of the Enterprise used the stolen money to purchase luxury vehicles, take lavish vacations, organize extravagant dinners and parties, and invest in other sham businesses or investments. In addition, the conspirators made Ponzi-style payments to other victims.

The Enterprise’s mortgage fraud operations involved acquiring luxury homes in neighborhoods in Charlotte and Waxhaw. One member of the Enterprise would agree with a builder to purchase a property at the “true price.” The Enterprise would then arrange for a buyer to purchase the property at an inflated price. In most circumstances, the buyer would agree to purchase the property in his or her own name and sign whatever documents were necessary, in exchange for a hidden kickback. The builder would sell the property at the inflated price, the lender would make a mortgage loan on the basis of that inflated price, and the difference between the inflated price and the true price would be extracted at closing by the Enterprise.

The 17 defendants charged in today’s indictment and the 14 defendants who have agreed to plead guilty bring the total number of defendants charged to date in connection with Operation Wax Houseto to 81. Charged in the indictment are:

  • Ramin Amini, 44, of Tehran, Iran, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud, and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Leader and promoter in the scheme. Status: Fugitive.
  • Vonetta Tyson Barnes, 38, of Wahiawa, Hawaii, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud to defraud investors, and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Promoter. Status: Released following arrest and initial appearance.
  • Travis Bumpers, 36, of Charlotte, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, mortgage fraud, wire fraud to defraud investors, bank bribery, and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Promoter. Status: Fugitive.
  • Glynn Hubbard, 35, of Charlotte, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud, and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Promoter. Status: In federal custody, pending release on conditions, following arrest and initial appearance.
  • Victoria Hunt, 36, of Charlotte, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, mortgage fraud, wire fraud to defraud investors, and money laundering. Role: Leader and promoter. Status: Currently in federal custody pending detention hearing.
  • Toby Hunter, 37, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud to defraud investors, and money laundering. Role: Promoter. Status: Released following arrest and initial appearance.
  • Steven Jones, 44, of Waxhaw, is charged with securities fraud, wire fraud to defraud investors, and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Promoter. Status: Currently in federal custody pending detention hearing.
  • John McDowell, 40, of Dunn, North Carolina, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, mortgage fraud, wire fraud to defraud investors, and money laundering. Role: Promoter. Status: Arrest warrant issued.
  • Kurosh Mehr, 52, of Charlotte, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud, and money laundering. Role: Promoter and buyer. Status: Currently in federal custody pending detention hearing.
  • Ann Tyson Mitchell, 61, of Charlotte, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud, and money laundering. Role: Facilitator. Status: Released following arrest and initial appearance.
  • John Wayne Perry, Jr., 31, of Charlotte, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Promoter. Status: Released following arrest and initial appearance.
  • Donte Thorogood, 34, of Durham, North Carolina, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud, and money laundering. Role: Promoter. Status: To appear for an initial appearance pursuant to a summons.
  • Carrie Tyson, 58, of Winterville, North Carolina, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, mortgage fraud, wire fraud to defraud investors, and money laundering. Role: Leader and promoter. Status: Released following arrest and initial appearance.
  • James Tyson, Jr., 32, of Dakar, Senegal, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, mortgage fraud, wire fraud to defraud investors, bank bribery, and money laundering. Role: Leader and promoter. Status: Currently in federal custody pending detention hearing.
  • James Tyson, Sr., 61, of Charlotte, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud to defraud investors, and money laundering. Role: Promoter. Status: Currently in federal custody pending detention hearing.
  • Nathan Shane Wolf, 41, of Charlotte, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud and money laundering. Role: Real estate agent. Status: To appear for an initial appearance pursuant to a summons.
  • Purnell Wood, 41, of Palmyra, New Jersey, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud, and money laundering. Role: Promoter. Status: Arrest warrant issued.

Today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office also filed criminal bills of information and plea agreements against 14 other defendants who acted as mortgage brokers, real estate agents, straw buyers, and a home builder in the scheme. They acknowledge taking part in the mortgage fraud conspiracy and have agreed to plead guilty. They are:

  • Crystal Goodson-Hudson, 44, of Kannapolis, North Carolina, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Mortgage broker. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Shannon Lee (Somer Bey), 47, of Charlotte, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Real estate agent. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Robert Mahaney, 52, of Ridgeway, South Carolina, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Mortgage broker. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • George Moore, 44, of Charlotte, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy. Role: Buyer. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Kevin Smith, 46, of Oxford, North Carolina, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy. Role: Buyer. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Holly Pasut, 56, of Charlotte, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Real estate agent. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Danielle Vaughn, 34, of Greenbelt, Maryland, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Mortgage broker. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Mary Vaughn, 58, of Charlotte, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy. Role: Buyer. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Jamaine Wallace, 41, of Conyers, Georgia, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy. Role: Buyer. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Phillip Wellington, 46, of Charlotte, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Promoter. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • William Wellington, 30, of Amityville, New York, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy. Role: Buyer. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Marcia Williams, 36, of York, South Carolina, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Mortgage broker. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Sean Williams, 41, of Orangeburg, South Carolina, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Mortgage broker. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.
  • Mark, Wittig, 41, of Matthews, North Carolina, is charged with mortgage fraud conspiracy. Role: Builder. Status: To appear for initial appearance upon a summons.

The conspiracy to participate in the racketeering activities charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross profits or other proceeds. The securities fraud charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The bank fraud charge carries a maximum term of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The wire fraud charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine or twice the amount of criminally derived proceeds. The bank bribery conspiracy charge carries a maximum term of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. In addition, the guilty plea of any other person is not relevant to the guilt of any indicted person.

Operation Wax House in the Western District of North Carolina is being handled by the Charlotte Division of the FBI, the Criminal Division of the IRS for the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, and the Securities Division of the North Carolina Secretary of State. The prosecution for the government is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Kurt W. Meyers and Maria K. Vento and Special Assistant United States Attorney Kevin M. Harrington.

The President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch and, with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information on the task force, visit http://www.stopfraud.gov.

The names and case numbers of all the defendants charged to date in Operation Wax House are listed below, organized by their alleged role in the scheme.

Attorneys and Paralegals
Crawford/Mallard, Michelle 3:11cr374
Gates, Christine 3:09cr100
Norwood, Kelli, 3:09cr162
Rainer, Demetrius 3:08cr239/241
Smith, Troy, 3:08cr264

Bank Insiders
Brown, Jamilia, 3:10cr124
Eason, Danyelle, 3:10cr116
Henson, Vic. F., 3:10cr124
Jackson, Mitzi, 3:11cr374
Ramey, Bonnie Sue, 3:10cr124

Builders and Sellers
Fink, James, 3:11cr374
Jackson, Jennifer, 3:09cr241
Smith, Kelvis, 3:12cr238
Viegas, Jeffrey, 3:12cr298
Wittig, Mark, 3:12cr335
Wood, Gary, 3:09cr208

Facilitators and Financiers
Hickey, Denis, 3:09cr103
McClain, Landrick, 3:10cr124
Mitchell, Ann Tyson, 3:12cr239
Panayoton, Sherrill, 3:11cr176
Taylor, Alicia Renee, 3:10cr124
Wilson, Willard, 3:09cr161

Buyers
Banks, Arketa, 3:12cr297
Hillian, Kirk, 3:12cr83
Mathis, Charles, 3:10cr1
Mobley, Sarena, 3:10cr124
Moore, George, 3:12cr337
Richards, Dan, 3:10cr119
Smith, Kevin, 3:12cr341
Tyler, Glenna, 3:11cr200
Vaughn, Mary, 3:12cr329
Wallace, Jamaine, 3:12cr330
Wellington, William, 3:12cr333

Notary Public
Willis, Anthony, 3:09cr218

Appraiser
Darden, Clinton 3:10cr108

Mortgage Brokers
Bradley, Bonnette, 3:12cr299
Clarke, Linda, 3:10cr120
Flood, Ericka, 3:10cr124
Goodson-Hudson, Crystal, 3:12cr339
Mahaney, Robert, 3:12cr34-0
Scagliarini, Coley, 3:11cr374
Staton, Walter, 3:10cr113
Vaughn, Danielle, 3:12cr329
Williams, Marcia, 3:12cr334
Williams, Sean, 3:12cr336

Woods, Joseph, 3:09cr178

Real Estate Agents
Belin, Chris, 3:11cr374
Clark, Christina, 3:09cr44
Lee, Shannon, 3:12cr338
Pasut, Holly Hardy, 3:12cr331
Wolf, Nathan Shane, 3:12cr239
Wood, Gary, 3:09cr208

Promoters
Amini, Ramin, 3:12cr239
Barnes, Vonetta Tyson, 3:12cr239
Bumpers, Travis, 3:12cr239
Carr, Stephen, 3:10cr124
Clarke, Reuben, 3:10cr120
Coleman, Gregory, 3:10cr118
Hitchcock, Jimmy, 3:11cr374
Hubbard, Glynn, 3:12cr239
Hunt, Victoria, 3:12cr239
Hunter, Toby, 3:12cr239
Jones, Steven, 3:12cr239
Jones, Tyree, 3:10cr230
Marshall, Michael, 3:07cr283
McDowell, John, 3:12cr239
McPhaul, Elizabeth, 3:10cr114
Mehr, Kurosh, 3:12cr239
Mitchell, Ann Tyson, 3:12cr239
Perry, John Wayne, Jr., 3:12cr239
Perry, Kim, 3:10cr25
Phillips, Rick, 3:10cr115
Sharreff-El, Drew, 3:10cr124
Sherald, Kiki, 3:10cr117
Simmons, Aaron, 3:09cr240
Snead, Todd, 3:10cr124
Staton, Lisa, 3:10cr113
Thorogood, Donte, 3:12cr239
Tyson, Carrie, 3:12cr239
Tyson, James, Jr. 3:12cr239
Tyson, James, Sr., 3:12cr239
Wellington, Phillip, 3:12cr332
Wood, Purnell, 3:12cr239″

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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