Four Indicted in Alleged Mortgage Fraud Scheme

June 4, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on June 1, 2012 released the following:

“Defendants Allegedly Exploited Immigrant Straw Buyers to Defraud Multiple Banks

Four Seattle-area residents were arrested today on a 21-count indictment charging them with conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. The mortgage fraud scheme ran from 2006 to 2008 and defrauded more than 10 banks, financial institutions, and mortgage lenders of more than $8.6 million. More than 50 mortgages were involved on properties in a variety of communities around Puget Sound including Medina, Renton, South Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland. Jonathan Mendoza Martinez, 34, of Bellevue, Washington; his sister, Jazmin Villalba Martinez=, 30, of Seattle, Washington; Celia Perez Morales, 35, of Kirkland, Washington; and Jorge Castrejon Pichardo, 41, of Mountlake Terrace, Washington, made their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle today.

According to the indictment, three of the defendants worked at Emerald City Escrow and at Nationwide Home Mortgage and conspired to use straw buyers to defraud banks. The fourth defendant worked at a tax preparation business and provided some of the false documentation submitted with the loan applications. The conspirators submitted false financial, employment, and tax information to apply for residential mortgage loans. They falsely inflated the sale price of the properties. After the lenders funded the loans, the conspirators kept the excess proceeds, and the straw buyers quickly defaulted on the mortgages. The victim banks included Washington Mutual (now JPM Chase), Bank of America, American Sterling Bank, ING Bank, IndyMac Bank, and Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., among others. Documents in the scheme were submitted via mail and wire. In all, the defendants secured, or aided and abetted in securing, through unqualified buyers, at least 50 mortgage loans, representing approximately $22,396,660 in loan proceeds, based on false and fraudulent representations, resulting in a loss to financial institutions and mortgage lenders totaling approximately $8,672,330.

Each count in the indictment is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mike Lang and James Oesterle.”

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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.


50 Individuals Charged in Puerto Rico with Allegedly Trafficking Identities of Puerto Rican Us Citizens

January 12, 2012

The U.S. Department of Justice on January 11, 2012 released the following:

“WASHINGTON – Fifty individuals were charged in an indictment unsealed today in Puerto Rico with conspiracy to commit identification fraud in connection with their alleged roles in a scheme to traffic the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents.

The charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Rosa E. Rodríguez-Vélez for the District of Puerto Rico; Director John Morton of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); Scott P. Bultrowicz, Director of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service; and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Acting Chief Rick Raven.

The one-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on Dec. 29, 2011, and unsealed today. Defendants were arrested today in multiple districts throughout the United States and Puerto Rico and will make initial appearances in federal court in the districts in which they were arrested. In addition, law enforcement agents executed searches as part of an ongoing investigation.

“The indictment unsealed today alleges that from April 2009 to December 2011, the defendants operated an extensive black market, identity fraud ring,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The alleged conspiracy stretched across the United States and Puerto Rico, using suppliers, identity brokers and mail and money runners to fill and deliver orders for the personal identifying information and government-issued identity documents of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens. Those willing to buy and sell personal identifying information and documents should take notice of today’s actions. The department and our law enforcement partners will not allow this kind of illegal activity to continue.”

“Today’s arrests are a reflection of ICE Homeland Security Investigations unrelenting determination to identify and dismantle national smuggling rings engaged in document and identity fraud,” said ICE Director John Morton. “The conspiracy alleged to be perpetrated by those charged undermines the integrity of our national immigration system. We will continue working with our federal partners to protect our homeland from criminals who have no regard for our nation’s safety and security.”

According to the indictment, from at least April 2009 to December 2011, conspirators in 15 states and Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, trafficked the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens, corresponding Social Security cards, Puerto Rico birth certificates and other identification documents to undocumented aliens and others residing in the United States.

The indictment alleges that conspirators located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico, (Savarona suppliers) obtained the Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Conspirators in various locations throughout the United States (identity brokers) solicited customers. The identity brokers allegedly sold Social Security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $700 to $2,500 per set. The indictment alleges that identity brokers ordered the identity documents from Savarona suppliers, on behalf of the customers, by making coded telephone calls, including using terms such as “shirts,” “uniforms” or “clothes,” to refer to identity documents. Specifically, the brokers asked for “skirts” for female customers and “pants” for male customers in various “sizes,” which referred to the ages of the identities sought by the customers.

According to the indictment, the Savarona suppliers generally requested that customers’ initial payments be sent by the identity brokers through a money transfer service to persons whose names were provided by the Savarona suppliers. Savarona suppliers allegedly retrieved the payments from the money transfer service and then sent the identity documents to the brokers using express, priority or regular U.S. mail. The indictment alleges that various conspirators sent or received money and mail parcels. The conspirators frequently confirmed sender names and addresses, money transfer control numbers and trafficked identities via text messaging.

According to the indictment, once the identity brokers received the identity documents, they delivered the documents to the customers and obtained second payments. The brokers generally kept the second payments for themselves as profit. Some identity brokers allegedly assumed a Puerto Rican identity themselves and used that identity in connection with the trafficking operation.

As alleged in the indictment, the customers generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver’s licenses. Some customers allegedly obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport.

“From Main Street to Wall Street, identity fraud exacts a devastating toll on American consumers and businesses. U.S. Postal Inspectors will continue to aggressively investigate criminals who use the mail to defraud postal customers,” said Chief Postal Inspector Cottrell.

“The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate and bring to justice those who commit document trafficking and identity fraud,” said Director Bultrowicz of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. “Fraudulently-obtained documents are frequently used to apply for U.S. passports and visas, two of the most coveted travel documents in the world.”

“IRS Criminal Investigation has made investigating identity theft a top priority,” said Acting Chief Raven of the IRS-CI. “We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to unravel the money trail of criminal enterprises that defraud government and prey on unwitting victims.”

The indictment alleges that various identity brokers were operating in Rockford, Ill.; Indianapolis; DeKalb, Ill.; Columbus and Seymour, Ind.; Aurora, Ill.; Hartford, Conn.; Clewiston, Fla.; Lilburn and Norcross, Ga.; Salisbury, Md.; Columbus, Ohio; Fairfield, Ohio; Dorchester, Mass.; Lawrence, Mass.; Salem, Mass.; Worcester, Mass.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Nebraska City, Neb.; Elizabeth, N.J.; Burlington, N.C.; Hickory, N.C.; Hazelton, Pa.; Philadelphia; Houston; and Abingdon, Va.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as forfeiture.

The charges announced today are the result of Operation Island Express, an ongoing, nationally-coordinated investigation led by the ICE-HSI Chicago Office and USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI offices in Chicago, in coordination with the ICE-HSI San Juan Office. The Illinois Secretary of State Police; Elgin, Ill., Police Department; Seymour, Ind., Police Department; and Indiana State Police provided substantial assistance. The ICE-HSI Assistant Attaché office in the Dominican Republic, National Drug Intelligence Center – Document and Media Exploitation Branch and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) provided invaluable assistance as well as various ICE, USPIS, DSS and IRS CI offices around the country.

The case is being prosecuted by the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, with the assistance of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, and the support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Northern District of Illinois, Southern District of Indiana and District of Connecticut provided substantial assistance. The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in the Middle District of Florida, Southern District of Florida, Northern District of Georgia, Western District of Kentucky, District of Maryland, District of Massachusetts, Western District of Michigan, District of Nebraska, District of New Jersey, Western District of North Carolina, Southern District of Ohio, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Middle District of Pennsylvania, Southern District of Texas, Eastern District of Virginia, Southern District of Illinois, Western District of Texas, Middle District of Louisiana and Western District of Virginia also provided invaluable support.

A website will be established to provide information about the case to potential victims and the public. Anyone who believes their identity may have been compromised in relation to this investigation may contact the ICE toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) and its online tip form at http://www.ice.gov/tipline. Anyone who may have information about particular crimes in this case should also report it to the ICE tip line or website.

Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of identity theft, or wants information about preventing identity theft, may obtain helpful information and complaint forms on various government websites including the Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Website, http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft. Additional resources regarding identity theft can be found at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/pubs/ID_theft/idtheft.html; http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.html ; http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber/identity_theft; and http://www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html.

An indictment is merely a formal accusation. Defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.”

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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

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch 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 and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

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


C. Tate George, Former NBA Basketball Player and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The George Group, Charged in a Criminal Complaint with Allegedly Committing Wire Fraud

September 24, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on September 23, 2011 released the following:

“Former NBA Player and CEO of The George Group Charged in Ponzi Scheme

NEWARK, NJ— C. Tate George, former NBA basketball player and the chief executive officer (CEO) of purported real estate development firm The George Group, surrendered this morning to federal authorities for allegedly orchestrating a more than $2 million investment fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

George, 43, of Newark, surrendered in Newark to special agents of the FBI and postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) on a criminal complaint charging him with one count of wire fraud. He is scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz in Newark federal court.

According to the criminal complaint unsealed today:

George, who once played for the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, held himself out as the CEO of The George Group, claiming to have more than $500 million in assets under management. George pitched prospective investors, including several former professional athletes, to invest with the firm. George represented to these prospective investors that their money would be used to fund The George Group’s purchase and development of real estate development projects, including projects in Florida, Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey. George represented to some prospective investors that their funds would be held in an attorney escrow account and personally guaranteed the return of their investments, with interest.

Based on George’s representations, investors invested more than $2 million in The George Group between 2005 and March 2011, which he deposited in both the firm’s and his personal bank account. Instead of using investments to fund real estate development projects as promised, George used the money from new investors to pay existing investors in Ponzi scheme fashion. He also used some of the money for home improvement projects, meals at restaurants, clothing and gas. In reality, The George Group had virtually no income generating operations.

If convicted, George faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, and postal inspectors of the USPIS, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett, for their work in the continuing investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Kelly of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

The charge and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

If you believe you are a victim of or otherwise have information concerning this alleged scheme, you are encouraged to contact the FBI at 973-792-3000.

This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The 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.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch 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 and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

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

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