13 More Charged in California Straw Buyer Scheme

Allison Tussey —  November 23, 2011 — Leave a comment

Thirteen additional defendants were charged in two separate indictments in the Vera Kuzmenko mortgage fraud investigation in California.  The current indictments bring the total charged in this investigation to twenty-three.  The two most recent indictments involve some of the straw buyers that participated in the scheme.

In an indictment returned Thursday, November 3, 2011, a federal grand jury charged the following defendants with mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering:  Zhora Darmoyan, 44, Rancho Cordova, California; Kristine Atoyan, 32, Sacramento, California; Marat Galoyan, 26, Sacramento; and Martin Atoyan, 46, Rancho Cordova. 

All of the defendants are related by blood or marriage to each other and to Vanik Atoyan, who was charged in the original Kuzmenko indictment. 

According to the indictment, each of the defendants submitted fraudulent loan documents for the purchase of residential properties between August 2006 and March 2007.  In total, the defendants were responsible for the origination of over $3.3 million in residential mortgage loans.  None of the defendants ever intended to reside in the properties and quickly defaulted on their respective loans, resulting in foreclosure and a total loss to lenders of over $1.5 million.

According to the indictment, in order to qualify for these homes, defendant Vera Kuzmenko prepared loan applications containing materially false information as to the straw buyers’ income, employment, assets and liabilities, and intent to occupy the residences, and defendant Aaron New, a licensed real estate broker, presented the fraudulent applications to lending institutions.

A federal grand jury also charged the following additional defendants with mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering: Irina Markevich, 26, Rio Linda, California; Alex Markevich, 36, Rio Linda; Anatoliy Markevich, 32, Sacramento; Daniil Markevich, 34, Escondido, California, Svetlana Markevich, 34, Escondido; Natalya Markvich, 35, West Sacramento; Daniil Piglitsin, 31, Sacramento; Sergey Pukhkan, 50, Rio Linda; and Marina Pukhkan, 49, Rio Linda.  All of the defendants are related by blood or marriage to one another and to Veniamen Markevich, who was charged in the original Kuzmenko indictment. 

According to the indictment, each of the defendants submitted fraudulent loan documents for the purchase of residential properties between February 2007 and March 2008.  The defendants were responsible for the origination of over $7.9 million in residential mortgage loans. None of the defendants ever intended to reside in the properties and quickly defaulted on their respective loans, resulting in foreclosure and a total loss to lenders of over $4.9 million.  

According to the indictment, in order to qualify for these homes, defendant Vera Kuzmenko prepared loan applications containing materially false information as to the straw buyers’ income, employment, assets and liabilities, and intent to occupy the residences, and defendant Aaron New presented the fraudulent applications to lending institutions.

The twenty-three defendants charged to date in the Kuzmenko investigation were responsible for originating more than $27.1 million in residential mortgage loans on 39 homes purchased through straw buyers. All of the homes went into foreclosure, causing losses of approximately $15.9 million.

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced the charges.

The case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Steven Lapham is prosecuting the case.

The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This law enforcement action is part of the work being done by 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. One component of the FFETF is the national Mortgage Fraud Working Group, co-chaired by U.S. Attorney Wagner, which is tasked with combating mortgage fraud schemes. For more information on the task force, visit StopFraud.gov.

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Allison Tussey

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