Eve Mazzarella, 34, San Diego, California, Steven Grimm, 49, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Melissa Beecroft, 32, Las Vegas, Nevada, three former real estate industry professionals, were sentenced to federal prison terms for their involvement in a Las Vegas mortgage fraud scheme that caused over $52 million in losses to federally-insured banks.
Mazzarella was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Her ex-husband, Grimm, was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and Beecroft was sentenced to three years in prison. All three were also ordered to pay approximately $2.3 million in restitution. Mazzarella and Beecroft were permitted to self-report to federal prison by June 29 and June 15, 2012, respectively; Grimm was remanded to custody.
Mazzarella, Grimm, and Beecroft were convicted of conspiracy and fraud charges in December 2011, following a 37-day jury trial. Eight other defendants charged in the scheme pleaded guilty before trial.
The evidence presented by the government at trial indicated that Eve Mazzarella and her husband Steven Grimm controlled and operated numerous Nevada limited-liability companies that conducted business in Las Vegas. Melissa Beecroft was resident agent and manager of Secured Mortgage Services, LLC, also registered in Nevada.
The object of the conspiracy was to obtain money and property by causing false information to be placed in the mortgage loan applications of straw buyers. A straw buyer is an individual who allows residential real estate to be purchased in his or her name. It is alleged that the straw buyers were paid to participate in the conspiracy. After the mortgage loans were funded, defendants Grimm and Mazzarella caused title and escrow companies to disperse a portion of each loan to one of their limited liability companies, and caused mortgage brokers, loan officers and others to remit a portion of their commissions and fees to Grimm and Mazzarella.
Once Grimm and Mazarrella obtained control over a property, they re-sold the same property to another straw buyer at an inflated price. Grimm and Mazzarella also concealed receipt of the monies they obtained through this scheme by causing disbursements to be made to shell companies under their control and by moving money between multiple accounts. Beecroft assisted in the scheme as a mortgage broker, loan officer and loan processor on the majority of the fraudulent mortgage loan transactions.
Grimm and Mazarrella engaged in approximately 450 straw buyer transactions involving approximately 227 properties with a total purchase price of over $107 million. Grimm and Mazzarella defaulted on mortgage payments on many of the loans which caused the properties to go into foreclosure. Almost all of the 227 properties purchased by the defendants are in default causing losses to the banks estimated at more than $52 million.
Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada, announced the sentences.
“Over 200 Las Vegas properties valued at over $107 million were fraudulently purchased in this case,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden. “The losses to the banks were over $52 million. This is the greatest number of properties and largest loss amount of any mortgage fraud case charged in Nevada. Ms. Mazzarella, Mr. Grimm, and Ms. Beecroft, will now join the over 140 other persons who have been convicted of mortgage fraud offenses in Nevada over the last four years and are serving time in federal prison.”
The investigation was conducted by the FBI with the assistance of the members of the Southern Nevada Mortgage Fraud Task Force, including the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, Office of the Inspector General for the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the United States Secret Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Brian Pugh and Sarah Griswold.