Straw Buyer Admits Role in $40.8M Mortgage Scam

Allison Tussey —  August 17, 2011 — Leave a comment

Michael Williams, 33, Jersey City, New Jersey, admitted his role in a $40.8 million mortgage fraud conspiracy, serving as a “straw buyer” to cause a lender to release more than $632,000 based on a fraudulent mortgage loan application

Williams pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Joseph E. Irenas in Camden federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Williams served as a “straw buyer” for his co-conspirators to purchase premier real estate in a South Carolina vacation destination. Williams had a good credit score but lacked the financial resources to qualify for a mortgage loan to purchase the property. His co-conspirators caused a fraudulent mortgage loan application and supporting documents to be submitted to a mortgage lender in Williams‘ name, attributing to him inflated income and assets in order to induce the mortgage lender to approve the loan. Once the loan was approved and the mortgage lender sent the loan proceeds in connection with the real estate closing on the property, Williams‘ co-conspirators took a portion of the proceeds from the $632,100 fraudulent mortgage loan. Williams admitted that he agreed he would not make deposit payments, mortgage payments, or pay closing costs, and that he received $35,000 for his role.

Charles Harvath, 33, Lodi, N.J., and Stephen F. Corba, Jr., 35, Farmingdale, N.J., pleaded guilty on July 19 and August 3, 2011, respectively, to Informations charging them each with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Harvath, Corba, and their co-conspirators located distressed properties, recruited straw buyers, and created false documents in order to inflate the straw buyers’ qualifications as part of the scheme. Sentencing for Harvath is currently scheduled for October 25; sentencing for Corba is currently scheduled for November 4, 2011.

John Siuszko, 55, Wharton, N.J., also pleaded guilty on July 27, 2011, to an Information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Like Williams, Siuszko served as a straw buyer, causing a lender to release almost $980,000 based on a fraudulent mortgage loan application. Sentencing for Siuszko is currently scheduled for November 4, 2011.

The wire fraud conspiracy charge to which Williams pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. In addition, Williams agreed to forfeit $35,000, representing the amount of proceeds obtained as a result of the offense. Sentencing for Williams is currently scheduled for November 22, 2011.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced the guilty plea. 

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents from the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark; and special agents from IRS ““ Criminal Investigation in Mays Landing, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, with the ongoing investigation leading to the guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Stephen Stigall of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.

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Allison Tussey

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