James Ragnauth, Beaumont, Texas, a defendant charged in a mortgage fraud case, who was on the run for about six weeks and apprehended on a shrimp boat in the Caribbean Sea by the U.S. Coast Guard in March 2009, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater to 37 months in federal prison. Judge Fitzwater also ordered Ragnauth to pay approximately $205,000 in restitution.
Ragnauth pleaded guilty in September 2009 to one count of causing false entries to deceive the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). According to the indictment, Ragnauth incorporated J.R. Mortgage, located in Dallas, Texas and was in charge of the company’s day-to-day loan operations and supervised several loan officers, including co-defendant Rosa Irene Galvan and Ignacio Juan Jasso, charged in a related case.
Ragnauth admitted in documents filed in court that in 1997 and 1998, he and loan officer Jasso knowingly and willfully made false entries in HUD statements in connection with several residential loans. As part of their scheme to defraud HUD, Ragnauth and Jasso created, and caused others to create and later submit to HUD, several false and fraudulent documents, such as a Uniform Residential Loan Application which contained false information, a fraudulent W-2 form and a fraudulent credit report. At the sentencing hearing, Ragnauth was found to be the organizer leader of a mortgage fraud scheme that caused the fraudulent funding of 30 residential loans, totaling more than $1.8 million.
Both Galvan and Jasso have pleaded guilty to their roles and are scheduled to be sentenced on February 26, 2010.
While Ragnauth was a fugitive in the Beaumont,Texas area, the U.S. Marshals Service in Beaumont, Texas, featured Ragnauth’s photo on local newscasts along with information that he might be leaving the U.S. on a boat from Port Arthur, Texas. Ragnauth, a naturalized citizen, was captured by the U.S. Coast Guard when he was attempting to flee to his native Guyana. Guyana is located just east of Venezuela on the northern coast of South America. Ragnauth made it about half way to Guyana, being arrested in international waters between Cuba and Haiti.
The case was investigated by the FBI and HUD-Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jarvis was in charge of the prosecution.