Lillian Marquez, 41, Stockton, California was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez to three years and one month in prison for conspiring to commit mortgage fraud.

Marquez pleaded guilty on June 14, 2016. On September 20, 2016, co-defendant Michael Keatts, 59, Stockton, California was also sentenced to three years and one month in prison for his role in the conspiracy. Both Marquez and Keatts were ordered to pay $193,134 in restitution to financial institutions harmed by their scheme.

According to court documents, from February of 2006, through at least August of 2012, Marquez and Keatts operated Colonial Home and Business Services in Stockton, California. Both defendants were licensed real estate agents who assisted clients in purchasing and selling homes. They both participated in supplying false information to mortgage lending institutions indicating that clients were employed by various businesses that the defendants set up and controlled. In fact, these clients were not employed by those businesses and their actual income from their true employment was far less than what was represented to lending institutions. To support these false claims, the defendants created and submitted fraudulent paystubs and tax documents falsely stating that their clients were so employed.

In addition, both defendants engaged in short sale fraud, in which they assisted clients facing default on their current loans to arrange for short sales of their properties. Unbeknownst to the lending institutions, the defendants arranged for the properties to be sold to straw buyers. The original owners would remain in the properties, and enjoy the benefits of the new loans that the lenders assumed were made to other individuals.

Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced the sentence.  The case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Assistant United States Attorney Philip Ferrari prosecuted the case.

Kowit Yuktanon, also known as “Eric Cannon” and “Aaron Brock,” 32, Huntington Beach, California, and Cuong Huy King, also known as “James Nolan” and “Jimmy“, 32, Westminster, California, have each been sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to 18 months of imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release, for participating in an extensive mortgage loan modification scheme.  Judge Underhill also ordered both defendants to pay restitution in the amount of $2,390,496.59.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Yuktanon and King worked at a California-based company that falsely purported to provide home mortgage loan modifications and other consumer debt relief services to numerous homeowners in Connecticut and across the United States in exchange for upfront fees.  The company did business, at various times, as “First Choice Financial Group, Inc.,”  “First Choice Financial,” “First Choice Debt,” “Legal Modification Firm,” “National Freedom Group,” “Home Care Alliance Group,” “Home Protection Firm,” “Hardship Center,” “Network Solutions Center, Inc.,” “Premiere Financial Center,” “Premiere Financial,” “Rescue Firm,” “International Research Group LLC,” “Hardship Solutions,” “American Loan Center,” “Loan Retention Firm,” “Clear Vision Financial,” “Green Tree Financial Group,” “Green Tree Financial,” “Enigma Fund, Inc.,” “National Aid Group,” “Southern Chapman Group LLC,” “Save Point Financial,” “Best Rate Financial Solutions,” “Best Rate Financial Solution,” “Best Rate Financial,” “Best Rate Finance Group,” and “Nation Star Financial.”

Aria Maleki presided over the entire structure of this scheme, and Yuktanon and King were junior members of the sales team.  Acting as representatives of the above-named entities, Yuktanon, King and others cold-called homeowners and offered to provide mortgage loan modification services to those who were having difficulty repaying their home mortgage loans.  The defendants charged homeowners fees that typically ranged from approximately $2,500 to $4,300 for their services.  To induce homeowners to pay these fees, the defendants falsely represented that the homeowners already had been approved for mortgage loan modifications on extremely favorable terms; the mortgage loan modifications already had been negotiated with the homeowners’ lenders; the homeowners qualified for and would receive financial assistance under various government mortgage relief programs, including the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the Home Affordable Modification Program; and if for some reason the mortgage loan modifications fell through, the homeowners would be entitled to a full refund of their fees.

In fact, the homeowners had not been preapproved for mortgage loan modifications with lenders, mortgage loan modifications had not been negotiated with the lenders, homeowners had not qualified for and did not receive any financial assistance through government mortgage relief programs, and homeowners did not receive a refund of their fees upon request.  Few homeowners ever received any type of mortgage loan modification through the defendants’ company, and few homeowners received refunds of their fees.

Participants in the scheme used pseudonyms and periodically changed their business and operating names to evade detection.  The defendants also directed homeowners to mail their checks to addresses and mail boxes that Maleki and others had set up in states other than California.

As a result of this scheme, more than 1,000 homeowners suffered losses totaling more than $3 million.

On January 21, 2016, a grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging Maleki, Yuktanon, King and four other California residents with conspiracy and fraud offenses related to this scheme.  The defendants were arrested on January 26.

YUKATANON and KING each pleaded guilty to one count of misprision of a felony.

Maleki pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and, on July 18, 2016, he was sentenced to 112 months of imprisonment.  He also forfeited approximately $350,000 that investigators seized from various bank accounts, approximately $362,000 sized from a Bitcoin account, a $100,000 cashier’s check, and a 2013 Ferrari 458 Italia.

The sentence was announced by Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.  The matter was been investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Avi M. Perry.

Victor Cuevas, 52, Bristol, Connecticut, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer in New Haven to one year of probation and a $1,000 fine for conspiring with others to commit bank fraud in connection with his home mortgage loan applications.

According to court documents and statements made in court, in the summer of 2013, Cuevas, a City of Waterbury employee and, at that time, the state representative for the 75th District, wanted to purchase a residence in Bristol with a Federal Housing Administration (“FHA”) loan.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides mortgage insurance on loans made through its FHA program and mortgages offered through the program are subject to certain restrictions, including restrictions on the funds that may be used to purchase properties.

Cuevas, with the assistance of others, represented to the mortgage bank that he was using gifted funds to purchase the property when, in fact, the money was not gifted but was instead loaned to Cuevas for the purpose of purchasing the property.

Specifically, Cuevas first represented to the mortgage bank that an individual who he identified as his nephew but, in fact, was a subordinate employee from the City of Waterbury, was providing him with cash to purchase the property as a gift.  When the mortgage lender asked for the “nephew’s” bank account statements to prove that he had the money to gift to Cuevas, Cuevas withdrew the mortgage application.  A few weeks later, Cuevas had a different Waterbury employee, who Cuevas identified as his “cousin,” “gift” him the $7,000.  Both individuals signed a HUD statement under oath that the funds were, indeed, a “gift” and that no repayment of the monies was expected.  However, as soon as the mortgage closed, Cuevas re-paid the employee the $7,000.

On June 20, 2016, Cuevas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Cuevas resigned from the Connecticut General Assembly in March 2016.

The sentence was announced by Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.  The matter was investigated by the Connecticut Public Corruption Task Force, notably the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The Task Force also includes members from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Karwan.


The U.S. Attorney’s Office has reached a $1,025,000 civil settlement with First American Mortgage Trust, d/b/a, a small mortgage lender based in Brighton, Massachusetts, and its founder and CEO, Barry S. Polack, in connection with allegations that they submitted false insurance claims on mortgages insured by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

The settlement resolves allegations that, at Polack’s direction, ignored FHA’s due diligence requirements and falsely certified that loans qualified for FHA insurance when they did not.  The settlement also resolves allegations that Polack falsely certified to FHA that complied with quality control requirements and failed to report known loan defects.

“This settlement is another example of the government’s efforts to hold mortgage lenders and individuals accountable for fraudulent underwriting of government-insured mortgages,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz.  “In order to obtain HUD insurance, certified that its loans complied with HUD’s quality standards while ignoring defects that made the loans ineligible for FHA insurance.”

“This settlement agreement resolves allegations that First American Mortgage Trust, entrusted by American taxpayers to comply with FHA regulations, failed to conform with certain FHA requirements in connection with submission of insurance claims insured by FHA,” said Inspector General David A. Montoya for HUD.  “This settlement demonstrates a continued commitment to address business practices that potentially harm the FHA program and its participants.”

“We will not tolerate the reckless disregard for FHA’s underwriting standards,” said Tonya Robinson, Acting General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  “FHA’s insurance fund, and the millions of families who rely upon it, depend on the good faith and integrity of the mortgage lenders with whom we do business.  We will continue to work aggressively to weed out participants in the FHA program who purposefully fail to meet our most basic requirements.”

“This settlement is the latest example of our continued work of holding FHA Direct Endorsement Lenders accountable for adhering to strict underwriting standards,” said Christina Scaringi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, Northeast Regional Office.  “I am thankful for the cooperation between my office and the Department of Justice and am especially appreciative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s perseverance in bringing this matter to a fair and just resolution.” and Polack participated as a direct endorsement lender (DEL) in the FHA insurance program.  A DEL has the authority to originate, underwrite and approve mortgage loans for FHA insurance.  If a DEL approves a mortgage loan for FHA insurance and the loan later defaults, the holder of the loan may submit an insurance claim to HUD, FHA’s parent agency, for the losses resulting from the defaulted loan.  DELs are therefore required to follow program rules designed to ensure that they are properly underwriting and certifying mortgages for FHA insurance; to maintain a quality control program that can prevent and correct deficiencies in their underwriting practices; and to self-report any deficient loans identified by their quality control program.

As part of the settlement, and Polack admitted that on certain occasions between 2005 and 2011, did not conduct the due diligence required by FHA, and as a result, some loans did not meet FHA’s quality standards and were ineligible for FHA insurance.  Nevertheless, underwriters, supervised by Polack, certified those loans for FHA insurance.  When those loans defaulted, FHA paid insurance claims on loans that never should have been FHA insured.  In addition,, at times, did not conduct post-closing loan audits, even though Polack certified annually to FHA that had complied with FHA underwriting requirements.  When began conducting audits on closed loans, and Polack did not report to FHA any serious issues identified by the audits.

The settlement took into consideration’s and Polack’s financial circumstances and recent improvements to’s business practices.

This matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of General Counsel.  It was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian LaMacchia of Ortiz’s Civil Division.

Barry E. Horrow was charged by information in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with four counts of bank fraud and one count of aiding and abetting.

The information alleges that Horrow was a CPA who owned and operated Horrow and Associates, first in Delaware County and then in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  From January 2005 through March 2013, George Barnard and David Fili, Jr. (both of whom were charged separately), began operating Capital Financial Mortgage Corp (“CFMC”) first as a mortgage brokerage and later as a direct mortgage lender.  Barnard also had a direct or indirect ownership interest in various title companies, including PA/NJ Abstract, Inc. dba East Coast Land Transfer, PANJ Land Transfer LLC, Tri-State Land Transfer LLC, Nationwide Land Transfer LLC, Atlantic Closing Services LLC and Gulf Coast Land Transfer Inc. CFMC and the title companies were clients of Horrow and Horrow prepared financial statements and the personal tax returns of Barnard and the corporate tax returns of CFMC and the title companies. The financial statements Horrow prepared for Barnard and CFMC were false. Horrow purported to conduct audits of CFMC and issued audit reports that he knew were being submitted to lenders to help secure loans for CFMC and Barnard when, in fact, he did not conduct any true audits and knew the audit reports were false.

The information further alleges that, in order to qualify for a loans to purchase homes at 221 65th Street, Avalon, New Jersey, 39 E. 25th Street, Avalon, New Jersey, and 670 First Avenue, Avalon, New Jersey, Barnard prepared and submitted various documents, including documents Barnard knew were false, in order to falsely inflate his income and cause the bank to believe his cash flow and net worth were greater than they were. The false documents included false tax returns prepared by Horrow.

Michael Johnson, 56, Odessa, Florida, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for embezzlement and misapplication of funds. As part of his sentence, the Court also entered a money judgment in the amount of $152,783, the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct.  Johnson was adjudicated guilty on July 8, 2016.

According to the plea agreement and court proceedings, Johnson was employed as a Senior Vice President/Special Assets Officer at American Momentum Bank, an FDIC insured institution that was a member bank of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas. In this capacity, he was responsible for marketing and selling bank-owned properties to investors in order to remove these troubled assets from American Momentum Bank’s balance sheet. Johnson signed the closing documents, including the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, on behalf of American Momentum Bank.

Beginning around June 2012, and continuing through November 2014, Johnson devised a scheme to misapply and embezzle funds provided by American Momentum Bank. After the sale of bank-owned property had been approved by American Momentum Bank, Johnson set up closings with real estate settlement agents. Johnson then contacted the settlement agents and ordered additions and/or changes to the disbursement side of the HUD-1. After closing, funds from American Momentum were misapplied by directing checks to be written or the wiring of funds to bank accounts that were controlled by Johnson’s family members.

Johnson was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore. This case was investigated by the Unites States Secret Service, the Tampa Police Department, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

Rebecca Gheiler, 49, Miami, Florida, was indicted and charged with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud and six counts of bank fraud.

According to the indictment, Tribute Residential, LLC (“Tribute”), which was controlled by Gheiler, owned and sold condominium communities.  To entice buyers to purchase condominium units in these communities, Gheiler developed a program of incentives.  As part of this program, buyers were promised that Tribute would pay the mortgage and homeowners’ association dues during the buyer’s first two years of occupancy.  Other incentives developed and paid for by Gheiler included upfront cash to close and/or kickbacks to buyers after closing.  During each transaction, the HUD-1 Settlement Statement, signed by Gheiler as the seller, contained falsified information regarding the terms of each transaction, including the actual down payment amount paid by the buyer. In order to conceal the incentives from the mortgage lenders, Gheiler directed her co-conspirator, Angel Garcia-Oliver, to form companies that received monies from Tribute that were eventually paid to buyers and entities controlled by other co-conspirators.

If convicted, Gheiler faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison on each count.  The indictment also notifies Gheiler that the United States is seeking a forfeiture money judgment.

Garcia-Oliver previously pleaded guilty for his role in this case. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for January 9, 2017.

United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announced the indictment. The case was investigated by Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vincent Chiu and Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

Marek Harrison, 53, Plant City, Florida, Brian Allard,45, Seminole, Florida, and Scot Rounds, 44, Winter Garden, Florida were indicted and charged with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

According to the indictment, Harrison and Allard created and executed a mortgage fraud scheme involving Saratoga Resort Villas, a condo conversion of a former hotel located in Kissimmee, Florida.  The scheme involved kickbacks of mortgage proceeds to buyers and co-conspirators and misrepresentations regarding the source of down payment funds.  None of the incentives and kickbacks were disclosed to the mortgage lenders.  Harrison and Allard recruited the buyers and found individuals to front down payment money for those buyers.  Rounds, a mortgage broker, brokered the loans for the transactions, recruited straw purchasers, and distributed kickbacks to buyers.

If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison on each count.  The indictment also notifies the defendants that the United States is seeking a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct.

The case was investigated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General.  It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor and Assistant United States Attorney Vincent Chiu.

John Vescera, 60, Dana Point, California, was to 12 months and one day of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for false advertising and misusing a government seal in connection with the provision of mortgage modification services. On May 3, 2016, Vescera pleaded guilty to one count of misuse of a government seal and one count of false advertising.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Vescera was the President of First One Lending Corporation (“First One”) in San Juan Capistrano, California.  During the peak of the national mortgage crisis, Vescera and First One offered home mortgage loan modification assistance to homeowners across the United States, including in Connecticut, who were having difficulty repaying their mortgage loans.

From approximately February 2010 until approximately February 2012, Vescera and First One solicited clients through television advertisements and infomercials produced by National Media Connection of New London, Connecticut.  These advertisements touted the mortgage modification services of an entity known as the National Mortgage Help Center (“NMHC”).

Matthew Goldreich, of East Lyme, Connecticut, had incorporated NMHC approximately two months after the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it would partner with financial institutions to reduce struggling homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments through a program called the Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”).  HAMP consisted of a number of incentives to encourage homeowners and financial institutions to modify existing loans on owner-occupied primary residences in order to help keep these properties out of foreclosure.

NMHC advertisements misrepresented NMHC as being affiliated with or regulated by the U.S. government and falsely stated that NMHC “help[ed] thousands of homeowners every day.”  When viewers called the advertised telephone number, they were connected not to NMHC, which operated only as a front and did not provide mortgage modification services for any homeowners, but to clients of National Media Connection, including First One.

Vescera and First One used NMHC’s name and logo in First One’s promotional materials, application package and other documents.  Vescera also instructed First One employees to introduce themselves to prospective clients as “with the National Mortgage Help Center.”

First One also misrepresented its status with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).  First One employees were instructed to inform homeowners that “[w]e’re a HUD approved lender and we represent the government loan modification programs.”  In addition, certain of First One’s forms claimed that the company provided “HUD . . . Housing Counseling assistance” and bore HUD’s seal.  In truth, First One had no affiliation with the government mortgage loan assistance programs and was not licensed or approved by HUD for housing counseling or home mortgage loan modification services.

Through this scheme, 302 victims lost a total of $374,622.  Many of these victims were previously compensated after Vescera and First One paid approximately $1.5 million to the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America in March 2013 to resolve a federal lawsuit in the Central District of California.  As part of this criminal case, Vescera paid restitution of $30,320 to 24 of the victims who were not identified at the time the federal lawsuit was settled.

Goldreich previously pleaded guilty to one count of false advertising.  On November 5, 2015, he was sentenced to two years of probation, including three months of home confinement.  He also was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine and $75,794 in restitution.

Vescera was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in New Haven, Connecticut.  Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut announced the sentence. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Avi Perry and Liam Brennan.

Alexander and Sima March fled to Canada after their 2011 indictment on mortgage fraud charges.

Source: Syracuse couple on the run for five years arrested in mortgage fraud case |