Seven individuals were charged in a federal criminal complaint in connection with an extensive multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme:
Ronnie Edward Duke, 43, Fenton, NJ; William Camsell Wells, III, 39, Howell, NJ; Wilinevah Richardson, 32, Rochester Hills, NJ; Ryan Andrew Zundel, 36, Belleville, NJ; Robert Charles Brierley, 43, New Boston, NJ; Nicole Lynn Turcheck, 31, Gibraltar, NJ; and Anthony Edward Peters, 72, Belleville, NJ. The complaint charges the defendants with one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud. A conviction for this offense carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and an order of restitution.
According to the complaint, the defendants conspired among themselves and with others to engage and participate in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders and obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses and representations. The scheme lasted for close to four years, ending in July 2007 when the FBI executed seven search warrants in metropolitan Detroit and Cape Coral, Florida. The complaint affidavit alleges that the scheme involved over 500 fraudulent mortgage loans, over 100 straw buyers, and approximately 180 different residential properties in metropolitan Detroit, Michigan that were used as-or falsely represented to mortgage lenders to be-the collateral for the loans, most of which went into default and were foreclosed on. The loans ranged in size from roughly $350,000 to $600,000. Losses to the lenders resulting from the scheme are expected to exceed $100 million.
The defendants are alleged to have participated in obtaining both “real” loans and “ghost” loans. The “real” loans were used to purchase and then control residential properties. The related warranty deeds and mortgages were properly recorded at county registers of deeds. The “ghost” loans were used to obtain additional funds from mortgage lenders. The home sales that the “ghost” loans were supposed to finance were nothing but sham transactions, purporting to be secured by the residential properties purchased with the “real” loans, according to the complaint. The warranty deeds and mortgages associated with the “ghost” loans were not recorded, and the lenders were completely unsecured.
The complaint also alleges that the proceeds of the scheme were used to make monthly payments on the “real” and “ghost” loans (to keep the scheme afloat), to pay the straw buyers and other participants in the scheme, to finance unrelated businesses, to purchase a helicopter, expensive car, boats, and expensive residential properties, and to travel extensively overseas.
Defendants Ronnie Duke, Wilinevah Richardson, and Ryan Zundel are expected to appear before a federal magistrate judge June 16, 2010. The other defendants are expected to appear in court later that week.
A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Trial cannot be held on felony charges in a complaint. When the investigation is completed a determination will be made whether to seek a felony indictment.
United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced the charges. Joining her in the announcement was Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena, head of the Detroit Division of the FBI.
This case has been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the U.S. Secret Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen Hiyama and Erin Shaw.