Archives For Florida

Stevie McDonald, 42, Winter Haven, Florida, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for bank fraud related to his role in a mortgage fraud conspiracy. As part of his sentence, the Court ordered him to pay restitution to J.P. Morgan Chase Bank in the amount of $74,868.

According to court records, on November 10, 2007, McDonald entered into a contract to purchase a home in Port Richey, Florida. He then applied for a mortgage loan from Washington Mutual Bank. In the loan documents that he signed and submitted to the bank, McDonald made false statements about his income and employment. In December 2007, during the course of closing on the property purchase, Washington Mutual paid more than $35,000 to a woman McDonald knew and later married. This payment was purportedly a satisfaction of an existing lien on the sale property. Subsequent investigation revealed that no such lien existed. Washington Mutual Bank suffered a financial loss as a consequence of McDonald’s default on the loan.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.

Orlando Ortiz, 53, Luis Enrique Tur, 47, Jeffrey Todd Canfield, 49, Rafael Amador, 34, Osvaldo Sanchez, 40, Mirna Pena, 54, and Pedro Reynaldo Allende, 66,all residents of Miami-Dade County, Florida, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud affecting a financial institution. Ortiz, Tur, Canfield, Amador, and Sanchez  are scheduled to be sentenced on January 19, 2017. Pena and Allende are scheduled to be sentenced on March 28, 2017.

The charges arise from the involvement of the defendants in a complex mortgage fraud scheme involving two condominium conversion projects in central Florida.

According to court documents, including the agreed upon factual statements:

In 2007 and 2008, Ortiz, Tur, Canfield, Amador, and Sanchez participated in a mortgage fraud scheme involving two condominium projects: “Portofino at Largo,” in Largo, Florida, and “Bayshore Landing,” in Tampa, Florida.  Pena and Allende were involved in the same mortgage fraud scheme; however, their involvement was limited to units in the Portofino at Largo project.

During the course of the conspiracy, Pena, Allende, and other individuals recruited straw buyers and unqualified buyers, including Ortiz, Tur, and Canfield, to purchase units in the two condominium projects.  Among other things, the recruiters told certain prospective buyers that: buyers did not have to contribute any money to purchase a unit; buyers would receive a cash-back incentive or “kick-back” after closing; and buyers would receive several months’ mortgage payments.

The co-conspirators prepared and submitted false and fraudulent mortgage loan applications and related documents to various lenders including Bank of America, BankUnited, Chase Bank USA, CitiMortgage, First National Bank of Arizona, IndyMac Bank, JPMorgan Chase Bank, and Washington Mutual Bank.  Among other things, the loan applications and related documents contained false and fraudulent statements and omissions regarding: the borrower’s intention to reside in the unit; the borrower’s employment and income; the borrower’s assets and liabilities; the borrower’s payment of an earnest money deposit and cash-to-close; and the use of mortgage loan proceeds to pay “marketing fees” to various “marketing companies.”  In truth and in fact, the marketing companies were fraudulent businesses that did not provide any marketing services.  Instead, the “fraudulently induced marketing fees” were a means of diverting proceeds from the fraud scheme to the marketing companies.  The fraudulent marketing companies would then use the fraud proceeds to pay undisclosed kick-backs to the buyers.

Pena and Allende operated two Miami-based businesses, which were used to perpetrate the mortgage fraud scheme: Mortgage Bankers Lenders, Inc., a mortgage broker business, which submitted false and fraudulent loan applications and related documents to the lenders; and United Title Services & Escrow, Inc., which closed mortgage loan transactions even though the buyers had not paid earnest money deposits or cash-to-close, and used loan proceeds to pay “marketing fees” to a marketing company operated by unindicted co-conspirators.

Ortiz, Canfield, and Tur purchased units in Portofino at Largo.  Tur also purchased units in Bayshore Landing.  Ortiz, Canfield, and Tur engaged a Miami-based mortgage broker business operated by an unindicted co-conspirator to prepare and submit mortgage loan applications for their units.  On their behalf, the co-conspirator prepared and submitted fraudulent loan applications and other documents to various lenders.  The fraudulent loan documents included fabricated W-2 Wage and Tax Statements and pay stubs.  After closing on their units, Ortiz, Canfield, and Tur received substantial undisclosed kick-backs from a marketing company operated by an unindicted co-conspirator.  The kick-backs were funded with fraud proceeds, which had been paid to the marketing company as “marketing fees.”

Amador and Sanchez operated Allegiance Title of America, Inc., which served as the closing agent for mortgage loans involving condominium units in Portofino at Largo and Bayshore Landing.  Among other things, Amador and Sanchez caused Allegiance Title of America to disburse loan proceeds even though the buyers had not paid the earnest money deposits or cash to close, that was required by their loan applications and settlement statements.  Amador and Sanchez also caused Allegiance Title of America to pay fraudulent “marketing fees” to marketing companies.

The defendants face a maximum statutory term of thirty years’ imprisonment for their participation in the mortgage fraud conspiracy.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Timothy Mowery, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Juan J. Perez, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), made the announcement.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FHFA-OIG, FBI and MDPD.  Both cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dwayne E. Williams.

 

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.

Stevie McDonald, 41, Winter Haven, Florida has pleaded guilty to making false statements in a mortgage loan application. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to court documents, on November 10, 2007, McDonald entered into a contract to purchase a home in Port Richey, Florida. He then applied for a mortgage loan from Washington Mutual Bank. In the loan documents that he signed and submitted to the bank, McDonald made false statements about his income and his employment. In December 2007, during the course of the closing on the property purchase, Washington Mutual paid more than $35,000 to a woman McDonald knew and later married. This payment was purportedly a satisfaction of an existing lien on the sale property. Subsequent investigation revealed that no such lien existed. Washington Mutual Bank suffered a financial loss as a consequence of McDonald’s default on this loan.

United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III made the announcement.  The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.

Maria Del Carmen Rodriguez, Miami, Florida was charged by Information with Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud on August 29, 2016 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

According to the Information, at least as early as January 2007, Juan Carlos Sanchez, operating Homefirst Realty Group, Inc., began marketing the Marina Oaks Condominiums in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  He was given control of the marketing and increased the sales price of the individual condominium properties by an additional $40,000 per unit.  The buyers were promised incentives that would pay all of their closing costs, refund their initial deposits and pay their monthly condominium association dues.  Buyers were advised they would have no out of pocket expenses, would be paid approximately $30,000 to $40,000 after the transaction closed and that they would not receive 1099s for the incentives.

Rodriguez was encourage to purchase several units with promises of incentives and a rental income program that would cover the monthly mortgage payments.  When buyers purchased multiple units, their loan applications were expedited and sent to different lenders to avoid detection and the multiple purchases were not listed on the other loan applications. Rodriguez bought Unit 503 and Unit 511 at SW 18 Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Rodriguez prepared and caused to be prepared false and fraudulent mortgage applications and related documents that were submitted to lenders.  False statements include representations relating to the funds available for closing, occupancy, real property ownership and rental history.  Rodriguez also prepared false HUD-1’s which falsely represented that the buyers met their cash to close obligations.  In fact, Sanchez and other co-conspirators provided the funds to the closing agent on behalf of the buyer.

Once the mortgage proceeds were sent to the closing agent, a portion of the proceeds were disbursed to one of  Sanchez’ companies, specifically Creative Concepts International which was listed on the HUD-1 as the recipient of a large fraudulent lien payoff.  Sanchez and the closing agent would utilize funds received by or intended for Creative Concepts International to pay the closing costs and buyer incentives to Rodriguez.

 

 

Ravindranauth “Ravi” Roopnarine, 56, Guyana, was sentenced by United States District Judge Jose E. Martinez to 262 months in prison, following his conviction by a federal jury on charges stemming from his leadership and participation in an extensive mortgage fraud scheme.   Following his term of imprisonment, Roopnarine will be placed on supervised release for five years.  Roopnarine was also ordered to pay $9,041,133.46 in restitution to the defrauded lenders and banks.

An indictment charged Roopnarine, Gergawattie “Kamla” Seecharan, Bhaardwaj “Deo” Seecharan and Linda Rovetto for their participation in a mortgage fraud scheme.  The indictment charged Roopnarine with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud.  Roopnarine in mid-2015 waived extradition and returned from Trinidad and Tobago to the Southern District of Florida.

On March 11, 2016, a jury convicted Roopnarine on all three counts.

According to the court documents and statements made in court, Roopnarine recruited and led his co-conspirators in a widespread mortgage fraud scheme involving more than 150 residential real estate properties in Indian River, Miami-Dade, and Orlando-Orange Counties.  Roopnarine, along with Kamla Seecharan and her husband Deo Seecharan, conspired to solicit mainly Guyanese residents of Florida and other States to act as straw buyers on fraudulent mortgage loan applications.  Approximately 80 individuals served as straw buyers of properties in Vero Lake Estates (VLE), in Indian River County, and other developments.  This scheme resulted in the issuance of more than $50 million in fraudulent mortgage loans.  The co-conspirators then used the proceeds to purchase additional properties, fund pre-existing fraudulent mortgage loans, and pay kickbacks to the straw buyers.  In addition, Kamla Seecharan and Rovetto unlawfully diverted more than $3.5 million in mortgage loans from real estate closing escrow accounts to Raviworld New Homes, Inc., a company managed by Roopnarine and Deo Seecharan.

Kamla Seecharan pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy involving more than $50 million dollars in fraudulent mortgage loan funds.  Deo Seecharan and Rovetto each pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud involving $3.5 million dollars in diverted real estate escrow funds.

U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Kamla Seecharan and Deo Seecharan, to 121 months and 60 months, respectively, in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.  In addition, Kamla Seecharan and Deo Seecharan were ordered to pay restitution, in the amount of $2,040,343.14 and $9,041,133.46, respectively.  U.S. District Judge Martinez sentenced Rovetto to 42 months in prison.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement. Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI.  Mr. Ferrer also thanked the State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation, Bureau of Finance, West Palm Beach Regional Office for their work on this investigation, and the United States Marshals Service for their assistance with the extradition and return of Roopnarine to Florida from Trinidad & Tobago.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Theodore Cooperstein and James V. Hayes.

Michael L. Johnson, 56, Odessa, Florida, pled guilty to misappropriation of bank funds and embezzlement.  He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.

According to the plea agreement and court proceedings, Johnson was employed as a Senior Vice President/Special Assets Officer at American Momentum Bank.  In his capacity as a Special Assets Officer, Johnson was responsible for marketing and selling bank-owned properties to investors in order to remove these troubled assets from the 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 properties had been approved by the bank, Johnson set up closings with real estate settlement agents.  He then contacted the agents and ordered additions and/or changes to the disbursement side of the HUD-1.  After closing, funds provided by American Momentum Bank were directed to bank accounts controlled by Johnson’s family members.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III and the case was investigated by the Unites States Secret Service, the Tampa Police Department and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Chris Poor.

 

Nelson Cristiano Machado, Jr. 50, Bradenton, Florida, was found guilty of three counts of wire fraud by a federal jury. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison on each count. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 26, 2016.

According to evidence presented at trial, Machado knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders.  He entered into a sale contract for the purchase of two residences in Cape Coral, Florida, one for $509,900, and another for $249,900.  In his loan applications, Machado falsely represented his employment, the balance of his bank account, and that each of the homes would be his primary residence. He also failed to disclose to his second mortgage lender that he had already obtained a first mortgage in the amount of $343,000 and second mortgage in the amount of $147,000. Machado also failed to disclose the purchase of another residence located in Fort Myers, Florida for which he had obtained a mortgage in the amount of $189,050.  Relying upon Machado’s false representations, the mortgage lenders approved his loan applications and wired the funds to the designated title agencies for closing.

According to an article in the Bradenton Herald, Machado preached the Portuguese service at the First Assembly of God Church in Bradenton a few nights a week in 2009-2010 before moving to Brazil.

The verdict was announced by United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Yolande G. Viacava.