Archives For Maryland

Alberic Okou Agodio, 31, Bethesda, Maryland, was sentenced to 61 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, arising from a mortgage fraud scheme in which he used the names of immigrants and students, along with false financial information, to obtain $3.8 million in home mortgage loans to buy approximately three dozen row houses in Baltimore, Maryland, all but one of which are in default or foreclosure. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar sentenced  also entered an order that Agodio pay restitution of $3,356,581.78.

According to his plea agreement, Agodio agreed to purchase row houses in Baltimore City, Maryland, from co-conspirator Kevin Campbell, 53, Baltimore, Maryland, who had acquired the houses as part of his real estate business.  Agodio purchased the houses at prices far in excess of their actual market value.  In return, Campbell kicked back a substantial portion of the purchase price to Agodio, which Agodio used to pay for the down payments and closing costs for most of the properties; to pay a commission to the straw purchasers whom he persuaded to allow him to use their names to purchase the properties; to pay referral fees to individuals who referred other straw purchasers to him; and to compensate himself for his participation in the scheme.  In all, from June 2009 to November 2010, Agodio purchased 35 row houses from Campbell.  The financing received on these transactions totaled approximately $3.8 million and Agodio received commission payments from Campbell in excess of $1.2 million. Continue Reading…

David B. Pick, Bowie, Maryland, was sentenced to 5 months imprisonment to be followed by 3 years supervised release.  He was ordered to pay restitution of $383,178.  He previously pled guilty to making false statements arising from a real estate closing.

As previously reported by Mortgage Fraud Blog, Pick was a loan originator respons Continue Reading…

Rene de Jesus de Leon, 47, Silver Spring, Maryland, his wife, Pedrina Rodriguez Bonilla, 37, Silver Spring, Maryland, and Ana Maritza Gomez, 43, Hyattsville, Maryland, were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges arising from a residential mortgage fraud scheme.

According to the 10-count indictment and court documents, from at least January 2011 to August 2015, the defendants told homeowners who wanted to modify their mortgage loans and prevent foreclosure of their homes that — for an upfront fee, which was usually between $2,000 and $6,000, subsequent monthly payments and a back-end consulting fee — the defendants could lower the homeowners’ monthly payments and allow them to pay off their loans more quickly. The defendants told the victims to make monthly payments to the defendants and to companies they controlled, in lieu of to the homeowners’ lenders, as part of a “principal reduction consulting program.” The companies controlled by defendants were named Marketing Multiservices LLC and Innovative Solutions Services LLC.

According to the indictment and court documents, the conspirators mailed monthly invoices to the homeowner victims. Some of the victims paid Gomez in person each month at her residence, or a co-conspirator would go to the home of the victim to pick up the monthly payment. The defendants told the victims not to open any mail from their lenders and instead provide it to the conspirators. The indictment alleges, however, that the defendants did not negotiate with lenders of behalf of the homeowners.

According to the affidavit supporting the complaint against Bonilla and Gomez, one victim who was actually current on his mortgage made payments to the program, in lieu of his lender, totaling approximately $50,000, including the initial fee. The victim stopped making payments when he received a foreclosure notice from his lender. Another victim told investigators that she made payments to the program totaling at least $20,000, but nevertheless was evicted from her house, had her cars towed, her dogs boarded and her belongings put on the front lawn.

The defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, and 20 years in prison for each of nine counts of mail fraud.  De Leon and Bonilla are currently detained.  Initial appearances for the three defendants have not yet been scheduled.

The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Rene Febles of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG); Special Agent in Charge Cary A. Rubenstein of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG); Chief Henry P. Stawinski of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Postal Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division; and Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FHFA-OIG, HUD-OIG, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristi N. O’Malley and Special Assistant United States Attorney Jolie F. Zimmerman, who are prosecuting the case.

Timothy L. Ritchie, 44, Annapolis, Maryland, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, followed by 12 months of home detention with electronic monitoring as part of three years of supervised release, for making false statements arising from a real estate closing and was ordered to pay restitution of $1,385,444.83.

In a related case, John L. Davis, real estate agent, 55, Chestertown, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud arising from his participation in the scheme, and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 31, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. Davis admitted that the loss arising from his participation in the scheme is between $400,000 and $1 million.

Ritchie owned and operated Richland Homes, Inc., and was in the business of building, purchasing and selling homes. Continue Reading…

Cecil Sylvester Chester, 68, Mitchellville, Maryland pleaded guilty to charges arising from the fraudulent purchase of seven properties in Baltimore, Maryland, using fraudulent loan documentation and straw purchasers, resulting in losses of over $1.7 million.

“Mortgage fraud perpetrators steal by inducing lenders to make loans that will never be repaid, and they harm neighborhoods when the inevitable foreclosures drive down property values,” stated U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

Chester worked as an accountant from an office located on New Hampshire Avenue in Hyattsville, Maryland.  Co-conspirator Andreas Tamaris,  44, Bel Air, Maryland, purchased, renovated, and then resold distressed row houses in Baltimore City, primarily in the Highlandtown,  Maryland.

According to his guilty plea, from February 2008 to July 2009, Chester and his co-conspirators, including Alexander Sivels, II, 32, Baltimore, Maryland, found buyers for Tamaris’ properties and for other property owners. Chester persuaded individuals, who were inexperienced with residential real estate transactions and who lacked the funds needed to pay the down payment and closing costs, to purchase Baltimore row houses owned by Tamaris or otherwise located by the conspirators. Chester advised these “straw purchasers” that they didn’t need to contribute funds for the down payment or closing costs to buy these properties. Chester also advised that he would place tenants in the properties whose rent payments would cover the monthly mortgage payments after the transactions closed, and that Chester would collect the rent and make the mortgage payments.

Chester and his co-conspirators set the purchase price for the properties to exceed their actual fair market value, thereby generating excess proceeds from the transactions from which they could profit.

The conspirators provided false information about the straw purchasers’ employment, income and financial assets, as well as fraudulent supporting documentation to the mortgage loan brokers to enable the straw purchasers to qualify for home mortgage loans. The conspirators falsely indicated to the mortgage loan brokers that the straw purchasers each intended to use the property as their primary residence following the purchase. Tamaris and other individuals supplied the funds needed for the down payment and closing costs on each of the transactions, and were in turn reimbursed from the loan proceeds at settlement.

Chester brought the straw purchasers to the closing, and then caused the straw purchasers to falsely sign certifications in the closing documents affirming that they intended to use the properties as their primary residence and that no portion of the down payment and closing costs were borrowed.  Following the settlement on each transaction in which they participated, Chester and the other conspirators received substantial payments drawn from the proceeds of the loan.

Few, if any, payments were made towards the mortgages.  All of the seven properties which Chester was involved in went into foreclosure, resulting in a loss of at least $1,482,207.

Chester faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud, and for wire fraud.  U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has scheduled sentencing for March 23, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Special Agent in Charge Cary A. Rubenstein of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General; and Special Agent in Charge Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office.

In a related proceeding involving two of the properties at issue in the instant case, co-conspiratorTamaris, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.  Sivels previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud involving the fraudulent purchase of at least nine properties in Baltimore.  Both Tamaris and Sivels are scheduled to be sentenced on September 27, 2016.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI , HUD OIG – Office of Investigations and the U.S. Secret Service for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Jefferson M. Gray, who is prosecuting the case.

Samuel R. VanSickle, 51, Accident, Maryland, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud arising from three fraudulent bank loans in which VanSickle received proceeds from the sale of real property in Garrett County, Maryland, and Cheat Lake, West Virginia, totaling over $5.7 million.

VanSickle and co-defendant Louis W. Strosnider, III, 49,  Oakland, Maryland, owned and developed property in Garrett County, Maryland. VanSickle used a number of different business names, including Freedom Church, Gospel Church, Equity Exchange, Unity Mortgage, Impartial Lenders, and Noble Forest Consultants, and aliases including “Donald Blunt,” “Jacob Aiken,” “Allen Helms,” and “Paul Walsh.”  Strosnider operated Stony Brook Development Company, located in McHenry, Maryland.

According to his plea agreement, from December 2001 to May 2005, VanSickle conspired with Strosnider for Strosnider to fraudulently obtain real estate loans from banks in connection with the purchase of properties controlled through aliases by VanSickle.  VanSickle concealed from the lenders his role as seller of the properties and recipient of the sales proceeds through fictitious identities such as “Donald Blunt, Trustee for Gospel Church,” “Donald Blunt, Trustee for Freedom Church,” “Equity Exchange,” “Unity Mortgage,” “Jacob Aiken” and “Allen Helms.” The scheme also involved fictitious down payments, inflated collateral, and false contracts.

For example, in 2002, VanSickle provided $600,000 for the purchase of Red Run, a restaurant and bed and breakfast which bordered on Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, Maryland.  In April 2003, VanSickle caused Red Run to be transferred for $0 to “Donald Blunt, Trustee for Gospel Church” – a fictitious church with a fictitious trustee.  In February 2004, Strosnider signed a contract to buy Red Run from Gospel Church for $3 million.  The contract recited a fictitious $750,000 down payment.  Strosnider applied to a bank for a loan to complete the purchase of Red Run.  When the bank required additional collateral, VanSickle supplied a timber contract for land in Garrett County with a valuation signed by “Paul Walsh” of “Noble Forest Consultants.”  Both “Noble Forest Consultants” and “Paul Walsh” were fictitious.  The settlement for the sale of the property was conducted by attorney Angela Blythe, 52, Oakland, Maryland.  Blythe failed to collect Strosnider’s funds to close the loan.  At VanSickle’s direction, Blythe paid over the sales proceeds of $1.6 million to “Unity Mortgage,” which was VanSickle.  “Unity Mortgage” did not, in fact, have a mortgage on Red Run.Strosnider and VanSickle used similar fraudulent methods in Strosnider’s purchase from VanSickle of 5.87 acres on State Park Road, bordering Deep Creek Lake, and 116 acres of undeveloped land on Cheat Lake, West Virginia.

VanSickle received over $5.7 million in sales proceeds from the fraudulent transactions.   Strosnider defaulted on all three loans. As a result of the scheme, the loss to the financial institutions was $2,755,102.50, the amount of the loans minus the recovery from foreclosure and sale of the collateral. VanSickle has agreed to forfeit and pay restitution in that amount, and forfeit his interest in 40 properties held in VanSickle’s name or in the names of nominees in Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, up to the value of $2,755,102.50.

VanSickle faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for the conspiracy.  U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis scheduled sentencing for March 17, 2016, at 9:30 a.m.

The plea agreement was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Strosnider previously pleaded guilty to his participation in the conspiracy and awaits sentencing. In a related case, Blythe was convicted by a federal jury on October 9, 2015, after a nine day trial, of conspiring with VanSickle to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, and two counts of making a false statement to a bank.  U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles sentenced Blythe to a year and a day in prison, and entered an order requiring Blythe to forfeit $696,517 and pay restitution of $948,203.25.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI for its work in the investigation and thanked Assistant United States Attorney Joyce K. McDonald and Philip A. Selden, who are prosecuting the case.

Angela M. Blythe, attorney, 52, Oakland, Maryland, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and two counts of making a false statement to a bank.  Blythe was also ordered to forfeit $696,517 and pay restitution of $948,203.25. Blythe was convicted by a federal jury on October 9, 2015, after a nine day trial

Blythe was an attorney licensed to practice in Maryland and West Virginia, with an office in Oakland, Maryland.  She was a settlement attorney in real estate transactions.            Continue Reading…

Max Wagenblast, 35, Arlington, Virginia, was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for wire fraud in connection with a scheme to steal over $5 million from his company. Wagenblast was also ordered to pay a fine of $25,000.

According to the his plea, Wagenblast was employed as an asset manager for a Bethesda company (the company) that was the second largest Special Servicer of commercial real estate mortgages in the United States. As a Special Servicer, the company was responsible for administering defaulted commercial mortgage loans and the real estate securing foreclosed loans. The company performed this service on behalf of the REMIC trust that held the mortgage loans on behalf of the certificate holders of the trust. In its capacity as a Special Servicer, the company collected borrower payments and property cash flow and remitted them to the REMIC trust, which was responsible for distributing those funds to the certificate holders. Wagenblast oversaw both the loans and properties that acted as security for the loans serviced by the company, including the application and utilization of funds generated by the properties he managed. Continue Reading…

David B. Pick, loan originator, 47, Bowie, Maryland, pleaded guilty to making false statements arising from a real estate closing.

Pick was a loan originator responsible for preparing loan applications, obtaining documentation to support the representations in loan applications, presenting loan applications to financial institutions for funding and working with financial institutions to close loans.

In 2005, Pick sought a $900,000 construction loan from a mortgage lender to purchase and construct a residence at 1206 Tilghmans Landing Way, Annapolis, Maryland.  The residence was to be constructed by Richland Homes, Inc., owned and operated by Timothy Ritchie, 44, Annapolis, Maryland .  Continue Reading…

Angela M. Blythe, attorney, 51, Oakland, Maryland, was convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and two counts of making a false statement to a bank.  Blythe was an attorney licensed to practice in Maryland and West Virginia, with an office in Oakland, Maryland.  She was a settlement attorney in real estate transactions.

According to evidence presented at the nine day trial, from 2000 to 2006, Blythe prepared deeds, mortgages and notes using false identities provided by her co-conspirator.  Blythe recorded those fraudulent documents in Garrett County, Maryland and Preston County, West Virginia, which concealed her co-conspirator’s ownership of the properties.  On at least seven occasions, Blythe also conducted property settlements in which her co-conspirator participated as buyer, seller and/or borrower using the false identities, which Blythe concealed from the lenders. Blythe failed to conduct the settlement transactions as described on the settlement statements and paid over the seller’s proceeds as her co-conspirator directed. Continue Reading…