Archives For Straw Buyer

Vera Kuzmenko, 46, Loomis, California was sentenced to 14 years in prison for multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, witness tampering, and money laundering associated with her involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme that cost financial institutions over $16 million.

On December 4, 2015, after a 16-day trial, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts for Kuzmenko and Rachel Siders, 40, Roseville, California. Siders is scheduled to be sentenced on June 21, 2016.

According to evidence presented at trial, from late 2006 through early 2008, Kuzmenko and Siders engaged in a mortgage fraud scheme involving over 30 properties in the Sacramento area. They were responsible for securing more than $30 million in residential mortgage loans on more than 30 homes purchased through straw buyers. Records introduced at trial showed Vera Kuzmenko received millions of dollars. Continue Reading…

Ravindranauth “Ravi” Roopnarine, 56, Guyana, was convicted following a federal jury trial on charges stemming from his leadership and participation in an extensive mortgage fraud scheme.  Roopnarine was charged by indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud.  On Friday, March 11, 2016, a twelve-person jury convicted Roopnarine on all three counts, after a four day trial presided over by United States District Judge Jose E. Martinez.

According to publicly filed documents and statements made in court, on December 9, 2010, a Fort Pierce, Florida federal grand jury indicted Roopnarine, Gergawattie “Kamla” Seecharan, Bhaardwaj “Deo” Seecharan and Linda Rovetto for their participation in a mortgage fraud scheme.  Kamla Seecharan, Deo Seecharan and Rovetto previously pled guilty and were sentenced.  Roopnarine in mid-2015 waived extradition and returned from Trinidad and Tobago to the Southern District of Florida.  Continue Reading…

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…

Felicia Muhammad, 45, Lakewood, California was found guilty of five felony charges for lying to banks that funded mortgages for three properties that later went into default, causing about $660,000 in losses to the lenders.  Muhammad was a licensed real estate broker living in Long Beach, California at the time of the conduct.  She was convicted of five counts of making false statements to federally-insured financial institutions, specifically U.S. Bank, Countrywide Bank, and First Horizon Home Loans (a subsidiary of First Tennessee Bank).

According to the evidence at trial, in the summer of 2008, Muhammad applied for three loans so she could purchase condominium units in North Hollywood, California, and Canoga Park, California. The total value of the loans was more than $1.1 million. Continue Reading…

Jeffrey T. Crothers, 50, Stockton, California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

According to court documents, Crothers, while working for National City Mortgage in Stockton, conspired with at least one other person to defraud National City Bank, which funded the mortgages. In 2006, Crothers submitted a loan application that falsely represented that the loan applicant was the actual borrower, that the loan applicant’s monthly income was higher than it actually was, and that the property being purchased was to be the loan applicant’s primary residence when it was not. The loan applicant was selected because of his good credit, but was unable to make the monthly payments for the loan.

Crothers also submitted a letter that contained a false explanation as to why the loan applicant was purchasing the property. The false letter was used to satisfy a condition for the issuance of the loan. National City Bank sustained a loss of approximately $87,000.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys John K. Vincent and Christiaan H. Highsmith are prosecuting the case.  The plea was announced by United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.

Crothers is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on May 20, 2016. Crothers faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Tony Huy Havens, 42, Modesto, California, was sentenced to three years and five months in prison for his role in two mortgage fraud schemes.

Havens had earlier pleaded guilty to committing mail fraud and wire fraud in the two schemes, which were charged in separate criminal cases.

According to the indictment in the first scheme, Havens devised an “advance fee” scheme that targeted victims in at least eight states who were seeking multi-million dollar loans for large construction projects that were in danger of foreclosure. Havens provided the victims with fraudulent documents that showed a third-party lender was prepared to make a loan to the victim. On Havens’ instructions, the victims wire-transferred money into a bank account controlled by Havens to pay in advance certain costs associated with the loans. No loans were ever made. In total, Havens represented that he could arrange at least $1.1 billion in financing for at least 15 victim borrowers, and collected at least $248,750 by wire transfers from these victim borrowers.

According to the indictment in the second scheme, Havens arranged to purchase a single family residence in Modesto using two relatives as straw buyers. He obtained a loan in the name of the straw buyers that exceeded the actual selling price of the property, and arranged to have a portion of the purchase price sent back to him, which he used as the down payment for the purchase.

Havens was ordered to self-surrender to begin serving his sentence on April 4, 2016.

Havens was sentenced by United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill.  The announcement was made by United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.  The cases were the product of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Housing Financing Agency, Office of Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys Mark J. McKeon and Mia Giacomazzi prosecuted the cases.

 

Mohammed N. Islam, also known as “Tanveer,” 39, Trumbull, Connecticut, was sentenced 14 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for participating in a mortgage fraud scheme that involved dozens of properties in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

According to court documents and statements made in court, between 2006 and 2013, Islam participated in a mortgage fraud conspiracy that involved the purchase of numerous single and multi-family properties, primarily in Bridgeport, Norwalk and Stamford, Connecticut.  During the scheme, Islam and his co-conspirators provided materially false information to mortgage lenders, including false verifications of mortgage applicants’ income, false verifications of down payments for real estate transactions and false HUD-1 Forms. Continue Reading…

Edgar A. Reyes-Colón and Francisco Quintero-Peña were indicted on charges of with making false statements in loan applications in scheme to obtain money from mortgage lending institutions.. The investigation revealed that as part of the scheme and artifice to defraud, the defendants, through straw buyers, purchased a property by obtaining mortgage loans from a federally insured financial institution in amounts substantially exceeding the selling price of the property. The excess amount of the loan was kicked back to the defendants, and then they would default on payment of the monthly mortgage premiums. In order to ensure the approval of the loan, the participants created and submitted false supporting documentation along with the loan application including  financial statements, bank statements, employment verification letters and tax returns. Continue Reading…

Paul Watterson, 55, Mountainside, New Jersey, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his role in a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme that used phony documents and straw buyers to make illegal profits on over-developed condominiums in the Wildwood, New Jersey, area.  Watterson previously pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: 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.