10 Arrested in Multi-Million Dollar Mortgage Fraud and Identity Theft Enterprise

Allison Tussey —  April 6, 2011 — 3 Comments

Michelle Minikus f/k/a Michelle Mediavilla-Camacho, 40, Hollywood, Florida; Donald Lee, 55, Deerfield Beach, Florida; Stephnine Jean, 28, Hialeah, Florida; Judith Clemow, 48, Miami, Florida; Lise Bessette, 57, Deerfield Beach, Florida; Brandi Brown, 26, Miramar, Florida; Wesley Grant, 46, Miramar, Florida; Wonder Ragin Knowles, 52, Coconut Creek, Florida; Magaly Rosa, 43, Miami; and Ofelia Torres, 51, Hialeah Gardens, Florida, were arrested for as 10 members of a criminal mortgage fraud and identity theft operation.

The group was charged in July 2010, with defrauding numerous financial institutions out of more than $8 million, and using the identities of unsuspecting individuals as part of the conspiracy to obtain the mortgages and properties. The individuals arrested face charges including racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, grand theft, and title insurance fraud. The case is set for trial August 8, 2011.

Investigators allege the scheme included the recruitment of straw buyers, who were provided with fraudulent Florida and New Jersey driver licenses and the personal identification information of unsuspecting victims. Using the victims’ identities, the straw buyers obtained credit and purchased properties for which they never intended to make any mortgage payments. The same properties were resold or “flipped” numerous times, often using the same scheme.

Investigators discovered that several times the scheme involved stealing the property from legitimate owners by forging a Quit Claim Deed or Warranty Deed, and then transferring ownership of the property to one of the co-conspirators. The scheme was used to obtain mortgages on 14 different properties in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The majority of these properties are currently in foreclosure as a result of the nonpayment of the mortgage loans.

Authorities estimate approximately $8 million in mortgage fraud/theft has been committed by the ring.

One subject, Theophilus Alcantara was arrested in 2006 and four additional defendants, Oliver Gayle, Keturah Ferguson, Jorge Villanueva and George Powers, were arrested earlier this year for their involvement in the conspiracy. This brings the total number of indictments in this case to 20. Gayle and Ferguson have already pled guilty to racketeering charges, while the other two defendants are awaiting trial.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey and Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced the arrests.

Attorney General Bill McCollum’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute this case. The investigation is ongoing.

The arrests are the result of a four-year investigation conducted by FDLE’s Miami Regional Operations Center and the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.  

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Allison Tussey

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3 responses to 10 Arrested in Multi-Million Dollar Mortgage Fraud and Identity Theft Enterprise

  1. It doesn’t really matter except that it is misleading to make people think the article was dated on 4-6-2011 when it was actually published on 7-2-2010. That was my point.

  2. To answer the above, does it matter? Mortgage fraud in the U.S. created a worldwide financial crisis and every case prosecuted by law enforcement is timeless in my mind’s eye.

    The real question is, what made these people think they could pull off such a stunt and get away with it? The mentality in the mortgage industry was and still is, “Anything goes in real estate”.

  3. Just curious. Why is this article being posted now when it is a copy of a press release from July 2, 2010?

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