Texas Announces “Operation Stolen Dreams” Results

admin —  July 5, 2010 — 3 Comments

Operation Stolen Dreams, which targeted mortgage fraudsters in the Eastern District of Texas and throughout the country is the largest collective enforcement effort ever brought to bear in confronting mortgage fraud.

George M. Baehr, Jr., 35, Dallas, Texas pleaded guilty to an Information on June 16, 2010, charging him with mail fraud. Baehr entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Don Bush.

According to court documents, from July 2006 to November 2006, Baehr, a loan officer, devised a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders by submitting false information to secure mortgage loans for real estate purchases. Baehr was a loan officer for either Meridias Capital, Inc. or for City Mortgage Holding, L.L.C., during this time.

If convicted, Baehr faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Other Operation Stolen Dreams cases in the Eastern District of Texas include:

United States vs. John Barry, et. al

A 16-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on March 10, 2010, charging 40 defendants from Texas, Florida, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Georgia with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering.

According to the indictment, beginning in 2004, John Barry, 41, Windemere, Florida, owned and operated, TKI Group, Inc. and JAB Consulting, businesses out of Florida through which he solicited real estate agents, property finders, mortgage brokers, title company attorneys or escrow officers, property appraisers, and straw buyers to facilitate this scheme. The purpose of the scheme was to defraud lending institutions by convincing them to approve mortgage loans for residential properties for which the property values had been fraudulently inflated. The indictment specifically lists 114 residential properties located in the Texas cities of Allen, Arlington, Cedar Hill, Coppell, Corinth, Cypress, Dallas, Flower Mound, Fort Worth, Frisco, Granbury, Heath, Highland Village, Houston, Keller, Lantana, Lewisville, Little Elm, Lubbock, Magnolia, McKinney, Plano, Roanoke, Southlake, Spring, The Woodlands, and Willis.

United States vs. Esshan Samuel Agha

Esshan Samuel “Sam” Agha pleaded guilty on October 19, 2009, to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison on April 1, 2010. Agha was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $4,127,131.50.

According to information presented in court, from October 2005 to February 2008, Agha, a real estate investor, devised a scheme in which he solicited others to buy homes that in most cases were in fact owned by himself or an unnamed co-conspirator. A smaller number of homes were also owned by a third party for whom Agha brokered the sales. Agha facilitated the scheme by making false statements that included misrepresentations such as overstating the buyers’ income and stating that the buyers intended to occupy the homes as their primary residence. All of the loans involved in the scheme went into default when the buyers failed to make the mortgage payments on the homes, which included 24 properties in Collin County and one in Tarrant County, Texas.

United States vs. Micaiah Pruitt, Jeanelle Richardson, Pierre Sowell and Reginald Davis

Micaiah Pruitt pleaded guilty on September 30, 2009, to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and was sentenced to 71 months in federal prison on March 18, 2010. Pruitt was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,384,015.26. Pruitt had been indicted by a federal grand jury on June 11, 2009.

According to information presented in court, from March 2005 to October 2006, Pruitt orchestrated a mortgage fraud scheme in which three individuals, Jeanelle Richardson, Pierre Sowell, and Reginald Davis, each bought two or more residential properties from Pruitt, or from someone for whom Pruitt was brokering the sale. In order to obtain the mortgage loans to make the purchases, Pruitt assisted Richardson, Sowell and Davis in making false statements in the mortgage loan applications, such as overstating income or representing that the borrowers intended to occupy each home as their primary residence. Pruitt profited from each of the sales and paid the three purchasers for making the purchases. The purchasers defaulted on all of the mortgage loans.

Richardson, 37, Plano, Texas, pleaded guilty on May, 20, 2009, to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison in February 2010. She was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $468,838. Richardson had been indicted by a federal grand jury on April 6, 2009.

Sowell, 37, Grand Prairie, Texas, pleaded guilty on August 13, 2009, to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison in February 2010. Sowell was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $605,627.

Davis was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 6, 2009, and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. He pleaded guilty on July 9, 2009, and was sentenced in January 2010 to 6 months in federal prison to be followed by 6 months home confinement. Davis was also ordered to pay restitution.

Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, DC, representatives of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force in Plano, Texas, including U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, announced the regional results of the nationwide take-down.

The sweep was organized by President Obama’s interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was established to lead an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. Starting on March 1, to date Operation Stolen Dreams has involved 1,215 criminal defendants nationwide, including 485 arrests, who are allegedly responsible for more than $2.3 billion in losses. Additionally, to date the operation has resulted in 191 civil enforcement actions which have resulted in the recovery of more than $147 million.

Mortgage fraud ruins lives, destroys families and devastates whole communities, so attacking the problem from every possible direction is vital,” said Attorney General Holder. “We will use every tool available to investigate, prosecute, and prevent mortgage fraud, and we will not rest until anyone preying on vulnerable American homeowners is brought to justice.”

Unlike previous mortgage fraud sweeps, Operation Stolen Dreams focused not only on federal criminal cases, but also on civil enforcement, recovering money for victims and increasing cooperation with state and local partners.

The President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

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3 responses to Texas Announces “Operation Stolen Dreams” Results

  1. ok lets start from the beginning. In 2000 when the dot com bubble crashed into the mountians of silicon valley and in 2001 when osama bin ladin crashed planes into the world trade center the u.s. economy was in a desperate situation to revive the markets.

    When Pres. George Bush was in office his plan was to push for private and wall street banks including(fannie mae and freddie mac) to loosen up lending criteria so that the american people could live the american dream. It would boost the struggling economy and offer thousands of jobs around the u.s.

    When banks responded with FHA, subprime and alt a loans including no income or asset verification loans, 100% financing and adjustable rate mortgages the country’s economic situation looked like a thing of the past.

    Consequently, when the government pushed for these types of programs everyone including the government turned a blind eye to the consequences becuase everyone was making money. From politicians, to wall street banks, private banks, homeowners, and everyone in between.

    Who is to blame? the government for not regulating the industry and allowing the banks to create these exotic finanial instruments? or is it the banks and their staff that pushed these products? Is it the home buyers (the american people) that purchased homes they could not afford? Is it the appraisers that inflated values across the country? Is it all of the above?

    I say lets start with the folks (the u.s. government) who pushed the banks to create these exotic products to begin with. Once the flood gates were open everyone in america was in on the greed. Big banks sold junk bonds called CDO’s to foreign investors…the even had the rating companies basically on their payrolls. The rating companies created exoctic formulas to make the junk bonds look like a triple a bond.

    All I am saying is that there is no one person or entity to blame. We did this to ourselves!!

    I feel sorry for some of the good honest ethical people that got caught up in the middle. Some of the loan officers who had good intentions are left taking plea agreements (felony pleas) just because they did a few stated income loans for the wrong people. The appraisers that were pushed by builders to inflate values when they had no intention of committing fraud. Underwriters approved unreasonable loans becuase they were pushed to make the numbers for the month….and on and on.

    The government is now creating all the regulations that should have been in place years ago…This is about time!!

    Now the feds are trying to hold everybody accountable. my question is why? When ethical people take plea agreements becuase the government uses scare tactics to make them feel like they did something wrong it destoys peoples lives. The plea bargain is usually taken becuase the loan officer, appraiser, etc cant afford to go to trial and risk the alternative of 12 jury members agreeing with the government becuase everybody seems to forget how loose the real estate industry was from 2003-2007.

    I guess the moral to the story is that not all people are guilty but are made to be guilty so that the government can take heads and look like the good guys. lets not forget how the feds are paid. Its a numbers game to them as well. The more people they take down the more their departments are compensated. The more criminal forefeiture and judgments they land the more money each district gets to pay their employees.

    Lets make common sense of all of this and hold the right people accountable. There are honest, ethical people taking plea agreements becuase of fear and tactical ways of the government. I am not saying there aren’t fraudulent people that shouldn’t pay for their crimes but please dont believe everything you read in the media. If you do not understand the scope of the real issues dont comment on the topic!

  2. It is about time!!!! But that is but a small aspect of the fraud in the DFW area. Just go down to Lake Ridge and investigate…..

  3. NOW THATS JUST FINE BUT WHAT TOOK SO LONG? HAD THE GOVERNMENT PEOPLE JUST PAID ATTENTION TO THE PEOPLE TRYING TO WARN THEM YEARS AGO (MRS. DOLLAR IS ONE WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN HEARD, THREE CHEERS FOR HER, WE WOULD BE BETTER OFF TODAY.)WHAT HAPPENED AT PINE VILLAGE NORTH T/H IN HOUSTON IS A GOOD EXAMPLE.CITI AND B OF A NEVER CHECKED THE BUILDIGS TO SEE IF HARRIS COUNTY APPRASIAL DEPT. WAS CORRECT.LOANS WERE TAKEN OUT ON PROPERTIES THAT H CAD POSTED IN THE SPRING OF THE YEAR, LATER A COMPANY WENT IN TO PROTEST THE APPRASIALS.IN JUST ONE YEAR THEY KNOCKED DOWN THE TAXABLE VALU BY 4.5 MILLION DOLLLARS. WHEN I WENT TO THE COMMISIONERS COURT NO ONE IN HARRIS COUNTY WANTED TO HEAR ABOUT IT.HOUSTON FBI WAS GIVEN ALL INFO INCLUDING TRANSACTIONS THAT A BLIND MAN COULD SEE WERE FALSE AND SAT ON THEIR ASS.

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