FBI Report Shows Mortgage Fraud Continues at Elevated Levels

Dennis Norman St Louis RealtorThe FBI released it’s Mortgage Fraud Report for 2010 showing that mortgage fraud continued at elevated levels in 2010 and was consistent with levels seen in 2009. The top states for mortgage fraud activity in 2010 were Florida, California, Arizona, Nevada, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Georgia, New Jersey, and Maryland. Continue reading “FBI Report Shows Mortgage Fraud Continues at Elevated Levels

Real Estate Agent, Loan Officer Among Five Defendants to Plead Guilty to $11 Million Mortgage Fraud

KANSAS CITY, MO—Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former real estate agent and a former loan officer are among five co-defendants who have pleaded guilty in federal court to their roles in an $11 million mortgage fraud scheme that involved upscale homes in Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, Liberty, Parkville, and elsewhere. Continue reading “Real Estate Agent, Loan Officer Among Five Defendants to Plead Guilty to $11 Million Mortgage Fraud

Attorney Charged in Property Mortgage Scam

A Massachusetts attorney, Michael R. Anderson, 41, of Framingham, was charged last week in federal court with wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering in connection with a multi-year, multi-property mortgage fraud scheme in Dorchester and Roxbury. United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and William P. Offord, Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation – Boston Field Division, announced today that the defendant was charged in an Information with 16 counts of wire fraud, nine counts of bank fraud, and two counts of money laundering. Continue reading “Attorney Charged in Property Mortgage Scam

Leader of $200 Million Real Estate Investment Scam Arrested for Fraud

For Immediate Release
August 12, 2010
United States Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey
Contact: (973) 645-2888

Alleged Schemes Defrauded Investors in Multiple States and Abroad

NEWARK, NJ—Eliyahu Weinstein, aka “Eli Weinstein,” was arrested at his home this morning by federal agents on charges that he ran an investment fraud scheme causing losses of at least $200 million, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Weinstein, 35, of Lakewood, N.J., was charged with one count of bank fraud and one count of wire fraud in connection with the alleged scheme. Vladimir Siforov, 43, of Manalapan, N.J., was also charged with one count of wire fraud in connection with the scheme and remains at large. Weinstein is expected to appear later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Esther Salas in Newark federal court. Continue reading “Leader of $200 Million Real Estate Investment Scam Arrested for Fraud

Mortgage Fraud Sweep Results in Almost 500 Arrests

Dennis Norman

According to a press release issued by the FBI, nearly 500 people have been arrested in a nationwide mortgage fraud take-down as part of “Operation Stolen Dreams.” This operation was launched on March 1, 2010 and, according to the FBI, has lead to a total of 485 arrests, 330 convictions and the recovery of nearly $11 million. The FBI estimates that losses from a variety of fraud schemes are estimated to exceed $2 billion.

Operation Stolen Dreams is the government’s largest mortgage fraud take-down to date. But FBI Director Robert S. Mueller cautioned that there is still much work to be done. The Bureau is currently pursuing more than 3,000 mortgage fraud cases, he said, which is almost double the number from the last fiscal year.

mortgage-fraud-short-sale-scam-illustration“The staggering totals from this sweep highlight the mortgage fraud trends we are seeing around the country,” Attorney General Holder said. “We have seen mortgage fraud take on all shapes and sizes—from schemes that ensnared the elderly to fraudsters who targeted immigrant communities.”

A few examples:

  • In Miami, on Wednesday two people were arrested for targeting the Haitian-American community, claiming they would assist them with immigration and housing issues. Instead, they used victims’ personal information to produce false documents to obtain mortgage loans.
  • In California, a prominent home builder used straw buyers to sell his houses at inflated prices. The scheme inflated prices on other homes in the area, creating artificially high comparable sales and affecting the overall new-home market.
  • And in Detroit yesterday, FBI agents arrested several individuals in a $130 million scheme orchestrated by the local chapter of a motorcycle gang. The conspirators posed as mortgage brokers, appraisers, real estate agents, and title agents and used straw buyers to obtain around 500 mortgages on only 180 properties.

The FBI says to combat the problem, their National Mortgage Fraud Task Force helps identify mortgage frauds such as loan origination schemes, short sales, property flipping, and equity skimming. In addition, they have 23 mortgage fraud task forces in “hot spots” around the country, from California and Texas to Florida and New York.

Unlike previous mortgage fraud sweeps, Operation Stolen Dreams focused not only on federal criminal cases, but also on civil enforcement and restitution for victims. Federal agencies participating included the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Treasury Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Secret Service. Many state and local agencies were also involved in the operation.

The FBI has produced a video for consumers to help make you aware of the scams that are out there and show you how to avoid them.  To watch the video click the link below:

FBI Video on Common Mortgage Fraud Scams

Former Mortgage Broker, California Woman Plead Guilty to Mortgage Fraud

Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that two more defendants have pleaded guilty in federal court to charges related to mortgage fraud schemes, including a $12.6 million conspiracy that involved 25 upscale residential properties in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and Raymore, Missouri and a property-flipping scheme in Kansas City, Missouri.

Cynthia D. Jordan, 43, of Lee’s Summit, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs on Friday, May 21, 2010, to mail fraud and wire fraud. Jordan, who was a mortgage loan broker for various mortgage brokers in the Kansas City area, admitted that she participated in a property flipping scheme. Anahit Nshanian, 30, of Long Beach, California, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Maughmer on Thursday, May 20, 2010, to her role in the $12.6 million conspiracy.

Jordan and Nshanian are among 18 defendants, all of whom have now pleaded guilty.

Jordan admitted that she was involved in a scheme to flip properties — buying residential properties that could immediately be sold in flip transactions for substantially more than the purchase price, without improvements to the properties. Jordan obtained mortgage loans to purchase the properties by submitting fraudulent documentation and making false representations. Jordan falsely represented that she would occupy the homes as her primary residence. As a result of the scheme, Jordan obtained money from the loan proceeds and directed loan proceeds be paid to others under the guise of false invoices and other false documents.

As part of the scheme, Jordan purchased a Kansas City property for $355,000. At the time she entered the contract, she and co-conspirators planned to sell the property before a mortgage payment was due so that she did not have to make a loan payment. Jordan signed a contract to sell the property for $555,000 five days later, for which she received $17,500. Two co-conspirators, as a result of submitting fraudulent invoices, received a total of $172,974.

Jordan also purchased another Kansas City property for $537,000 that she agreed to sell within six days of her purchase for $775,000. Jordan received $17,173 and two co-conspirators, as a result of submitting fraudulent invoices, received a total of $193,000.

Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, the government and Jordan agree that the sentence imposed should not exceed nine years in federal prison without parole. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

Nshanian admitted that she was involved in a scheme to buy and sell new homes — all of which were built by Jerry R. Emerick, 40, of Raymore — in the Raintree and Belmont Farms subdivisions in Lee’s Summit and the Eagle Glen subdivision in Raymore from February 2005 through May 2007. Buyers purchased the homes at inflated prices, obtaining mortgage loans for more than the actual sale price by providing false information to mortgage lenders, then kept the extra proceeds. Buyers created shell companies for the purpose of receiving those kickbacks from Emerick, with kickbacks of up to $125,000 on each house. Emerick pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and awaits sentencing.

In total during the course of the conspiracy, mortgage lenders approved loans for 25 homes totaling more than $12.6 million. From that total, buyers received approximately $2.3 million without the lenders’ knowledge. Nshanian received approximately $148,614 in kickbacks.

Nshanian purchased two properties in Lee’s Summit as part of the conspiracy. In obtaining mortgage loans, Nshanian made material misrepresentations upon which the lenders relied. Nshanian also admitted that she received money back unbeknownst to the lenders.

Nshanian received a $510,000 loan for one property; after closing, she received an $89,307 kickback, of which co-defendant Jerome Shade Howard, 41, of Anaheim, Calif., received $20,693. Nshanian received a $657,500 loan for another property; after closing, she received a $80,000 kickback and Howard received $25,000.

Under federal statutes, Nshanian is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Linda Parker Marshall and Kathleen D. Mahoney. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS-Criminal Investigation.

Six Charged with Wire Fraud Based on $20 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

A 10-count indictment has been unsealed charging six individuals with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Karen P. Hewitt. The defendants are charged with submitting false and fraudulent mortgage loan applications and related documents to banks and other lending institutions, thereby inducing the institutions to make approximately 36 loans totaling approximately $20,800,000.

The defendants charged with participating in the conspiracy are: Brian Andrew La Porte; Daniel John Schuetz; Michael Wayne Wickware; Roxanne Yvette Hempstead; Darryl Anthony Wallace, aka Darryl Anthony White; and Terrence Smith, aka Terry Lee Smith. The indictment alleges that the defendants devised a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders and to obtain money and property by false and fraudulent means and diverted the proceeds for their personal use and benefit.

According to the indictment, from May 2008, the defendants agreed to submit false loan applications to mortgage lenders to obtain financing to purchase residential properties. The defendants recruited “straw buyers” who had sound credit histories but who otherwise would not have qualified to purchase the residential properties selected by the defendants. The indictment further alleges that, as part of the conspiracy, Brian Andrew La Porte and Daniel John Schuetz prepared fraudulent loan applications on behalf of the straw purchasers, falsely stating the employment and monthly salaries of the straw purchasers.

The indictment further alleges that the defendants submitted fraudulent loan applications on behalf of the straw purchasers to mortgage lenders, including OwnIt Mortgage Solutions Inc., WMC Mortgage Corp., Argent Mortgage Company, Countrywide Home Loans, First Franklin, Finance America LLC, and other mortgage lenders. The defendants then caused escrow agents to disburse the funds to the defendants and others so that the defendants could divert to themselves and others the proceeds of the fraud.

President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who working together to launch 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. The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program co-chairs the task force’s Rescue Fraud Working Group.

The case is the product of an investigation by agents of the FBI and is being prosecuted in San Diego federal court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan I. Shapiro.

An indictment itself is not evidence that the defendants committed the crimes charged. The defendants are presumed innocent until the government meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ponzi Scheme and Mortgage Fraud Mastermind Sentenced to 15 Years, Eight Months

The founder and head of Chicago Development and Planning was sentenced yesterday to 15 years and eight months in prison, and ordered to pay more than $9 million in restitution for wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering, U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello announced.

Patricia Morgen pleaded guilty on Dec. 16, 2009. According to the plea agreement, she admitted creating a scheme to solicit investors for a company called Chicago Development and Planning, with the promise of substantial guaranteed return profit payments. Morgen falsely promised investors that their funds would be used to purchase real property to be rented or resold for profit, and that their guaranteed returns would come from profits earned on the real estate investments. In fact, Morgen paid investors largely with money obtained from new investors, rather than from real estate-related profits. Morgen admitted that there were more than 400 victims of this Ponzi scheme.

“Patricia Morgen intentionally preyed on unsuspecting victims in order to obtain money she wasn’t entitled to,” said U.S. Attorney Russoniello. “This sentence demonstrates the legal consequences perpetrators of these schemes will face when they are caught—and they will be caught.”

In another scheme, Morgen and a co-defendant submitted fraudulent loan applications to acquire more than 20 properties, most of which were occupied, rent-free, by Chicago Development and Planning employees, including Morgen herself. The fraudulent loan applications included lies as to the borrowers’ employment and income. Morgen’s co-defendant in the mortgage fraud scheme pleaded guilty in January 2010.

Morgen, 63, most recently of Chicago, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Nov. 20, 2008. She fled to Mexico when she learned that federal authorities were investigating Chicago Development and Planning. After spending several months in Mexico, Morgen returned to the United States, but made continued efforts to avoid law enforcement: she did not have a valid driver’s license in her name, did not have a phone in her name, and she cut off contact with family members whose whereabouts were known to federal investigators. Morgen was apprehended in Chicago in June 2009, while threatening to jump from the top of a multi-story building. Morgen’s son, Shalom Gibson, has been indicted in Reno, Nev., in connection with his efforts to shred and burn documents relating to Chicago Development and Planning; his whereabouts remain unknown.

In sentencing Morgen, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer commented on the devastation suffered by the unsophisticated victims, noting that Morgen victimized “people who by and large could least afford it,” and that she “ruined people’s lives.” Judge Breyer further stated his belief that a “severe punishment” was warranted because Morgen was “still a very dangerous person” who posed a substantial risk to society.

“We are pleased by the resolution of this matter,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Douglas. “Ms. Morgen betrayed the trust of hundreds of investors, injected bad debt into the economy, and fled the country when faced with the prospect of being held accountable for her actions. The sentence she received today underscores the severity and impact of this sort of crime on our entire community.”

“Today’s sentence sends a clear message to those committing investment fraud: Your greed will not go undetected and unpunished,” said Scott O’Briant, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “IRS-CI will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to investigate these types of schemes.”

The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Breyer following a guilty plea to two counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud in violation, and one count of money laundering in violation. Judge Breyer also sentenced the defendant to a five-year period of supervised release. The defendant has been in custody since June 2009.

Tracie L. Brown and Jeffrey R. Finigan are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rayneisha Booth. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

CEO of the Duncan Group In St Louis Pleads Guilty in Multi-Million Dollar Ponzi Scheme

The United States Attorney’s Office announced today that Aaron Duncan, the former CEO and owner of The Duncan Group, has pleaded guilty to fraud charges involving a $3.9 million investment scheme.

According to court documents, Duncan represented that The Duncan Group was involved in real estate investments, including buying, rehabilitating, and selling residential real estate. Duncan solicited investors in Missouri and around the United States to participate in his real estate projects through The Duncan Group by making false representations regarding the security of investments and the rates of returns promised. Bank records revealed that Duncan operated The Duncan Group investment program as a Ponzi scheme. Investors who were repaid on their principal investments were paid from funds obtained from other investors, rather than from returns on investments in real estate projects as promised and represented. At no time did Duncan advise investors that their returns, if paid at all, would be paid from other investors’ principal. Typically, Duncan falsely told investors that their principal investments were secured by a specific property. For example, some investors were told that an investor’s name would be placed on a particular deed or that investors were “securitized” by first mortgages on properties.

Bank records show that beginning no later than December 2005, Duncan was experiencing personal financial problems and was often late on his home mortgage payments.

The scheme operated from roughly January 2006 until Duncan advised investors of his intention to declare bankruptcy in October 2008. During the scheme, Duncan received investment principal from more than 50 investors who ultimately lost a total of approximately $3.9 million. Records recovered during the investigation revealed that Duncan only bought approximately 10 properties and that these ten properties lost money in total. Investor money was not used as promised and represented, instead, investor money was routinely used to pay other investors, pay routine expenses of the business, and to pay Duncan’s personal expenses.

Duncan, 33, Defiance, Missouri, pleaded guilty to one felony count of mail fraud and one felony count of money laundering before United States District Judge Carol E. Jackson. Sentencing has been set for July 27, 2010.

“Promoters of Ponzi schemes prey upon trusting investors and then steal their hard earned money. Investors should be wary that programs promising unbelievable returns on investment should be looked at carefully,” said Toni Weirauch, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation, St. Louis Field Office.

“Mr. Duncan conned potential investors by promising a high rate of return on real estate and a fast turnaround,” said Michael Kaste, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI St. Louis Division. “Anytime before investing, people should do their homework and check with agencies like the Secretary of State, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Better Business Bureau and other court records. But even then, con men will build a 12-foot ladder to climb an 11-foot wall.”

Mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000; money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000.

This case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Securities Division of Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney John Bodenhausen is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

How to avoid being a victim of a real estate or rental scam

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have published a report about common real estate scams and rental scams they are finding and how to avoid them. Like most scams there are warning signs and red flags that can help you avoid falling victim; knowing what to look for is key.

The IC3 reminds people to be cautious when using the internet to either advertise real estate for sale or rent or to find a property to rent or buy.

For Landlords and Sellers of Property:

Look out for: Rental scams occur when the victim has property advertised and is contacted by an interested party. Once the rental price is agreed upon, the scammer sends a check for the deposit. The check covers housing expenses and is either written in excess of the amount required, with the scammer asking for the remainder to be remitted back, or for the correct amount, but the scammer backs out of the rental agreement and asks for a refund.

Because banks do not usually place a hold on the funds, the victim has immediate access to them and believes the check has cleared. In the end, the check is found to be counterfeit and the victim is held responsible by the bank for all losses.

For Renters and Home Buyers:

Look out for: The scammer duplicates postings from legitimate real estate sites, alters them, and reposts them. Often, the scammers use the broker’s real name to create a fake e-mail address, which gives the fraud more legitimacy. When the victim sends an e-mail through the website inquiring about the home, they receive a response from someone claiming to be the owner.

The “owner” typically says he and his wife are doing missionary work in a foreign country and need someone to rent their home while they are away. If the victim is interested, he or she is asked to send money to the “owner” in a foreign country. These funds go directly to the scammer, and the would-be renter loses his or her money.

Suggestions from the IC3 and FBI on how to protect yourself from schemes:

  • Do not accept overpayment for rental properties. If you receive a check that’s for more than the specified amount, return it. Do not deposit it.
  • Do not wire funds to people you do not know.
  • Verify potential renters’ income.
  • Request renters’ personal references and follow up with those individuals.
  • Check with your county recorder to learn who owns the property you’re seeking to rent.
  • Call the property manager or association, if applicable, and ask about the landlord.
  • Ask the landlord for a rental application. It’s a red flag if one is not available; most managed properties require an application.
  • Find out how much of a security deposit may be requested in your state. Scammers will often ask for extra money in the form of a deposit.

The following requests can be indicators of fraudulent activity:

  • The would-be tenant wants to rent or purchase the property sight unseen.
  • The potential tenant says he or she is out of the country and he or she would like to send you a cashier’s check.
  • The payment is for more than the agreed upon amount.
  • There’s an urgency to the entire process. For example, the tenant says he or she is arriving in the country next week and needs to establish residency right away.

If you feel you have been a victim of an Internet real estate scheme, you can file a complaint with the IC3 by clicking here.

President of Metropolitan Money Store Sentenced to Over 12 Years in Prison for $37 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

FBI Baltimore

Joy Jackson Personally Responsible for Over $16 Million in Losses to Mortgage Lenders; Used Over $800,000 of Fraudulently Obtained Proceeds to Pay for Her Wedding

U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced the president of the Metropolitan Money Store, Joy Jackson, age 41, of Fort Washington, Maryland, today to 151 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme that falsely promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure keep their homes and repair their damaged credit, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Judge Titus also entered a judgement ordering Jackson to pay restitution of $16,880,884.86 and to forfeit three residential properties in Oxon Hill, Capitol Heights and Laurel, Maryland and three vehicles. Continue reading “President of Metropolitan Money Store Sentenced to Over 12 Years in Prison for $37 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

Mortgage Fraud Surge Investigation Nets More Than 100 Individuals Throughout Middle District of Florida

Tampa FBI Mortgage FraudDepartment of Justice Press Release

TAMPA—United States Attorney A. Brian Albritton today announced the results of a nine-month-long Mortgage Fraud Surge investigation that has resulted in charges against more than 100 defendants and involves allegations concerning more than $400 million in loans procured by fraud and more than 700 properties. U.S. Attorney Albritton is holding events throughout the district this week to highlight the announcement.

There are currently mortgage fraud-related charges pending against approximately 500 defendants in federal mortgage fraud cases around the nation. The cases concern both mortgage schemes designed to defraud mortgage lenders and “foreclosure rescue schemes” which prey on distressed homeowners. Continue reading “Mortgage Fraud Surge Investigation Nets More Than 100 Individuals Throughout Middle District of Florida

FBI Arrests Two People in Foreclosure Scheme

Dennis Norman

Dennis Norman

By: Dennis Norman

Previously I did an article on avoiding foreclosure rescue scams which have unfortunately become rather common in recent months.

This week the FBI arrested two people that the FBI alleges has done just that. I wanted to share the press release from the FBI to heighten people’s awareness of scams such as this and hopefully help prevent more victims of such scams. The press release describes in detail how they allege this scam was carried out. To read the FBI press release click here, or just read below as I have published it in it’s entirety. Continue reading “FBI Arrests Two People in Foreclosure Scheme

FBI issues consumer alert warning of phony online rental ads

Federal Burearu of Investigation FBIBy: Dennis Norman

The FBI has issued a consumer alert warning of phony online rental ads. According to the alert, the scam goes like this:

You can’t believe your good fortune-you find a rental home in a nice area through a Craigslist classified ad at an unbelievably low rate. The landlord-who had to leave the country and travel to Nigeria-asks that you wire him two months worth of rent. You arrive at the home on the agreed-upon date, but there is just one small problem- the house is not actually for rent and its owners know nothing about your agreement.

This latest scam is being perpetrated by Nigerian criminals located halfway aroudn the world and has been seen in a number of U.S. states, perhaps in response to the current housing market- with fewer people buying, more people are renting.

The FBI offers these tips to avoid being victimized:

  • Only deal with landlords or renters who are local
  • Be suspicious if you’re asked to only use a wire transfer service
  • Beware of email correspondence from the “landlord” that is written in poor or broken English
  • Research the average rental rates in that area and be suspicious if the rate is significantly lower
  • Don’t give out personal information, like social security, bank account, or credit card numbers.