9:18AM

Modesto Real Estate Attorney Charged in a Short Sale Scheme 

In the following press release the FBI in Sacramento announced that Robert Farrace, 51, of Modesto, was indicted today on three counts of wire fraud in connection with a fraudulent short-sale scheme, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to the indictment, Farrace was an attorney specializing in real estate transactions. He owned two investment properties in Modesto with substantial mortgage loans. In early 2010, he received foreclosure notices for the two properties. Farrace then created an entity called “Dignitas LLC” that he controlled but used a friend’s name as the company’s registered agent to conceal his control. Through Dignitas, Farrace submitted short sale offers to the bank that serviced the loans on both properties. During the process, Farrace misrepresented his relationship with Dignitas, and because the servicing bank did not know of the true relationship, it went forward and completed one of the short sales. The other sale was stopped by law enforcement and the bank.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Housing Finance Agency–Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Michael G. Tierney is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Farrace faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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2:33PM

Maryland Man Convicted of Lying to Obtain Bank Loan 

In the following press release the FBI in Pittsburg (PA) annouced that Montgomery Joseph Isner, 47, of Capital Heights, Maryland, was convicted of bank fraud in federal court.

The announcement was made by United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, of the Northern District of West Virginia.

Isner misrepresented himself as the owner of a parcel of real property in Berkeley County, West Virginia in order to fraudulently obtain a loan in the amount of $60,000. Isner pled guilty to one count of “False Statement on Loan Application.”

He faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jarod Douglas prosecuted the case on behalf of the government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation led the inquiry. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Trumble presided.

2:09PM

Three People Sentenced for Their Roles in NJ $15 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

In the following press release the FBI in New Jersey announced that a brother and sister and one other person were sentenced today for their respective roles in conspiring to defraud financial institutions as part of a $15 million mortgage fraud scam that used phony documents and “straw buyers” to make illegal profits on overbuilt condos, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Nancy Wolf-Fels, 58, of Toms River, New Jersey, was sentenced to 42 months in prison; Dwayne Onque, 47, of Belleville, New Jersey, was sentenced to 63 months in prison; and Mashon Onque, 44, of East Orange, New Jersey, as sentenced to 30 months in prison. All three had been convicted in a four-week trial in October 2014 before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle, who imposed the sentences today in Camden federal court.

The defendants were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Dwayne Onque was also convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to the documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:

The defendants and their conspirators schemed to defraud financial institutions by locating oceanfront condominiums overbuilt by financially distressed developers and negotiating a buyout price with the sellers. They then caused the sales prices for the properties—located in Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood, New Jersey, other locations in New Jersey and in Naples, Florida—to be much higher than the buyout price to ensure large proceeds. Other defendants helped conceal the true sales prices of certain properties through inflated sales contracts and finder’s fee agreements.

From 2007 through mid-2008, Wolf-Fels served as a loan officer at the Forked River Branch of the mortgage company, Mortgage Now. She and her conspirators originated six loan applications for unqualified buyers that contained false and fraudulent information. Working with her conspirators—including one who manufactured fake bank statements, retirement account statements and pay stubs to support the false loan applications—Wolf-Fels assembled the loan applications and sent them to victim financial institutions, which lent the unqualified buyers mortgage funds.

From late 2006 through mid-2007, Dwayne Onque served as a “straw buyer” of five properties in Middletown, New Jersey, and Wildwood, New Jersey. For each of the five properties, he signed false and fraudulent loan applications and closing documents that resulted in the release of more than $2 million of mortgage funds.

During 2006 and 2008, Mashon Onque served as a title agent at Tri-State Title Agency in Montclair, New Jersey. She acted as the closing agent for fraudulent mortgage loans orchestrated by her conspirators, including her brother, Dwayne Onque. The conspirators put together buyers and sellers in real estate transactions, and then filed false and fraudulent loan applications containing inflated income figures for the borrowers. After the mortgage lenders approved the loans, Mashon Onque prepared and signed fraudulent settlement statements that falsely claimed that the borrowers had made down payments to close the loans.

In addition to the prison terms, Judge Simandle sentenced each of the three defendants to three years of supervised release. Restitution will be determined at a hearing on July 9, 2015.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Newark Division, Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel, and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s convictions.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew T. Smith and Jacqueline M. Carle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.

Defense counsel:

  • Wolf-Fels: Paul Urbania Esq., Shrewsbury, N.J.
  • Dwayne Onque: Peter Levin Esq., Philadelphia
  • Mashon Onque: Anne Singer Esq., Haddonfield, N.J.
1:59PM

King County (WA) man sentenced in mortgage and tax fraud

In the following press release from the FBI in Seattle a King County man who fled to Moldova, in Eastern Europe before being indicted by a federal grand jury for loans fraudulently obtained from Westsound Bank, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to five years in prison, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.

ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO, 36, pleaded guilty in March 2015 to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and filing a false income tax return. His wife, GALINA KRAVCHENKO, 35, was sentenced to just over five months in prison and one year of supervised release following her plea to filing a false income tax return. The couple profited from a mortgage fraud scheme in which ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO submitted phony loan applications to Westsound Bank. GALINA KRAVCHENKO acted as the real estate agent in the scheme earning large commissions on the fraudulent sales. ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO’s plea agreement estimates the loss amount on the bank fraud scheme at more than $10 million, and the tax loss on the false returns at more than $370,000. Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman imposed three years of supervised release on ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO.

According to records filed in the case, the KRAVCHENKOs were indicted in May 2009 for an extensive bank fraud scheme involving straw buyers and false statements on mortgage applications. According to facts admitted in the plea agreements, ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO had his wife GALINA, a real estate agent, locate real property that was available for purchase. ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO then recruited otherwise unqualified buyers to participate in purchasing and building on the properties. ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO submitted false and fraudulent construction loan applications and related documents to Westsound Bank, thereby causing Westsound Bank to make unsound loans. A portion of the fraudulently-obtained loan proceeds were diverted for ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO’s personal use and benefit, and to further the fraud scheme. GALINA KRAVCHENKO made substantial real estate commissions on the deals. ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO submitted 55 loan packets to Westsound Bank worth $49 million. Ultimately the bank suffered a $10.7 million loss on the loans and was closed by regulators on May 8, 2009.

Aware of the investigation, but before the indictment was returned, the two KRAVCHENKOs fled the U.S. and went to Moldova where ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO retains citizenship. The two were out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement until December 2014, when GALINA KRAVCHENKO was returned to the U.S. based on an extradition warrant. GALINA KRAVCHENKO had been arrested in Moldova in September 2014 for having false Moldovan and Russian travel documents. ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO returned to the U.S on February 23, 2015 to resolve the criminal charges.

The court has ordered ALEKSANDR KRAVCHENKO to make restitution of $10,759,722 for the bank fraud scheme and $370,541 for filing a false tax return. GALINA KRAVCHENKO has also been ordered to pay back the $370,541 in tax loss caused by filing a false tax return.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations, and the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Tessa Gorman and Thomas Woods.

Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Public Affairs Officer Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.

1:52PM

NJ Man Admits Role as Straw Buyer in Mortgage Fraud

In the following press release U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced that Wildwood, New Jersey, man today admitted defrauding a financial institution as part of a mortgage fraud scam that used phony documents and “straw buyers” to make illegal profits on over-developed condominiums in the Wildwood area, .

Daniel Cardillo, 51, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden federal court to a superseding information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

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

John Leadbeater, 58, of Kearny, New Jersey, and others identified homes in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. Leadbeater and others would then recruit straw buyers, including Cardillo, to purchase those properties at inflated rates. The straw buyers had good credit scores but lacked the financial resources to qualify for mortgage loans.

Cardillo and others were able to deceive a bank into providing Cardillo a $445,141.61 loan for the purchase of 620 West Burk Avenue, Unit 102, in Wildwood. Cardillo submitted a fraudulent loan application prepared by other conspirators that contained false information about his income, assets and intended use of the property.

The conspiracy charge to which Cardillo pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Cardillo’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 14, 2015.

Leadbeater pleaded guilty to a superseding indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud on March 9, 2015. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 14, 2015.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents from the FBI”s Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel in Newark; and special agents of IRS—Criminal Investigation in Mays Landing, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Larsen in Newark, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline M. Carle and Matthew T. Smith of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.

1:45PM

Georgia Investor Pleads Guilty to Bid Rigging and Fraud Conspiracies

In the following press release the FBI in Atlanta announced that a Georgia real estate investor pleaded guilty today for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Georgia, the Department of Justice announced.

Felony charges against David Wedean were filed on April 27, 2015, in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta. According to court documents, from at least as early March 2007 and continuing at least until August 2011, in Fulton County, Georgia, and from at least as early as August 2007 and continuing at least until September 2011, in DeKalb County, Georgia, Wedean conspired with others not to bid against one another, but instead designated a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Fulton and DeKalb Counties. Wedean was also charged with a conspiracy to use the mail to carry out a scheme to fraudulently acquire title to selected Fulton and DeKalb properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have gone to mortgage holders and others by holding second, private auctions open only to members of the conspiracy. The department said that the selected properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids in the second, private auctions.

“The defendant conspired with other real estate investors to profit by defrauding mortgage holders and property owners,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “This case, which is the eighth prosecution so far against defendants for rigging public foreclosure auctions in Georgia, demonstrates the Division’s continuing commitment to rooting out corruption and fraud in real estate markets around the country.”

The primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and restrain competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected real estate offered at Fulton and DeKalb County public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices. When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner. According to court documents, these conspirators paid and received money that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.

“The FBI, in working with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, continues to address the unlawful bid rigging seen in Georgia’s real estate foreclosure auctions,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office. “The guilty plea of Mr. Wedean, a Georgia based real estate investor, not only illustrates the problem but also how the federal government will aggressively pursue those engaged in this criminal activity.”

A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine for a Sherman Act charge may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime if either amount is greater than the statutory maximum fine. A count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine in an amount equal to the greatest of $250,000, twice the gross gain the conspirators derived from the crime or twice the gross loss caused to the victims of the crime by the conspirators.

Including Wedean, eight cases have been filed as a result of the ongoing investigation being conducted by Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section, the FBI’s Atlanta Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions in Georgia should contact Washington Criminal II Section of the Antitrust Division at 202-598-4000, call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 1-888-647-3258 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm.

10:27AM

Three Detroit Residents Plead Guilty Mortgage Fraud Scheme 

In the following Press Release from the FBI in Detroit it was announced that three Detroit, Michigan, area residents pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

According to court documents and statements, from approximately January 2006 to December 2008, Jason Najor, Jeffrey Najor, Joey Murad and others conspired to defraud financial lending institutions by providing fraudulent information on residential mortgage loan applications. The defendants devised a scheme to purchase single-family homes for approximately $5,000 to $40,000 each, and then recruited straw buyers to submit fraudulent loan applications for home mortgages substantially above the original purchase price. The applications falsified the straw buyers’ assets, income and down payment, among other things. The straw buyers were paid fees for their participation, which were sometimes falsely disguised as “landscaping” or “construction” fees. The conspirators made a substantial profit and paid themselves commissions on the sales. Every home purchased and sold as part of the scheme went into foreclosure.

In addition to the seven individuals indicted in the case, three of which pleaded guilty today, two others connected to the scheme have pleaded guilty. One individual is a straw buyer of multiple properties who received substantial fees as part of the scheme. The other individual is a mortgage broker who assisted in the preparation of the false mortgage loan applications. Co-conspirator Wasseem Shamoun also pleaded guilty on Jan. 23 and was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay $394,000 in restitution for his role in selling properties to straw buyers.

The three defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of thirty years in prison and a fine of $1 million for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Sentencing for Joey Murad and Jeffrey Najor is on Sept. 19 and Jason Najor is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 17.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo commended the special agents of the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation and the DEA, who investigated the case, and Senior Litigation Counsel Corey Smith and Trial Attorney Mark McDonald of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case. Ciraolo also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Michigan for their substantial assistance.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.

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11:31AM

Toledo Woman Charged in Home Loan-Modification Scheme 

A two-count criminal information was filed charging Toledo woman with participating a fraudulent home loan modification conspiracy, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

[FBI Press Release]

Constance Kanary, 52, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of mail fraud. Kanary operated a purported loan-modification operation called Making Home Affordable USA (MHAUSA) from March 2012 through April 2013. The business was primarily located at 120 10th Street in Toledo and used other names, including Federal Home Savings Solutions, National Mortgage Relief Center, and others, according to the information.

Kanary was a sales agent at the company. As part of her job, she contacted homeowners in need of loan modifications and encouraged them to participate in the company’s “Home Saver Program” in which they were told to stop paying their mortgages and instead pay a percentage to MHAUSA to demonstrate they could reliably make reduced monthly payments. The participants were also told there was a flat fee, between $495 and $795, for the service, according to the information.

Kanary deposited these monies into an account at Bank of America and spent the money on the scheme’s expenses and made cash withdrawals from the account, according to the information.

If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the Court after reviewing factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.

The investigating agency in this case is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Toledo, Ohio. The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Gene Crawford.

An information is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Defendants are entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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