Central Florida realtors advised to beware three more credit card thieves

The Seminole County (FL) Sheriff’s Office  is searching for two women who are apparently pretending to be interested in buying new homes to steal from real estate agents, according to a Local 6 News TV report. Investigators allege that Denise Fuller and Winshenia Lamarr and possibly a third person are meeting with real estate employees in Central Florida and then taking credit cards from their wallets.

Their alleged MO is for the suspects to pretend they are interested in buying property and while keeping people in realtor’s offices distracted a third person would enter the office and steal a credit card from each employee’s purse.

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Picture courtesy of Local News 6

The Local 6 News report showed video of the women at a Target store in Seminole County purchasing items with stolen credit cards.

Click here to see the Local 6 News video report.

Anyone with information concerning the whereabouts of Fuller or Lamarr is urged to call Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS.


Daily Updates - Friday December 1, 2006

The following older entries were updated today. Please click on the blue link to read the full story.

Mary Bolan given 6 months imprisonment + entry updated to include all the property addresses.


Cease and desist order issued to Georgia loan officer

In the following press release (click here to read it) the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance’s  (“Department’s”) Cease and Desist Order issued to loan officer Karen Johnson of College Park, Georgia, became final on November 30, 2006. Ms. Johnson was issued a Cease and Desist Order by the Department for making misrepresentations in loan files submitted to mortgage lenders.

Pursuant to state law, the Department may revoke the license of a mortgage broker or lender that employs an individual against whom a final Cease and Desist Order has been issued within the preceding three years if the Order resulted from misrepresentations being made in loan applications.


Two men to be subject of Grand Jury investigation of land contract scheme

In two separate video news reports 6News (The Indy Channel) investigators allege that two men, Joseph Stanley and Steven Harris, of Marion County (IN) have been defrauding home sellers for the last 12 years. The scheme typically leaves the seller without the money for the house, unable to get into a property to get belongings and needed to obtain court orders to recover the homes.

The men are alleged to have entered into 22 separate land contracts to purchase properties from people and, despite either moving in or filling the properties with tenants, have never paid any money to the sellers. They would only leave the properties after lengthy eviction proceedings.

The two have been subject of 22 Civil Law Suits in Marion County, IN and have lost all 22 of them. They were both interviewed on camera by News6 and Stanley denied what he did was wrong.

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Harris (left) and Stanley
Picture Courtesy of 6News

Searches on the Marion County Court website reveal that there are indeed many law suits that have been filed. Click here to search yourself.

Click here to view the first Video Report

Click here to view the second Video Report

Click here to read the story on the 6News website


Former bank employee is sentenced

In the following press release from Atlanta, GA United States Attorney David E. Nahmias announced on November 30, 2006 that  FREDERICK E. VARGAS, 38, of Miami, Florida, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Thomas W. Thrash on charges of bank fraud and conspiracy. United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said, “The integrity of federally insured financial institutions must be protected by prosecution of employees who abuse the trust placed in them to honestly conduct the affairs of those institutions.”

VARGAS was sentenced to 4  years, 3 months in prison to be followed by  3 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2,960,545 in restitution. VARGAS was convicted of these charges on May 7, 2004.

According to United States Attorney Nahmias and the information presented in court: VARGAS was a former Vice President and Business Development and Lending Officer with an institution formerly known as “Charter Bank Trust Company,” which had several offices in the Atlanta area. VARGAS used his position to grant loans and credit to applicants he knew were not qualified. The evidence showed that from April 2002 through March 2003, VARGAS was induced to approve extensions of credit to uncreditworthy persons in violation of Charter’s lending policies. The inducements included the opportunity to purchase real estate at greatly discounted amounts with the representation that the properties could be resold in millions of dollars in personal gain.

Click here to view the press release

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the IRS-Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Gale McKenzie  prosecuted the case.

For further information please contact David E. Nahmias (pronounced NAH-me-us), United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney’s Office, at (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.usdoj.gov/usao/gan.


Another builder indicted in alleged fraud scheme

In the following press release from Topeka, KS  U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren announced that a grand jury in Topeka has returned an indictment charging a Kansas City home builder with violating a court order and trying to interfere with a federal investigation. Already under indictment on charges including conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering, F. Jeffrey Miller, 45, Stanley, Kan., was allowed to continue doing business after agreeing that an outside consultant could monitor his activities on behalf of the court.

“The new indictment charges that Mr. Miller continued to operate illegally while being monitored, and conspired with others to interfere with the federal investigation into his business practices,” said U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren. Miller was arrested Thursday morning and is in Federal custody pending a court hearing on December 5, 2006.

Charged along with Miller in the new indictment are Stephen W. Vanatta, 43, Lenexa, Kan., Hallie Irvin, 26, Lenexa, and James Sparks, 35, Lawson, Mo.

Miller, a building contractor in Kansas, Missouri and other states, sold homes under the name of Miller Enterprises, Star Land Development, Somerset Homes, Dutch Custom Homes and other companies. He was indicted May 17, 2006, along with eight other people on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering. The government sought the forfeiture of more than $25 million in proceeds from the alleged fraud. In the May indictment, Miller and the conspirators were accused of targeting home-buyers with poor credit, obtaining inflated appraisals, submitting false information to lenders, and manipulating home buyers to move into homes before closing and then increasing the purchase price at closing when buyers were under pressure to accept the terms for fear of losing their homes.

After he was indicted, Miller was released on his own recognizance pending trial. He was allowed to continue doing business under an arrangement in which he agreed to abide by all federal, state and local laws and to permit his business transactions to be monitored by Meara King & Company of Kansas City.

The new indictment (click here to read it) charges that:
Miller knew when he signed the monitoring agreement that he was in fact continuing to engage in criminal conduct through a new conspiracy with Stephen Vanetta, Hallie Irvin, James Sparks and others.

To induce Vanatta and Irvin to continue to cooperate in the conspiracy, Miller agreed to cosign a note to allow Vanetta and Irvin to buy a property at 415 Regency Cove, Lake Ozark, Mo. Miller agreed with Vanatta and Irvin that they would use part of the money to purchase from him a 1998, 45-foot Sea Ray boat known as “Bling Bling.” The conspirators knew that Vanatta and Irvin could not provide a legitimate history of assets and income to qualify for the loan and would have to create and present false documents to obtain the loan from First National Bank, Lake Ozark, Mo.

Miller, Vanatta and Irvin ran an office at 10777 Barkley, Overland Park, Kan., where they marketed homes under the names Miller Enterprises, Dutch Custom Homes, Star Land Development and Somerset Homes. They created advertisements soliciting home buyers with credit problems, promising no money down and financing by the builder.

At 10777 Barkley, the conspirators kept business records including credit information, loan application information, sales contracts and falsified rent verification documents that they referred to as “friend letters.” Among the records was evidence that the conspirators unilaterally increased the sales price on homes before closing, forged buyers’ signatures and caused buyers to submit “friend letters” that contained falsified rent history in order to obtain loans that they would not otherwise qualify to receive.

In August 2006, federal investigators obtained a subpoena for the conspirators’ business records based on information that “friend letters” containing falsified rent histories were being kept at 10777 Barkley. An employee who worked for the conspirators received the federal subpoena and notified Vanatta that she would retrieve the records to comply with the court order. When the employee got to the office, the files had been sanitized to remove the incriminating evidence.

James Sparks was a loan broker in the greater Kansas City area who referred home buyers to Miller, Vanatta and Irvin. He collaborated with Miller, Vanatta and Irvin by knowingly preparing and submitting false financial information for home buyers who were applying for loans from federally insured lenders. Sparks paid kickbacks to Irvin on behalf of Vanatta of 40 percent of loan closings to maintain business with Miller Enterprises. He provided down payments to home buyers and referred falsified and inflated sales contracts to appraisers selected by Vanatta knowing that they would inflate appraisals to cover altered sales prices. At Vanatta’s direction, he shredded and deleted incriminating documents.

In the 12-count indictment returned Wednesday, Miller, Vanatta, Irvin and Sparks each are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud; Two counts of bank fraud; Two counts of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions; One count of destroying records in a federal investigation; Four counts of criminal contempt of a court order. In addition, Miller, Vanatta and Irvin are charged with one count of attempting to intimidate a federal witness by inducing Sparks to withhold records and testimony in a grand jury investigation.

In the 12th count, the government seeks the forfeiture of more than $5 million in proceeds from the crimes, including the assets of Miller Enterprises, Star Land Development, Somerset Homes, Dutch Custom Homes, HCI, Innovative Designs and any other entities organized by Miller, Vanatta, Irvin and Sparks. Property listed in the forfeiture count includes a residence at 425 Regency Cove, Lake Ozark, Mo.; a 1998, 45-foot Sea Ray boat known as “Bling Bling;” a 2006, 50-foot Sea Ray boat known as “Pipe Dream;” and a 1998 Piper Seneca V Aircraft.

Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hathaway and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Kenney are prosecuting.


Daily Updates - Thursday November 29, 2006

The following older entries were updated today. Click the blue link to read them.

Former police officer sentenced in mortgage fraud scheme


More charges in Oklahoma fraud case

3 more people, Ann Campbell, Dalton Joe Alford and Toney Mykel have been charged in relation to the scheme reported earlier this month.

Please click here to go to the full entry.