Southwest Florida Cracks down on Fraud

United States Attorney A. Brian Albritton who presides over a thirty five county district which includes Collier and Lee in Florida announced the indictments of fourteen individuals on Wednesday October 14th. The indictments stem from a Federal investigation called “The Mortgage Fraud Surge”.

The Mortgage Fraud Surge was designed to send a message to would be fraudsters that we will find you and we will prosecute you. The Mortgage Fraud Surge was also designed to restore confidence back into the mortgage industry.

The indictments against ten of the individuals are as follows:

Naples resident Wayne F. Rice, 55 was indicted for submitting his mortgage broker application in 2006 to Breeze Mortgage in Naples which he knowingly omitted his prior convictions. Mr. Rice is also indicted for submitting fraudulent mortgage loan applications to mortgage lending institutions.

Naples resident Debra Landberg, 43, was indicted for completing a mortgage loan application with fraudulent information pertaining to her bank account information. Ms. Landberg stated on the application that she had over three hundred thousand dollars in her account when in actuality she only had thirteen dollars. She also submitted another mortgage application which she stated her bank account contained over two hundred thousand dollars but actually had only nine hundred dollars in the account. She was also charged with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation when she was questioned about the bank accounts.

Mauricio Higa, Alfredo Cassis and Said Cassis were indicted for bribing SunTrust bank employee Carols Perez repeatedly to add the names of mortgage applications to bank accounts. They bribe him with one hundred dollars each time he added a fraudulent bank account holder. The case also involves Gabriel Eguez, Juan Pablo Hurtado, Oscar Antelo and Roger Alfredo Aguiler Paz who have been indicted for providing fraudulent information regarding down payments, income, addresses, and payroll documents in order to entice and mislead the banks involved.

Damarys L. Lorca, 38 was served with a superseding indictment on October 15th. The indictment is for inflating the price of his residence on an application for mortgage and fraudulently listing a bogus employer and salary.

Naples resident, Ana A Roque, 50, waived her right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of information. The indictment against Ms. Roque related to her fraudulent statements on an application. She stated she earned approximately six hundred thousand dollars between 2004 and 2006 however according to her Internal Revenue Service tax returns she made considerably less than that. Roque also known as Ana Pagani stated in her plea agreement that she obtained two loans from mortgage lenders that totaled over four million dollars. She purchased an investment property in Fort Myers, Florida with a five hundred ninety five thousand dollar loan. A loan in which she was involved in was given to La Mexicana of Palm Beach Boulevard LLC. The loan for one million forty five thousand dollars was to build a retail shopping center on Palm Beach Boulevard in Fort Myers.

United States Attorney Albritton and his office have been working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, The United States Postal Service, The Internal Revenue Service, The Secret Service and other agencies to fight fraud in Florida. Albritton confirms that tips are coming from all over and that banks are initiating cases by submitting SARS. Albritton has stated that mortgage fraud usually is detected when a property comes under foreclosure as that is when the mortgage deal is reviewed to ensure the deal was legitimate to begin with.

Naples Area Board of Realtors president, Brett Brown stated that during the housing market boom between 2004 and 2005 there were deals that set off red flags.  Brown stated that he has recently become aware of California companies receiving kickbacks at the closing table. The companies are making guarantees that are unrealistic in regard to rental income and enticing buyers to pay inflated prices on homes that currently are not worth the price they are being purchased for. He warns that these are deals that you walk away from and do not want to be involved with. Brown says that he has never been approached by any individuals involved in mortgage fraud however he believes that mortgage lenders are much tighter in lending now than back in 2004 and 2005.

Some individual agents that have been involved in fraud have been licensed but have not been Realtors. Realtors when they become licensed most agree to the code of ethics and abide by them. Brown says that fraud is hurting those who abide by the code and that no professional wants to have a bad apple in their business.

Brown says that documents are reviewed to verify borrowers’ promises in regard to salary and other information. You either have it or you don’t.

Albritton has been meeting with Brown and other real estate representatives to spread the word in regard to The Mortgage Fraud Surge in an effort to answer questions and inform realtors and brokers in the District about the programs intent.

Albritton in a meeting with over two hundred realtors and brokers in Fort Myers tell the group that The Mortgage Fraud Surge intent is to investigate and charge individuals who commit fraud within ten months. The told the group that a formal announcement in regard to the operation in November of this year.

Albritton stated that there will be indictments against Realtors, Mortgage Loan Officers, Title company employees, Homeowners, Lawyers and law enforcement officers involved in the Mortgage Fraud Surge investigation. He said that those indictments will come in the next few weeks. Albritton believes that Fort Myers was the hardest hit in the southwestern district of Florida.

The indictments that have been handed out in the United States Court in Fort Myers yesterday are a small sample of what is to come. Some of the defendants since September of this year have been waiving their right to a grand jury and opting for a charge of information. The indictments have been trickled down since Samir Cabrera was sentenced to ten years in federal prison for fraud and money laundering that involved the flipping of two Fort Myers properties.

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