$35 Million Foreclosure Assistance Scam Busted in Maryland
A fraud ring accused of bilking more than $35 million from lenders in a foreclosure assistance scam was busted up by prosecutors on Thursday, with U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland announcing a federal grand jury indictment and a series of arrests for the accused perpetrators. Joy Jackson and her husband, Kurt Fordam, along with six other co-conspirators, were charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and with 15 separate counts of mail fraud to obtain money and property from homeowners and lenders via their "foreclosure reversal" scheme. Jackson was also charged with six counts of money laundering. All face a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine for the conspiracy and each of the 15 mail fraud counts; Jackson and a few other defendants face additional jail time, as well. "Homeowners who fall behind on their mortgage payments should be wary of con artists who claim that there is an easy way to avoid foreclosure," said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. "Just as get-rich-quick schemes are usually fraudulent, get-out-of-debt-quick schemes are usually phony, too." According to the indictment, between September 2004 and June 2007 the defendants, operating through several companies owned by Jennifer Jackson and a friend, fraudulently promised to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, keep their homes and repair their damaged credit by directing the homeowners to allow title to their homes to be put in the names of straw buyers for a one year period. During that time, the defendants supposedly would help the homeowners obtain more favorable mortgages, improve their credit rating and eventually return title to their homes to them. The fraudsters then paid approximately $10,000 to a straw buyer to participate in the scheme; fraudulently bolstered the credit of the straw buyers so they could qualify for more favorable mortgages; obtained fraudulently inflated loans on the properties in the straw buyers names; stripped away the bulk of the homeowners' equity; converted that money to their own personal use; and stopped making the mortgage payments on the homes, resulting in the homes being foreclosed upon. As a result of the scheme, the indictment alleges that the defendants obtained more than $35 million in fraudulent loans on more than 100 homes, and that the homeowners suffered losses exceeding $10 million in stripped equity. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of $35,873,150 obtained as a result of the scheme, including 11 properties owned by the defendants. Joy Jackson's lavish lifestyle was fed by the scheme, according to prosecutors; her over-the-top living was the subject of a Washington Post story Thursday, as well. "These types of crimes create a significant loss of tax revenue, drive buyers into foreclosure, leave lenders burdened with bad loans and neighborhoods with abandoned and deteriorating properties," said C. Andre Martin, special agent-in-charge of the Internal Revenue Service Washington field office, who helped investigate the case.