[Update 1: the original version of this article referred to a Fannie Mae property in the headline. It was correctly referenced as Freddie Mac in the story. The headline is now accurate along with the body.]
A former special agent with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations division of the Department of Homeland Security admitted in court this week that she conspired to defraud Freddie Mac and SunTrust Mortgage in a short sale scheme.
According to the Department of Justice, Shauna Sutherland pleaded guilty this week to one count of wire fraud related to the scheme.
As part of her plea agreement, Sutherland admitted to defrauding SunTrust Mortgage and Freddie Mac into allowing a short sale of a property she owned in Georgia to a family friend who acted as a straw purchaser.
Sutherland lied about there being no hidden agreements between her and the purchaser and requested forgiveness of more than $40,000 owed on the mortgage as a result of her supposed financial difficulties.
Based on those false representations, SunTrust and Freddie Mac agreed to the short sale offer, with Sutherland’s family friend “purchasing” the property for approximately $34,000.
In exchange, SunTrust Mortgage and Freddie Mac released Sutherland from her outstanding obligation.
Freddie Mac, which owned the mortgage, calculated a total loss of more than $42,000 as a result of the short sale.
But the purchase wasn’t as it appeared.
According to court documents, Sutherland had a “secret” agreement with the family friend and actually provided the purchase money for the short sale herself using funds wired to her by her mother.
Sutherland therefore remained the property’s de facto owner, collecting rent from tenants and paying for maintenance.
Sutherland took on the straw purchaser’s identity in order to communicate by email about the property and signed that person’s signature on various documents. Sutherland also used the straw purchaser’s bank account for financial transactions related to the property.
Additionally, Sutherland, still using the straw purchaser, sold the property in 2013 and used the proceeds to buy another property in Florida.
Sutherland will be sentenced on June 29.