Mortgage fraud investigation snags 20 in $40M scheme in South Florida
Twenty people in South Florida, including licensed real estate agents and mortgage brokers, were charged in a $40 million bank and mortgage fraud scheme, according to several law enforcement groups involved in the investigation. From March 2006 through June 2008, the defendants conspired to submit false loan applications and related documents to multiple banks to obtain mortgage loans and home equity lines of credit, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. All the defendants are from the Miami area. Most are real estate agents or mortgage brokers, but the indictment also lists a title agent, a bank manager and an appraiser. The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, receipt of gifts for procuring loans, and providing gifts for procuring loans. The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of property and money derived from the fraud. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison on each count. "Even by South Florida fraud standards, today’s prosecution is shocking," said U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. "Never before have we seen so many real estate and bank industry professionals charged in a single indictment. In addition, the defendants’ $40 million fraud spanned two years and resulted in $20 million in actual losses to the victim banks." As part of the scheme, brother and sister team, Alina Rubi, a mortgage broker, and Camilo Garcia, a mortgage broker and real estate agent, used Ivette Carreno, then a manager at Regions Bank, to obtain approval of nearly 200 fraud-based HELOCs. Alina Rubi, Camilo Garcia, and his wife, Dianelys Garcia, and other co-defendants, prepared false documents, such as proof of employment, tax returns and property deeds, to support loan applications that were replete with false statements, according to the indictment. Other co-defendants prepared mortgage and HELOC applications on behalf of unqualified borrowers and buyers. The loan applications, which were submitted to lenders, contained numerous false statements regarding the borrowers' and buyers' employment, income and other information necessary for lenders to assess their qualifications to borrow money. Some of the false statements included misrepresentations that the borrowers were doctors, dentists, engineers, or engaged in other high-paying professions. On some occasions, the defendants used the HELOC proceeds to later purchase the very properties for which they had obtained the HELOC loans. Write to Kerry Curry. Follow her on Twitter @communicatorKLC.