A federal investigation into a group that used personal connections in the real estate industry to construct a mortgage fraud scheme resulted in six prison sentencings this past week.
Wilfredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and J.D. Patterson, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, announced Friday that defendants Rafael Ubieta, 50, and Angel Barroso, 46, were sentenced to 240 months and 210 months in prison, respectively. The pair were previously convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. Both defendants reside in Miami.
Furthermore, Joel Zaldivar, 33, of Studio City, Calif., and Kyle Baker, 33, of Beverly, Mass., both mortgage brokers, were each sentenced to 48 months of imprisonment after they pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Following their December 2012 guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, Martha Otero and Fernando Tolon were also sentenced to 78 months of imprisonment and 37 months of imprisonment, respectively.
As a member of the Florida Bar, Ubieta served as title attorney for multiple fraudulent real estate transactions involving the use of straw buyers on whose behalf loan applications and supporting documents containing false information were submitted to various mortgage lenders throughout the U.S. by Zaldivar and Baker, authorities alleged.
At the time, Zaldivar and Baker were mortgage brokers and the presidents of First Class Mortgage and Lending Corp. Barroso, Otero and Tolon recruited and paid straw buyers to partake in the scheme.
Once the loans were approved by the lenders based on false information, defendant Ubieta prepared false HUD-1 Settlement Statements containing invalid information.
The forms falsely indicated to the lenders that the straw buyers were bringing their own money to closing, which did not happen.
Additionally, Ubieta released the proceeds of lenders to other members of the conspiracy before receiving the buyers’ required cash-to-close payments on multiple occasions. Then members of the conspiracy used the said proceeds to make the cash-to-close payments on behalf of the straw buyers.
Ubieta was also caught signing multiple title commitments allegedly stating who the owner of record was on various properties, the U.S. Attorney's office claimed.
The false title commitments reportedly gave Ubieta the ability to conduct real estate closings in which an initial straw buyer resold properties to a second straw buyer before the initial straw buyer appeared as the owner of the property in the public records.