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Police Blotter: Boston and Chicago Area Brokers Facing Fraud Charges

Real Estate Broker Pleads Guilty To Role In Sweeping Mortgage Fraud Conspiracy

BOSTON – A Methuen real estate broker pleaded guilty in connection with a sweeping conspiracy to defraud banks and mortgage companies by engaging in sham “short” sales of residential properties in Merrimack Valley.

Greisy Jimenez, 50, pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. U.S. Senior District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf scheduled sentencing for April 24, 2018.  In March 2017, co-conspirators Jasmin Polanco, 37, a real estate closing attorney, and Vanessa Ricci, 40, a mortgage loan officer, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and are scheduled to be sentenced on March 23, 2018 and March 26, 2018, respectively. Also in March 2017, Hyacinth Bellerose, 51, a real estate closing attorney, was sentenced to time served and one year of supervised release to be served in home detention after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

The charges arose out of a scheme to defraud various banks via bogus short sales of homes in Haverhill, Lawrence, and Methuen in which the purported sellers remained in their homes, with their debt substantially reduced.

 

U.S. Attorney’s Office Charges Suburban Mortgage Brokers With Fraud For Allegedly Controlling Property Appraisals In Scheme To Defraud Lenders

CHICAGO — The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago has charged two suburban mortgage brokers with fraudulently operating a purportedly independent appraisal management company to control property valuations, and brokering fraudulent loans to finance real estate transactions between themselves and nominees.

Steven L. Garcia and his brother, Michael R. Garcia, operated American Financial Mortgage Services Inc., a licensed mortgage brokerage in Schaumburg.  According to a criminal information filed Wednesday in federal court in Chicago, the brothers fraudulently caused lenders to make mortgage loans brokered by American Financial by falsely representing that the supporting property appraisals were performed by independent appraisers, when, in fact, the Garcias and American Financial employees selected the appraisers, managed the appraisal process, influenced property valuation, and paid the appraisers.

Steven Garcia, 45, of Schaumburg, and Michael Garcia, 43, of Streamwood, are each charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud.  Arraignments in federal court in Chicago have not yet been scheduled.

The charges were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Brad Geary, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General in Chicago; and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Federal Housing Administration regulations prohibit mortgage brokers from having substantive communications with appraisers relating to valuation of properties, including ordering or managing an appraisal assignment, and from paying appraisers.  Lenders rely on independent appraisals conducted within FHA regulations.

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