Four South Florida residents were found guilty by a jury on mortgage fraud charges. The mortgage fraud scheme resulted in losses to the former Wachovia Bank in excess of $800,000. Government prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office prosecuted the case that was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the Miami-Dade County Police Department, Economic Crimes Division. The four defendants, Sixto Figueroa, Susy Figueroa, Rolando Herrera and Manuel Garcia were each represented by a Miami criminal lawyer with years of experience defending clients in federal court.
The jurors heard testimony that the Figueroas were the masterminds of the mortgage fraud operation and recruited Herrera and Garcia to participate in their scheme to defraud. Herrera and Garcia were recruited to act as straw buyers for lots located in Port Labelle, Florida. Herrera and Garcia received kickbacks for their involvement in the mortgage fraud scheme. Herrera and Garcia paid inflated prices for the lots owned by the Figueroas. The Figueroas submitted fraudulent loan applications to Wachovia which contained false information including misrepresented financial information of the straw buyers such as tax returns and bank statements that had no basis in reality. Testimony also revealed that HUD-1 documents were also falsified which reflected that Herrera and Garcia used their own money to make the down payments and closing costs, when in fact the Figeuroas made all of the payments.
After Wachovia approved the loans, the money was sent to a title company which improperly released the funds directly to the Figueroas who in turn used the money to pay the closing costs for their co-defendants and the kickbacks for becoming involved in the fraud. Eventually, all of the loans went into default after the straw buyers failed to make the payments. All four defendants were convicted on charges of bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, in violation of United States Code, 1349 and 1344. Each of the defendants is facing the statutory maximum of 30 years in prison, restitution and fines. The sentencing hearing federal court is set in September, 2010. The Figeuroas will likely receive significantly loftier sentences than the straw buyers as they were the organizers of the mortgage fraud.
As in all federal convictions or guilty pleas, a federal probation officer will investigate the defendants' backgrounds, calculate the sentencing guidelines for each of the defendants and draft a pre-sentence investigation report (PSI). The PSI will be used by the government prosecutors and defense attorneys as a basis for their arguments at the hearing the and the judge will consider it in determining what is supposed to be a fair sentence. The probation officer has 30 days to submit the report, while the attorneys have an additional 30 days to file objections to the report and/or sentencing memoranda of law.
Florida Jury Convicts Four Residents for Wachovia Mortgage Fraud Scheme, Loan Safe.org, July 23, 2010.