WASHINGTON – A Florida loan officer was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for his participation in a nationwide $2.5 million reverse mortgage fraud scheme, the Justice Department announced.
John Incandela, 25, of Palm Beach, Fla., was sentenced to 41 months in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to pay over $1.9 million in restitution. Louis Gendason, 42, of Delray Beach, Fla., is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 20, 2012.
A reverse mortgage, also known as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, allows borrowers who are at least 62 years of age to convert the equity in their homes into a monthly stream of income, or a line of credit. Unlike the traditional mortgage loan scenario, in which borrowers make monthly payments to a mortgage lender in satisfaction of their outstanding loan, in a reverse mortgage loan scenario, the mortgage lender purchases borrowers’ equity and makes installment payments to the borrower.
According to the information and statements made during the August 2011 hearing in the case, from May 2009 through November 2010, the defendants engaged in a reverse mortgage scheme that defrauded unwitting borrowers, Genworth Financial Home Equity Access Inc. and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Working as a loan officer, Incandela, along with co-defendant Marcos Echevarria, 29, of Palm Beach, solicited seniors to refinance their existing mortgages with a reverse mortgage loan financed by Genworth. To qualify the borrowers for these loans, co-defendant Gendason altered real estate appraisals to fraudulently inflate the value of the borrowers’ properties. In fact, however, none of the borrowers had sufficient equity in their properties to qualify for a reverse mortgage. The defendants then submitted the fraudulently inflated appraisals to Genworth. Based on the false documentation, Genworth approved and the FHA insured more than $2.5 million in reverse mortgage loans.
As part of the scheme, co-defendant Kimberly Mackey, 47, of Pittsburgh, a licensed title agent, fraudulently closed the Genworth loans and did not pay off the borrowers’ existing mortgage loans. Mackey attempted to conceal the fraudulent loan closings by preparing false settlement documents that showed that the existing mortgages had, in fact, been paid off. The defendants divided up the loan proceeds and used the money for their personal benefit. On Nov. 3, 2011, Mackey and Echevarria received prison sentences of 60 and 24 months, respectively, for their roles in the scheme.
The defendants further engaged in a loan modification scheme to conceal the existence of the Genworth reverse mortgage transactions from the original mortgage lenders, whose loans remained unpaid. To this end, Gendason, Incandela and Mackey conspired to create fictitious offers to buy some of the borrowers’ properties, in the form of “short sales.” A short sale is a sale of real estate in which the sale proceeds are less than the balance owed on the loan to the mortgage lender, but avoids foreclosure and related costs. In other instances, to hide the existence of the Genworth reverse mortgage loan from the original lenders, the defendants made monthly mortgage payments to the borrowers’ original lenders.
“The masterminds of this mortgage fraud scheme targeted elders who were looking for a little financial security in their golden years,” said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “This sentence--the third in this case--sends a strong message to those tempted to defraud consumers: these crimes do not pay.”
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the FBI and the Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, with assistance from the U.S. Secret Service and Genworth Financial Home Equity Access. The case was prosecuted by Kevin J. Larsen, a Trial Attorney in the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey H. Kay and Thomas Lanigan of the Southern District of Florida.