Lisa Wright, 46, and Cathy Saffer, 52, of Pompano Beach, Fla., were sentenced today to serve 66 and 60 months respectively for defrauding homeowners and mortgage lenders as part of a foreclosure rescue scheme, the Justice Department announced. The two women were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra in the Southern District of Florida.
Wright pleaded guilty on March 27, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. Saffer was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud, following a two week jury trial in July.
According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, Wright and Saffer operated Foreclosure Solution Specialists (FSS) from 2006 to 2009. Through FSS, Wright and Saffer targeted homeowners facing foreclosure, advertising that FSS could assist those homeowners in remaining in their homes. When contacted by distressed homeowners seeking assistance, Wright and Saffer misrepresented to those homeowners that their homes would be sold to investors. They also claimed that customers could remain in their homes after the sales and promised them an opportunity to repurchase the homes at a later date. Rather than selling the homes to legitimate investors, Wright and Saffer designed sham sales to straw purchasers whom they paid to participate in the scheme.
According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, Wright and Saffer paid Florida Certified Public Accountant Barrington Coombs to write a fraudulent letter which falsely vouched for the fraudulent information on various loan applications. Coombs, who was also convicted by the jury, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 7, 2012.
Mortgage transactions completed by FSS drew equity out of the homes, which Wright and Saffer pocketed for their own purposes. After doing so, Wright and Saffer allowed the loans to go into foreclosure. Homeowners ultimately lost all of the equity in their homes, and most of the victims were forced to move out of their homes.
“The individuals sentenced today took advantage of desperate homeowners hoping to shed the weight of debt and foreclosure, ,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. “We will continue to work with the FBI and our other law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud and foreclosure rescue schemes such as this one.”
Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida stated, “ This case illustrates the lengths that fraudsters will go to victimize and ruin the lives of hard working families. This mortgage fraud scheme robbed homeowners of more than just their homes; it also robbed them of hope and the American dream of home ownership. The best way to avoid being victimized is to do your homework and ask hard questions. Be wary of those whose promises seem too good to be true. Through this prosecution, these fraudsters have been brought to justice.”
The case was investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Christopher E. Parisi and John Claud, Trial Attorneys at the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov .