FLORIDA WOMAN SENTENCED TO 27 MONTHS IN
PRISON FOR ROLE IN REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT SCHEME
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that LORETTA SENECA, 51, of Boynton Beach, Fla., was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny in Hartford to 27 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for her role in a real estate investment scheme. SENECA was also ordered to serve the first six months of supervised release in home confinement, and to perform 120 hours of community service.
According to court documents and statements made in court, between approximately November 2006 and December 2007, Robert Rivernider, Robert Ponte and SENECA engaged in a real estate investment conspiracy that defrauded both lenders and individuals they recruited. Rivernider is SENECA’s brother. As part of the scheme, Rivernider, Ponte and others recruited victim borrowers to take out financing to purchase various investment properties, primarily in Tennessee and Florida, with financing from victim lenders. Rivernider and Ponte typically represented to borrowers that these properties would be passive investments and that Rivernider and Ponte would be responsible for the details of the purchase, rental, maintenance and payment of the mortgages on the properties. The co-conspirators made false representations to the victim borrowers that Rivernider and Ponte would arrange for the purchase of the properties by the borrowers at markedly discounted values. In fact, Rivernider and Ponte frequently marked up the purchase price of the properties to the victim borrowers, often by as much as 25 percent, without disclosing the increase in the purchase price. Rivernider, Ponte and others also falsely represented that the investment properties would return to the victim borrowers sufficient monies to cover the carrying costs, as well as reduce the borrowers’ other debt burden.
Rivernider, Ponte, SENECA and others victimized lenders by making multiple false representations in loan applications and other documents provided to the victim lenders. SENECA, a trained mortgage broker, was actively involved in the real estate transactions, including organizing and gathering many of the materials needed by the victim lenders, gathering certain information from the victim borrowers, providing certain comparables based on properties brokered by Rivernider to be used for purportedly independent appraisals, and a range of other background tasks necessary for the lenders to make the loans.
This scheme involved at least 100 properties, and the victim lending institutions suffered more than $21 million in losses.
On February 25, 2013, SENECA pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.
Rivernider and Ponte pleaded guilty to multiple charges stemming from both this scheme and a separate scheme that defrauded investors out of approximately $2.2 million. They are currently serving prison terms of 144 months and 90 months, respectively.
Judge Chatigny ordered SENECA to pay restitution in the amount of $5 million, and the government is seeking an order of full restitution against Rivernider and Ponte.
This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John H. Durham and Christopher W. Schmeisser.
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