FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 26, 2012
For Information Contact:
Business Owner Pleads Guilty in Mortgage Fraud Scheme
That Cost Lenders More Than $1 Million
- Homeowners Turned to Her to Avoid Foreclosure, Wound up Evicted -
WASHINGTON - Carline M. Charles, 41, who operated a business that supposedly would rescue distressed homeowners from foreclosure, pled guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud for her role in a mortgage fraud scheme that cost lenders at least $1 million, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Charles, of Silver Spring, Md., pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Honorable James E. Boasberg scheduled her sentencing for Oct. 24, 2012. Charles faces a statutory maximum of five years in prison as well as fines and other penalties. As part of her plea agreement, she agreed to the forfeiture of a money judgment of $838,978, representing her share of proceeds of the crime.
According to a statement of offense, signed by the defendant as well as the government, Charles represented herself as the owner of C & O Property Solutions, LLC, a company that offered refinancing options to homeowners in the District of Columbia and Maryland whose properties were facing imminent foreclosure. In fact, she was operating a scheme that ultimately involved 12 homes along with fraudulently obtained mortgages, financial losses for lenders, and evictions for many of the people who turned to her for help.
Charles and others contacted homeowners through solicitation postcards or by telephone, using foreclosure and land records to identify people who were in financial distress. Charles told the homeowners that they could refinance their mortgage loans with the assistance of financial partners or investors so they could buy time to repair their credit. She assured them that their names would remain on the property deeds after this “refinancing.” Later, after a period of about six months, according to Charles, the homeowners could refinance the mortgages and remove the partners or investors from the property deeds.
While the homeowners believed they were refinancing their mortgage loans, in actuality they were selling outright their properties to straw purchasers recruited by Charles. Charles and others paid the straw purchasers fees of up to $10,000 per transaction in return for use of their personal information to purchase properties. All told, these actions led to mortgage lenders issuing loans of approximately $4 million. Charles arranged to siphon out roughly $1 million of this money from the properties for herself or her company. She used the money to pay her own personal expenses and to continue perpetuating the scheme.
In addition, Charles required many of the distressed homeowners to pay a monthly “mortgage” payment, which she claimed would be forwarded to the lenders or placed in escrow. Many homeowners paid her, as required, providing a total of about $114,000. Charles forwarded the mortgage payments for a period of time, but eventually stopped doing so. This led to the foreclosure of 12 properties that had the fraudulently obtained mortgages, the evictions of most of the homeowners, and a loss to the lenders of between $1 million and $2.5 million.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Machen and Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin commended the work of those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Zia Faruqui, who assisted with the forfeiture aspects of the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Butler, and former Paralegal Specialist Sarah Reis. Finally, they expressed appreciation for the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who is prosecuting the case.