Federal Jury Convicts Three Of Mortgage Fraud "Flopping"
Tampa, Florida - U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announces that a federal jury today found John Lebron (33, Tampa), Patricia Lebron (36, Tampa), and Paul Gogolewski (31, Tampa) guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. John Lebron was also found guilty of making false statements to financial institutions. All three individuals face a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment. Their sentencings are scheduled for January 18, 2013.
According to the testimony and evidence presented at trial, the individuals conspired together to "flop" houses. "Flopping" is a form of short sale fraud involving conducting a short sale on a property and then "flipping" the property in a non-arms' length transaction.
John Lebron was a Florida-licensed realtor and worked as a loan officer. Patricia Lebron is a Florida-licensed realtor. Paul Gogolewski was the President of Synergy Solutions. Together, they targeted unsophisticated, low income homeowners, who were in financial distress and convinced them to sell their houses to a straw purchaser, in a non-arms' length transaction. For a brief period of time, the conspirators would pay the mortgage payments but then stopped. They then arranged a short sale of the property from the straw purchaser to one of the conspirators. In that short sale, the lender to the straw purchaser suffered an immediate loss of approximately 80% of the original loan. Then, six days later but using deeds recorded simultaneously, the properties were re-sold to another straw purchaser for approximately 350% more than the short sale amount. In these deals, the conspirators pocketed the money that should have gone to the original distressed home owner, received the mortgage broker commission for arranging the first straw purchaser's loan, and got the difference between the short sale amount and the new loan. The straw purchasers were all paid $5,000 for their role. In all, this case involved at $1.5 million dollars in loans.
“The U.S. Secret Service takes great pleasure in working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring these individuals to justice," said John Joyce, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service. "This case is particularly egregious on several fronts. Mr. Lebron had the audacity to commit his fraudulent acts while he was on probation, he involved his family members and he defaulted on $1.4 million in loans. These individuals knowingly preyed upon and abused the financial system that supports home mortgages for their own personal gain."
In addition, John Lebron acquired four other loans through fraud. He used false identities, verified his own false employment, and for at least one of the properties, bought it as his primary residence when he legally could not move into it. John Lebron committed these crimes while on pretrial release and probation.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas N. Palermo.