ATTORNEY PLEADS GUILTY TO MORTGAGE FRAUD CONSPIRACY IN WEST PALM BEACH
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Henry Gutierrez, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, J. Thomas Cardwell, Commissioner, State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, and Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer, State of Florida’s Department of Financial Services, announced that defendant Joseph Miller, 63, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud (Count 1), in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. Sentencing has been scheduled for August 9, 2010 at 10:30 am.
According to documents filed with the court, from January 2006 through October 2007, Miller conspired with others to commit mail and wire fraud by acting as the attorney and title agent on mortgage loans that were obtained through the submission of false loan applications to Washington Mutual and other lenders. The superseding indictment also charged defendants Jason Vitulano, Peter Hartofilis, Robert Hofler, and Steve Vento. Defendants Vitulano, Hofler and Vento have pled guilty and are currently awaiting sentencing. The case against defendant Peter Hartofilis remains pending.
According to the factual proffer filed with the court in support of the guilty plea, Jason Vitulano was a branch manager at TopDot Mortgage, in Boca Raton, where Vitulano and others, including co-branch manager Hartofilis, devised a scheme to submit fraudulent loan applications to numerous lenders. The false loan applications grossly inflated the loan applicants’ earnings and assets on deposit in a local bank. According to the proffer and other court documents, Vitulano recruited attorney co-defendant Joseph Miller to act as closing and title agent on a number of these loan transactions. According to the proffer, Miller agreed to divert loan proceeds to the personal accounts of Vitulano, Hartofilis and others without disclosing that fact to the mortgage lenders.
Defendant Robert Hofler pled guilty to the conspiracy charge on April 8, 2010. Hofler was a vice president at First Southern Bank in Boca Raton. According to documents filed in the case, Hofler used his position to falsify verification of deposit forms that were used to deceive lenders into believing that a prospective loan applicants had large balances on deposit at First Southern, which was not true. In reliance on these and other false statements in the loan applications, the lenders approved and funded more than $5 million in mortgage loans to purchase residences in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. Hofler is scheduled for sentencing on July 27, 2010 at 10:30 am.
Defendant Steve Vento purchased two properties, each valued at the time at over $1 million, by submitting false loan applications through Top Dot mortgage, through the work of Jason Vitulano. Vento is scheduled for sentencing on July 13, 2010 at 11:00 am.
Defendant Jason Vitulano, the Top Dot Mortgage branch manager and alleged leader of the conspiracy scheme, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 19, 2010 at 10:30 am.
At sentencing, each of the defendants faces a maximum statutory term of imprisonment of up to 30 years in prison on each of the counts against them.
Mr. Ferrer commended the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service, the State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, and the State of Florida’s Department of Financial Services for their work in the case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lauren Jorgensen and Ellen Cohen, in conjunction with the Palm Beach County Mortgage Fraud Task Force.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.