News and Press Releases

SUPERSEDING INDICTMENT RETURNED ADDING DEFENDANTS IN MORTGAGE FRAUD CASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17, 2010

Jeffrey H. Sloman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Henry Gutierrez, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection 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 a federal grand jury yesterday returned a superseding indictment in the case of United States v. Jason Vitulano, et al., Case No. 09-80156-CR-MIDDLEBROOKS(s), adding four new defendants and three new counts to the original indictment.

Newly charged in the case are attorney Joseph Miller, 63 of Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Peter Hartofilis, 33, of Flushing, NY, Robert Hofler, 52, of Pembroke Pines, FL, and Steve Vento, 41, of Jupiter, FL. All of the defendants are charged with conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud by submitting false mortgage loan applications to Washington Mutual and other lenders between January 2006 and October 2007, in violation of 18 U. S. C. § 1349. In addition, Joseph Miller is charged with four counts of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U. S. C. § 1341, and Peter Hartofilis is charged with one count of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1343, respectively. Jason Vitulano, 44, of Boca Raton, FL, was previously charged with the same violations and remains under indictment for conspiracy, three counts of mail fraud and six counts of wire fraud. If convicted, the defendants all face up to 30 years in prison and mandatory restitution on each of the counts pending against them.

According to the superseding indictment, Jason Vitulano and Peter Hartofilis were branch managers of the TopDot Mortgage office in Boca Raton. The allegedly devised a scheme to submit loan applications to numerous lenders that contained grossly inflated statements of loan applicants’ earnings and assets on deposit in a local bank. Steve Vento is alleged to have submitted two false loan applications to fund the purchase of two houses, priced at $1.9 million and $1.1 million.

The superseding indictment also alleges that attorney Joseph Miller acted as closing agent and title agent on a number of these loan transactions and that Miller agreed to divert loan proceeds to the personal accounts of Vitulano, Hartofilis and others without disclosing that fact to the mortgage lenders.

According to the indictment, defendant Robert Hofler worked at First Southern Bank in Boca Raton as a vice president. Hofler is alleged to have falsely attested to loan applicants having large balances on deposit at First Southern, ranging from $130,000 up to $600,000. 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.

Jason Vitulano is detained pending trial. Defendants Joseph Miller and Robert Hofler will make their initial appearances before U. S. Magistrate Judge Ann E. Vitunac on Friday, March 19th at 10 am. Defendant Peter Hartofilis was arrested in Queens, NY, where he made his initial appearance today. He is scheduled to appear in federal court in West Palm Beach on Wednesday, March 24, 2010. Steve Vento is scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court in West Palm Beach on Wednesday, March 31, 2010. Trial has been scheduled for July 2010.

Mr. Sloman commended the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, State of Florida’s Department of Financial Services, and Office of Financial Regulation for their work in the case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lauren Jorgensen and Ellen Cohen. The law enforcement agents and prosecutors are members of the Palm Beach County Mortgage Fraud Task Force.

An Indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Attachments:
Indictment (PDF)

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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.

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