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THIRTEEN MORTGAGE FRAUD DEFENDANTS INDICTED IN $16.9 MILLION BANK FRAUD SCHEME INVOLVING HIGH END CONDOMINIUM UNITS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2010

Defendants include title agent, bank loan officer, recruiters, and straw buyers

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, Postal Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and James K. Loftus, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department, announced the April 8, 2010 unsealing of an 18-count superseding indictment charging thirteen defendants in a mortgage fraud scheme that resulted in approximately $16.9 million in fraudulent mortgage loans, and losses of $9.7 million to the lender, Wells Fargo Bank. The properties charged in the superseding indictment include multiple units at a luxury condominium building on Brickell Bay Drive in Miami and single family homes in Coral Gables, Florida. Charged in the superseding indictment are defendants Greta Medina, 26, of Coral Gables, FL, Ricardo Estrada, 39, of Miami, FL, Dania Arguelles, 44, of Miami, FL, Fernanda Abrea, 50, of Miami, FL, Obed Hernandez, 38, of Miami, FL, Martin Mere, 42, of Port St. Lucie, FL, Nestor Collantes, 59, of Miami, FL, Alfonso Velasco, 55, of Miami, FL, Adan Vasquez, 40, of Houston, TX, Yohamel Caballero, 26, of Miami, FL, Ana Aviles, 45, of Miami, FL, Leismy Barcia, 33, of Miami, FL, and Christian Gomez, 37, of West New York, NJ.

According to the superseding indictment, defendant Greta Medina and other co-conspirators identified eleven properties to be used to defraud Wells Fargo Bank into issuing $16.9 million in mortgage loans. The real estate broker, Margaret Roberts, who previously pled guilty, negotiated the purchases with the sellers. Medina and others paid a Wells Fargo loan officer, defendant Ricardo Estrada, to facilitate the approval of the fraudulent loan applications at Wells Fargo. Medina also paid the title agent to create fraudulent closing documents and to release the lender’s proceeds early to allow the straw purchasers to use the lender’s money to make deposits on the properties and pay their closing costs.

The conspirators recruited straw buyers to purchase the properties. The recruiters, including defendants Dania Arguelles, Fernanda Abrea, Obed Hernandez, and Martin Mere, recruited straw buyers Nestor Collantes, Alfonso Velasco, Adan Vasquez, Yohamel Caballero, Ana Aviles, and Leismy Barcia to submit fraudulent loan applications to the lender. The loan applications included false information about the straw buyers’ salaries and deposits, to create the impression that the straw buyers could qualify for loans in excess of one million dollars for each property.

At closing, the defendants diverted millions in loan proceeds by skimming the difference between the inflated purchase price and the price actually paid to the seller for the property. Greta Medina, Dania Arguelles, Christian Gomez, Alfonso Velasco and Fernanda Abrea received loan proceeds from the title company and paid off their co-conspirators, including the title agent, the loan officer, the recruiters, and the straw buyers. In some instances, the defendants stripped more money out of the properties by taking out home equity lines of credit. Ultimately, the straw buyers defaulted on the loans, causing each of the properties to go into foreclosure and resulting in estimated losses to the lender of more than $9.7 million.

The superseding indictment includes charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, substantive bank fraud and receipt of commissions and gifts for procuring loans. The bank fraud and receipt offenses carry a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment.

Mr. Sloman commended the investigative efforts of the Federal State Mortgage Fraud Strike Force with special commendation to the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Miami-Dade Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter A. Forand.

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

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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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