News and Press Releases

FORMER OWNER OF MORTGAGE COMPANY, TITLE COMPANY OWNER, AND THREE OTHERS PLEAD GUILTY IN MORTGAGE FRAUD CONSPIRACY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 9, 2010

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, announced that, on November 5, 2010, Yvette Gonzalez Valdes, her daughter, Jeannine Valdes-Perez, her brother Joseph Gonzalez, her son-in-law Victor Perez, and Catherine Maiz, all pled guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro for their roles in a mortgage fraud conspiracy to purchase two properties. The conspiracy resulted in the approval and disbursement of more than $500,000 in mortgage loans. Sentencing for all defendants is scheduled for January 21, 2011. Each defendant faces a statutory maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

According to the charging document and statements made during the pleas, Perez was the borrower for two properties, which were purchased within nine months of one another. Best Mortgage Choice LLC, a former mortgage brokerage firm owned and operated by Gonzalez Valdes, was the broker for each transaction. Valdes, Valdes-Perez, Gonzalez, and Perez prepared and submitted fraudulent mortgage loan applications to the lenders, which included materially false information regarding Perez’s employment, income, assets, intent to live in the property and other information necessary to induce the lenders to approve the loans.

In addition, defendant Maiz, a part owner of Absolute Title, LLC, the title company for each deal, submitted false information to the lenders to induce them to fund the loans. For one of the property transactions, Maiz submitted a letter to the lender falsely claiming that her company had received a $17,000 deposit being held in escrow. For the other deal, Maiz, together with Gonzalez-Valdes, Gonzalez, and Perez, prepared and submitted a false HUD-1 Settlement Statement to the lender that did not reflect the true nature of the transaction. Among other things, the HUD-1 Settlement Statement falsely indicated that Perez brought more than $26,000 to the closing, when, in fact, he did not bring any money the closing. Gonzalez-Valdes, Gonzalez, Perez, and Maiz prepared a second HUD-1 Settlement Statement, which was never disclosed to the lender, stating that Perez was not required to pay any money at closing.

After the loans were funded, Perez did not make the required payments on the loans, and each went into default. The defendants diverted property and proceeds from the fraudulently obtained loans for their own use and benefit.

Gonzalez-Valdes, Gonzalez, Perez and Maiz all pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349. Valdes-Perez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1349 and 1343, respectively.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Secret Service and the other law enforcement agencies comprising the Federal-State Mortgage Fraud Strike Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph B. Shumofsky.

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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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