News and Press Releases

MORTGAGE FRAUD DEFENDANT CONVICTED IN AFFINITY-FRAUD SCHEME INVOLVING HAITIAN-AMERICAN VICTIMS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Henry Gutierrez, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Field Office, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Filed Office, and J. Thomas Cardwell, Commissioner, State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation, announced that on April 8, 2011, a federal jury convicted defendant Constance Powell conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, and all substantive mail fraud counts in the indictment. The defendant was acquitted of the aggravated identity theft counts.

Sentencing has been scheduled for June 16, 2011 at 10 AM before U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King. At sentencing, Powell faces a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years on each count of conviction. Powell’s co-defendant, Yolette Antoine, previously pled guilty and was sentenced to 75 months’ imprisonment for her role in the scheme.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Powell was part of an affinity-fraud scheme that targeted the Haitian-American community in South Florida and elsewhere. As part of the fraud, the defendant engaged in a mortgage fraud scheme, which resulted in the approval and disbursement of approximately $4.4 million in fraudulent mortgage loans, and losses of approximately $1.5 million to various lenders. Defendants Powell and Antoine obtained the identifying information of individuals in the Haitian-American community under false pretenses and used that information to apply for residential loans with various lenders.

According to in-court statements and records filed with the court, Antoine typically advertised herself in the Haitian-American community as someone who could provide assistance with immigration issues and as the manager of a purported government sponsored program. When individuals contacted her concerning the immigration assistance or purported government program, Antoine would obtain their personal identifying information, including the individuals’ names, social security numbers and copies of their driver’s licenses. That information was then used by Powell to submit loan applications to various lenders. Antoine and Powell would later arrange for the subsequent sale of the properties to themselves, friends, relatives and others. Powell would receive the mortgage fraud proceeds into her bank accounts and would share her ill-gotten gains with Antoine.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Armando Rosquete and Roger Cruz.

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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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