Five Defendants Charged in Mortgage Fraud Scheme
Attorney and Bank Vice President Among Those Charged
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer, State of Florida’s Department of Financial Services, and Tom Grady, Commissioner, State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, announced the filing of an criminal information charging defendants Jacinto Puentes, 53, West Palm Beach, Elinor Puentes, 52, West Palm Beach, Theodore Tarone, 43, West Palm Beach, Raul Salabarria, 55, Royal Palm Beach, and Rogelio Ramirez, 42, Port Saint Lucie, with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme. If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum sentence of thirty years in prison.
Friday, three of the defendants, Jacinto Puentes, Elinor Puentes, and Raul Salabarria, made their initial appearances and were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge James M. Hopkins in West Palm Beach, Florida. Defendants Elinor Puentes and Raul Salabarria were released on $250,000 personal surety bonds. Defendant Jacinto Puentes was held on a $50,000 corporate surety bond. The remaining two defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.
According to the information, the defendants engaged in a multi-million dollar scheme to fraudulently obtain mortgages through the use of false documentation. More specifically, from November 2006 through November 2007, Jacinto Puentes and Raul Salabarria found seventeen properties in Florida and Tennessee for which they sought financing above the actual sales price quoted by the seller. Defendant Jacinto Puentes prepared and submitted loan applications containing false information and false supporting documentation, including false verifications of bank deposits from Wachovia Bank’s then Assistant Vice President, defendant Rogelio Ramirez.
According to the information, defendant Elinor Puentes and others required the sellers to use the services of co-conspirator attorney Theodore Tarone as the settlement agent. Defendant Tarone prepared duplicate HUD-1 settlement forms to reflect the two different selling prices. The lender received a HUD-1 with an inflated purchase price, while the seller received a HUD-1 with the actual sales price. Through this scheme, the conspirators received approximately $8 million in loan proceeds for the purchase of those 17 properties. Some of the defendants diverted approximately $500,000 of the loan proceeds for their personal benefit.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, the State of Florida’s Department of Financial Services, and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kerry S. Baron.
The case announced today is also part of the Department of Justice’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. This national task force was established in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. Mortgage fraud is a key focus of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force’s efforts. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
An Information is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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.