News and Press Releases

Operation Jail House Defendant Sentenced

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 14, 2012

Seventeen Bankers, Brokers, and Borrowers Engaged in $10 Million Small Business Loan Scheme; Seven Others Engaged in Identity Theft Ring

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, announce the sentencing of Thomas C. Correa, another Operation Jail House defendant; all other defendants, including business consultants, bankers, and borrowers, have been previously sentenced. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra sentenced Correa to 24 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release.

Operation Jail House, as this undercover operation was called, involved the prosecution of twenty-four defendants on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and committing fraud on financial institutions, bribery of bank employees, money laundering property represented to be proceeds of illegal drug trafficking, identity theft, and aggravated identity theft. The investigation focused on the defendants’ fraudulent scheme to obtain business lines of credit at FDIC-insured financial institutions.

Correa was a former Broward County School District assistant principal, an instructor at Nova Southeastern University, and Broward County reserve deputy sheriff. He was convicted by a jury on charges of attempted bank fraud and making false statements on a loan application to a bank. According to the evidence, Correa falsely claimed assets and income on income tax returns to make it appear that he was financially qualified for a loan of at least $100,000.

Correa’s sentencing is part of a two-year FBI undercover investigation into the activities of Palm Beach Business Consultants (PBBC), a Boca Raton loan brokerage firm operated by co-defendant Frank Santa. Santa provided loans and lines of credit to small businesses that could not legitimately qualify for financing. According to the Information, documents filed with the Court, and statements made during the sentencing hearings, Santa claimed he could get these clients up to $300,000 in financing through his contacts with local bankers.

Santa charged his clients up-front fees ranging from between $12,500 to $25,000. In truth, however, Santa had arrangements with corrupt bank officers, including defendants David McGuire of Wachovia Bank, William Hebert of HSBC Bank, David Ramoy of Floridian Community Bank, Alexander Reyes and Daniel Agudelo of Fifth Third Bank, Christopher Brooks of Bank of America, and Macario Deguzman of Regions Bank and AmTrust Bank. These bankers accepted bribes, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, from Santa or an undercover agent in return for pushing through PBBC’s fraudulent loans or providing false verification of deposits.

According to the charges and documents filed with the court, the fraudulent loan packages were created by two PBBC employees, Rodney Kahane and Daniel Paine at Santa’s direction. Kahane and Paine created false loan applications and financial documents, including false tax returns, false pay stubs, false balance sheets and false income statements. PBBC then submitted the fraudulent loan and credit packages to the complicit bankers, who would push them through the system.

As a result of the scheme, more than $10 million in loans and lines of credit applications were submitted to local banks on behalf of PBBC clients, including defendants Antonio Mannarino, Anthony Depierro, Thomas Correa, Gary Gross, Terrance Ward and Jeanne Ward. In some instances, PBBC used straw borrowers, including defendant Derek Nadler, on the fraudulent loans and/or lines of credit.

In addition, according to documents filed with the Court, bankers David McGuire (of Wachovia Bank), Daniel Agudelo and Alexander Reyes (both of Fifth Third Bank), William Hebert (of HSBC Bank), and David Ramoy (of Floridian Community Bank) agreed to launder money represented by an undercover agent to be drug proceeds. Specifically, the bankers set up corporate and personal accounts to facilitate the laundering of hundreds of thousands of dollars of purported drug proceeds. The bankers instructed the undercover agent on how to structure the deposits so as to circumvent federal anti-money laundering regulations and bank policies.

The defendants and their sentences follow:

Loan broker Frank Santa, 52, of Boca Raton, was sentenced to 88 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $1,502,465.04 in restitution, on a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Banker Daniel Agudelo, 34, of Royal Palm Beach, was sentenced to 40 months in prison, to be followed by three years supervised release, and was ordered to pay $4,800 in restitution, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering.

Banker Christopher Brooks, 34, of Tamarac, was sentenced to time served, to be followed by 36 months of supervised release, on charges of accepting a bribe as a bank officer.

Banker Macario Deguzman, 30, of Miramar, was sentenced to 42 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $732,482.71 in restitution, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and accepting bribes as a bank officer.

Banker William Hebert, 36, of Lake Worth, was sentenced to 42 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $34,700 in restitution, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering.

Banker David Mcguire, 39, of Boca Raton, was sentenced to 50 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $1,255,512.16 in restitution, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering.

Banker David Ramoy, 33, of Lighthouse Point, was sentenced to 33 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering.

Banker Alexander Reyes, 25, of Boynton Beach, was sentenced to 29 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $7500 in restitution, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering.

PBBC employee Rodney Kahane was sentenced to 66 months in prison.

PBBC employee Daniel Paine was sentenced to 57 months in prison.

Borrower Jeanne Ward, 48, of Sunrise, was sentenced to 33 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, identity theft and aggravated identity theft.

Borrower Terrance Ward, 48, of Loxahatchee, the former husband of co-defendant Jeanne Ward, was sentenced to 33 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, identity theft and aggravated identity theft.

Borrower Anthony Depierro, 46, of Boca Raton, was sentenced to 40 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $768,374.89 in restitution, on a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Borrower Gary Gross, 59, of Boca Raton, was sentenced to 27 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $215,399 in restitution, on a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Borrower Antonio Mannarino, 42, of Boca Raton, was sentenced to 36 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $1,218,683.11 in restitution, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.

Borrower Derek Nadler, 45, of Boca Raton, was sentenced to 9 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $975,120.27 in restitution, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.

Operation Jail House led to the discovery of a separate identity theft ring. Defendants Verne E. Bell, Michael A. Mercado, Ileana M. Martinez, Gregory C. Lenox, Ryan P. Sullivan, Erlon A. Monteiro, and Vernon A. Taylor stole unsuspecting victims’ identities, created fictitious out-of-state drivers’ licenses, and used their falsely created identification documents to access and deplete the victims’ accounts and obtain personal and business lines of credit in the victims’ names. These seven defendants have all been sentenced as follows:

Verne E. Bell was sentenced to 101 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, identity theft and aggravated identity theft.

Michael A. Mercado was sentenced to 44 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, identity theft and aggravated identity theft.

Ileana M. Martinez was sentenced 55 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, identity theft and aggravated identity theft.

Gregory C. Lenox was sentenced to 41 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, on charges of conspiracy to commit.

Ryan P. Sullivan was sentenced to 40 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, identity theft and aggravated identity theft.

Erlon A. Monteiro was sentenced to 30 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, identity theft and aggravated identity theft.

Vernon A. Taylor was sentenced to 30 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Mr. Ferrer commended the FBI for their outstanding work in this long-term undercover operation. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Boca Raton Police Department, and Fort Lauderdale Police Department for their cooperation and assistance in this matter. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ellen Cohen, Adrienne Rabinowitz and Rolando Garcia.

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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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