Lawyer Pleads Guilty in Metropolitan Money Store Mortgage Fraud Scheme
Conspired to Take Title of Homes from Financially Distressed Homeowners
and Secretly Use Home Equity for Personal Benefit
Greenbelt, Maryland - Richard Allison, age 37, of Camp Springs, Maryland, an attorney and employee of the U.S. Census Bureau, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme which falsely promised to help homeowners facing foreclosure keep their homes and repair their damaged credit, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
According to his plea agreement, Allison became employed by the Metropolitan Money Store located in Lanham, Maryland in December 2005. He provided legal services to: the Metropolitan Money Store, which offered foreclosure consultation and credit services to financially distressed homeowners; the Fordham & Fordham Investment Group, Ltd., a foreclosure consulting and credit servicing business based in Lanham and Greenbelt, Maryland; Burroughs & Smythe Financial Services, Inc., another foreclosure consulting and credit servicing business based in Lanham, Maryland; and several individual officers of the companies.
Beginning in March 2006, Allison conspired with company officers in a scheme to fraudulently promise to help homeowners, who had substantial equity in their homes but were facing foreclosure because of their inability to make monthly mortgage payments, avoid foreclosure and repair their damaged credit. The homeowners were directed to allow title to their homes to be put in the names of third party purchasers (the straw buyers) for a year, during which time Metropolitan Money Store promised to improve the homeowners’ credit ratings, help them obtain more favorable mortgages, and eventually return title to their homes to them. The homeowners were told that the equity withdrawn from the properties would be used to pay the mortgage and expenses on their homes and to repair their credit. The straw buyers were paid $10,000 to participate in the scheme.
Using the homeowners’ properties, the conspirators applied for mortgages to extract the maximum available equity from the homes. They prepared and submitted fraudulent loan applications to mortgage lenders to obtain fraudulently inflated loans on the target properties in the straw buyers’ names. At settlements, the conspirators imposed numerous fees and required “seller contributions” which were far in excess of industry standards; they imposed fees for services which were not performed, disclosed or explained to the homeowners; and they transferred the sale proceeds out of the escrow accounts into the conspirators’ business and personal bank accounts and converted a substantial portion of those funds to their personal use.
Allison agreed to act as a straw buyer and secure mortgage loans in his own name for two homeowners whose properties were located in Fredericksburg, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and in return, was paid $10,000 for each property. Allison made false statements as to personal and financial information on a mortgage loan application and settlement documents.
Allison faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus scheduled sentencing for September 14, 2009 at 1:00 p.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s Division of Financial Regulation Investigative Unit for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney James A. Crowell IV, who is prosecuting the case.