Vice President of Financial Services Firm Pleads Guilty in Metropolitan Money Store Mortgage Fraud Scheme
Responsible for Over $4 Million in Losses Under the Scheme
Greenbelt, Maryland - Chandra Jones, age 31, of Lanham, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with a mortgage fraud scheme that 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.
“Federal and state investigators are working together to prosecute mortgage fraud crimes in Maryland,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
According to her plea agreement, in July 2005, Chandra Jones was hired to work as a loan processor at the Metropolitan Money Store (MMS), located in Lanham, Maryland, which offered foreclosure consultation and credit services to financially distressed homeowners. Shortly after she began working at MMS, Jones conspired with others 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 The homeowners were told that the equity withdrawn from the properties would be used to pay the mortgage and expenses on their homes and to repair their credit.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 to participate in the scheme.
Using the homeowners’ properties, the conspirators applied for mortgages to extract the maximum available equity from the homes and prepared and submitted to mortgage lenders (“the lenders”) fraudulent loan applications to obtain 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.
In November 2005, Jones was hired to work at Fordham & Fordham Investment Group, Ltd. (“F&F”), a Maryland corporation based in Lanham and Greenbelt, that assisted MMS in its foreclosure consulting and credit servicing business. Jones was responsible for paying the mortgages on foreclosure reversal program properties and assisting program participants with repairing their credit. Jones was later made vice-president of F&F and was also made a director of Burroughs & Smythe Financial Services, Inc. (“B&S”), another Maryland corporation that assisted MMS in its foreclosure consulting and credit servicing business. Jones was not licensed to provide credit repair services and had not received any training related to the mortgage industry, credit repair, or financial services.
During the course of the conspiracy, Jones placed $788,978.30 from F&F’s bank accounts into her personal bank accounts. For example, on October 25, 2006, Jones wire transferred $20,000 drawn on one of F&F’s accounts and deposited the funds into her personal bank account. At the direction of co-conspirators Jones transferred funds from the F&F accounts to pay the personal expenses of co-conspirators and observed co-conspirators using funds from the F&F accounts for their personal benefit.
Chandra Jones also agreed to serve as a straw buyer for two properties, and secure mortgage loans in her own name to do so, because she had a good credit history. Jones was paid $3,600 for serving as a straw buyer for a property in Accokeek, Maryland and $5,000 for serving as a straw buyer for a property in Bladensburg, Maryland. In purchasing the properties Chandra Jones made false statements as to personal and financial information on settlement documents.
As a result of this scheme, the total loss attributable to Chandra Jones, including the estimated losses to the mortgage lenders, is $4,189,283.86.
Jones 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 October 5, 2009 at 9:30 a.m.
Chandra Jones, the daughter of co-defendants Jennifer and Clifford McCall, is the sixth defendant to plead guilty in the Metropolitan Money Store mortgage fraud scheme. Jennifer McCall, age 47, of Ft. Washington, Maryland, a chief executive officer of Metropolitan Money Store and owner of JC and JC Investments LLC; Katisha Fordham, age 35, of Washington, D.C.,a loan processor at the Metropolitan Money Store; Richard Allison, age 37, of Camp Springs, Maryland, an attorney and employee of the U.S. Census Bureau; Clifford McCall, age 47, of Lanham, Maryland, president of Burroughs & Smythe Financial Services, Inc., based in Lanham and a director of the Fordham & Fordham Investment Group, Ltd., a foreclosure consulting and credit servicing business based in Lanham and Greenbelt, Maryland and Carlisha Dixon, age 31, of Hyattsville, Maryland, vice president and a director of Burroughs & Smythe Financial Services, Inc.; each pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and are facing a maximum sentencing of 30 years in prison.
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 Attorneys James A. Crowell IV and Christen A. Sproule, who are prosecuting the case.