News and Press Releases

News and Press Releases

Savage woman sentenced for role in mortgage fraud scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 31, 2012


MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court, a 49-year-old real estate agent from Savage was sentenced for her participation in a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme that victimized lenders across the country. United States District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen sentenced Barbara Lynnae Puro to 60 months in prison. Puro was indicted on September 8, 2011, and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on March 14, 2012. She did not enter a plea agreement.

The indictment against Puro states that from January 1, 2005, through January 1, 2008, she conspired with others to obtain loan proceeds by making false representations to and withholding material information from lenders during the loan application process. At the time, she was employed by HomStar USA, ReMax Advantage Plus, and Coldwell Banker Burnet, where she was responsible for recruiting and representing buyers and sellers of residential properties. Puro also owned TRAE, Inc., a corporation associated with her real estate endeavors.

As part of this scheme, Puro arranged for unwitting homeowners to sell their properties to straw buyers at inflated prices. In each instance, she funneled co-conspirators the difference between the amount paid to the seller and the inflated sale price. In addition to representing those sellers, Puro often represented straw purchasers. On their behalf, she routinely produced fraudulent documentation for lenders and title companies. She also regularly caused loan proceeds to be disbursed to her co-conspirators or into accounts that she controlled. In addition to receiving concealed disbursements, Puro collected substantial real estate commissions that exceeded industry standards.

Puro and her co-conspirators convinced straw buyers to purchase approximately 22 residential properties in Minnesota, resulting in fraudulent loans in excess of $10 million and losses of approximately $5.3 million. The properties included locations in Savage and Prior Lake.

On September 15, 2011, co-conspirator Zack Zafer Dyab, age 47, of Golden Valley, was sentenced to 120 months in prison on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of money laundering in connection to this crime. Dyab was indicted along with Julia Alexander Rozhansky, age 47, of Minnetonka, on December 8, 2009. Both defendants pleaded guilty on October 26, 2010. On September 16, 2011, Rozhansky was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. On July 12, 2011, Larry Africanus Hutchinson was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Also on July 12, Jerone Ian Mitchell was sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison on one count of conspiracy. On March 30, 2012, Ericvan Anthony McDavid was sentenced to 45 months in prison on one count of mortgage fraud through use of interstate wire.

This case was the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the
Minnetonka Police Department, and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation
Division. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christian S. Wilton.

This law enforcement action is in part sponsored by the interagency Financial Fraud
Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated
and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. It includes representatives
from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and
local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and
civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal
executive branch, and, with state and local partners, 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.

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