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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


JOHN F. WOOD


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


OCTOBER 19, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


BUSINESS OWNER PLEADS GUILTY TO LEADING

MORTGAGE FRAUD CONSPIRACY


            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a North Kansas City, Mo., business owner pleaded guilty in federal court today to leading a conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud.


             Raymond Walter Zwego, Jr., 59, of Kansas City, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. Chief District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr., this morning to all of the charges contained in a Jan. 4, 2007, federal indictment. Zwego owns and operates Xpress Car Sales, Xpress Car Rental, North Mission Investments, Cobalt Blue, LLC, and Indigo Blue in North Kansas City.


             Zwego admitted that, from early September through Nov. 17, 2006, he participated in a conspiracy to defraud Fieldstone Mortgage Corporation. Zwego, the organizer and leader of the mortgage fraud scheme, also pleaded guilty to 11 counts of wire fraud.


             Zwego admitted that he conspired with others to obtain financing to purchase a residential property at 5034 Sunset Drive in Kansas City, Mo., at an inflated price in order to obtain loan proceeds in excess of the actual sale price. According to Zwego, co-conspirators falsely represented to Fieldstone Mortgage that the sale price was $1.2 million, while in reality, the actual sale price was $707,000. According to Zwego, co-conspirators sought to obtain a loan to purchase the property through a fraudulent loan application and other fraudulent documents.


            Zwego admitted to sending, or causing to be sent, fraudulent documents in a series of facsimiles and an e-mail in furtherance of the conspiracy.


             Zwego is the seventh defendant to plead guilty to participating in the mortgage fraud conspiracy.


             On June 27, 2007, Michael Rodd, 53, of Olathe, Kan., pleaded guilty to his role in the mortgage fraud conspiracy. Rodd is a real estate broker doing business as Heartland of America, Inc., in Olathe.


            Rodd’s role in the conspiracy was to act as the real estate agent in connection with the sale and purchase of the Sunset Drive property. He obtained a listing agreement for the residence, purportedly found the buyers, and otherwise acted as the real estate agent for the transaction. He attended a meeting of co-defendants (including Zwego) at which they agreed that an inflated appraisal would be obtained, and then the sale price would be inflated and a false management fee added to the Settlement Statement (to be submitted to the lender), with Zwego taking the difference.


             Larry E. Barshaw, 57, and Linda M. Thompson-Barshaw, 58, of Kansas City, Kan., were recruited as “straw buyers,” posing as purchasers of the Sunset Drive property. In reality, the Barshaws never intended to reside at the residence or to make payments on the mortgage. They were to be paid $40,000 for their role in the conspiracy. Thompson-Barshaw is the owner of Colormarc, Inc., a remodeling business that employed her husband, Larry Barshaw. The Barshaws pleaded guilty on May 25, 2007, to their role in the conspiracy and to wire fraud.


             On May 21, 2007, co-defendants James E. Coleman, 59, and James R. Rhoades, 48, both of Kansas City, pleaded guilty to their roles in the mortgage fraud conspiracy. Coleman, a Certified Public Accountant who formerly served as president of the board of a Kansas City magnet school, also pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud. On May 14, 2007, co-defendant Jeremy A. Plagman, 29, of Lee’s Summit, an appraiser doing business as JET Appraisals in Lee’s Summit, pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy.


             Plagman provided an inflated appraisal of $1.2 million for the property at 5034 Sunset Drive. Coleman’s role in the conspiracy was to prepare and provide a number of fraudulent letters for the Barshaws attesting to their credit worthiness. These letters and the inflated appraisal were submitted to Fieldstone Mortgage as part of the loan application to purchase the property. Rhoades’ role in the conspiracy was to assist Zwego in obtaining documents needed for the transaction, to prepare and submit false documents as needed, and to contact co-conspirators as needed.


             The Barshaws and Coleman also admitted to wire fraud by acknowledging their responsibility for a facsimile transmission of signed closing documents relating to the sale and purchase of the property that was sent to Fieldstone Mortgage on Nov. 17, 2006.


             Additionally, Coleman also admitted that, on three separate occasions in October and November 2006, he committed wire fraud by transmitting facsimiles of fraudulent documents in furtherance of the conspiracy.


            Under federal statutes, each of the co-defendants could be subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution, on the conspiracy charge. Zwego, the Barshaws and Coleman could also be subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution, on each of the wire fraud charges. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Linda Parker Marshall and Gene Porter. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html