News and Press Releases

liberty woman indicted for $5 million mortgage fraud

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 30, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – David M. Ketchmark, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that a Liberty, Mo., woman who operated a real estate business has been indicted by a federal grand jury for her role in a $5 million mortgage fraud scheme.

Teresa Jean Whitten, 39, of Liberty, was charged in a 10-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Whitten appeared in federal court today for her initial court appearance.

According to the federal indictment, Whitten was doing business under the name Leadership to Homeownership. Whitten allegedly engaged in a mortgage fraud scheme from early to mid-2007 through Feb. 23, 2009, in which mortgage lenders loaned borrowers approximately $5,088,224. Whitten obtained in excess of $400,000 from the loan proceeds, the indictment says.

Whitten solicited potential buyers by advertisements, flyers, a Web site, and other means, the indictment says, claiming that she had a program through which people could purchase houses without putting money down and could qualify and obtain mortgage loans for which they would not otherwise qualify. Whitten’s scheme relied on false and fraudulent loan applications and supporting documents, the indictment says. The false and fraudulent representations and omissions allegedly included borrowers’ income, employment, assets, liabilities and intent to occupy the property as their primary residence.

According to the indictment, the loan applications falsely claimed the borrowers were making a down payment and were bringing money to closing, when in fact the funds were supplied by Whitten. As part of the scheme, Whitten allegedly gave cash to borrowers so they could obtain cashier’s checks from their banks to take to closings. From the loan proceeds, after closing Whitten allegedly received funds both for her fee and reimbursement for the funds she advanced, none of which was disclosed to the lenders.

The federal indictment charges Whitten with five counts of bank fraud, two counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering in relation to the mortgage fraud scheme.

Whitten is also charged with one count of obstruction of justice. The indictment alleges that Whitten attempted to impede the federal criminal investigation by destroying documents. A grand jury subpoena required her to appear before a grand jury and to bring certain documents with her, the indictment says. Whitten allegedly gave boxes and bags of documents to two individuals and instructed them to put the documents in a trash container at their apartment complex. Whitten allegedly told these individuals that she was being investigated by the FBI for mortgage fraud and that she had documents that would be of interest to the investigation. She allegedly told them that she had added food wrappers to the contents to make it look like trash, and told them to set the documents outside in the rain to make sure they were ruined.

Whitten is also charged with one count of theft of government property related to a Social Security fraud scheme. According to the indictment, Whitten received $78,964 in disability insurance benefits and auxiliary payments for her children to which she was not entitled, as well as a $250 Recovery Act payment, for a total of $79,214.

Ketchmark cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Parker Marshall. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation, HUD – Office of Inspector General, the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General and the FBI.

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