10th defendant admits role in $40.8 million mortgage fraud scheme
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 14, 2014
CAMDEN, N.J. – An Ocean County, N.J., man today admitted his role in a $40.8 million mortgage fraud conspiracy in which he used his position as a loan officer of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc. to get the company to release more than $4.6 million based on fraudulent mortgage loan applications, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Robert Serao, 48, of Bayville, N.J., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph E. Irenas in Camden federal court to Count One of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is the 10th defendant to plead guilty in the case.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
While working in various positions – including branch manager, sales manager and loan officer – within Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc., a division of Wells Fargo Bank N.A., Serao entered into a conspiracy with Stephen Corba, Charles Harvath, Joseph Witkowski and others to submit mortgage loans to his employer for financially unqualified “straw buyers” based upon false and fraudulent information contained in Uniform Residential Loan Applications, HUD-1 Forms, tax returns and other documents.
Serao’s conspirators caused fraudulent mortgage loan applications and supporting documents to be submitted to Wells Fargo and numerous other mortgage lenders in various straw buyers’ names, attributing to them inflated income and assets in order to induce the mortgage lenders to approve the loans. Once the loans were approved and the mortgage lenders sent the loan proceeds in connection with the real estate closing on the properties, Serao’s conspirators took a portion of the proceeds from the fraudulent mortgage loans. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage released more than $4.6 million based on fraudulent mortgage loan applications. Serao profited from his role in the conspiracy by increased commissions on the mortgage funds.
Nine of Serao’s conspirators have pleaded guilty to participating in this mortgage fraud conspiracy, including Harvath, Corba, John Siuszko, Michael Williams, William Brown, Mark Kreischer, Crystal Brame, Aku I. Muhammad and George Lachenmayr Jr.
The wire fraud conspiracy charge to which Serao pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Sentencing for Serao is currently scheduled for June 24, 2014.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Atlantic City Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark; and IRS B Criminal Investigation in Mays Landing, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The pending charges and allegations against any related defendants are merely allegations, and they are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana Carrig of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Camden.
Defense counsel: Robert A. Weir Jr. Esq. and Edward J. Plaza. Esq. Red Bank, N.J.