News and Press Releases

Former Mortgage Company Employees SentencedFor Fraud Scheme

May 17, 2004

Las Vegas, Nev. -  Three former mortgage company employees who processed fraudulent Federal Housing Authority (FHA) home loans from approximately 1997 to 1999 in the Las Vegas area, were sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Larry R. Hicks, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

BETH LANZA, age 49, of Huntsville, Alabama, a former regional manager and loan officer with Mortgage Capital Resources and National City Mortgage in Las Vegas, was sentenced to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay $333,375 in restitution for her guilty plea to one count of Wire Fraud; GARY STEPHENS, age 55, also of Huntsville, Alabama, a former loan officer at Mortgage Capital Resources, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and ordered to pay $148,249 in restitution for his guilty pleas to making a false statement to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and ZINA SAGONA, age 42, of Las Vegas, also a former loan officer at Mortgage Capital Resources, was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay $197,594 in restitution for her guilty pleas to conspiracy and making a false statement to HUD.

Two other co-defendants MICHAEL CARTRON and HORACE SMITH, both former loan officers with Mortgage Capital Resources and National City Mortgage, have also pleaded guilty. CARTRON was sentenced on May 5, 2004, to 21 months in prison, and SMITH was sentenced on October 21, 2003, to 37 months in prison.

According to the court records, while working at Mortgage Capital Resources, the defendants falsified loan applications and other supporting documentation for borrowers who would not have otherwise qualified for FHA loans. Subsequently, most applicants defaulted on their mortgage loans causing losses of approximately $148,249 to HUD.

After leaving Mortgage Capital Resources, LANZA, CARTRON and SMITH continued to commit mortgage fraud at National City Mortgage. At National City Mortgage, LANZA and CARTRON accepted loan applications from SMITH for fictitious or "straw" borrowers that contained fraudulent statements and documents. During this period, LANZA, CARTRON and SMITH were responsible for the submission of 17 fraudulent loan applications and a loss to National City Mortgage of approximately $185,126.

At both mortgage companies, the fraudulent applications and documents were material to the decisions to fund the mortgage loans and included documents such as, bank statements, pay stubs, tax forms, gift letters, etc. The defendants used the false statements and documents to obtain the mortgage loans in order to receive commissions.

"Prosecuting individuals who commit white collar offenses such as mortgage fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, and money laundering, etc. is a high priority in the District of Nevada," said U.S. Attorney Bogden. "The persons who commit these type of offenses prey on the poor, elderly and disadvantaged, and cost government agencies such as HUD enormous sums of money. Today's sentences send a strong message that we are committed to using the full force of federal law to identify, arrest and prosecute anyone who commits this type of crime."

This case was investigated by Special Agents with the FBI and Office of the Inspector General for HUD, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brian Pugh.

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