News and Press Releases

SEVENTH PERSON IN MORTGAGE FRAUD CONSPIRACY PLEADS GUILTY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FRIDAY JANUARY 07, 2011
http://www.justice.gov/usao/ohs
CONTACT: Fred Alverson
Public Affairs Officer
(614) 469-5715

CINCINNATI – The last of six family members charged with operating a mortgage fraud conspiracy between 2004 and 2009 pleaded guilty in United States District Court. One of their employees has also pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy.

Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Keith L. Bennett, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and Dugan T. Wong, Assistant Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, announced the pleas today. All defendants entered their pleas before Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott.

Today, Salvatore Sferrazza, 70, of West Chester, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, and one count of money laundering which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  

Keiron Ashurst, 45, of Fairfield, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. He is a citizen of Great Britain and may face immigration consequences.

On January 5, Heather Ashurst, 27, of West Chester, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

On January 4, 2010, Debbie Sferrazza, 46, of West Chester, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, one count of money laundering, and three counts of filing false income tax returns. Conspiracy is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Money laundering is punishable by up to ten years and each of the tax charges is punishable by up to three years in prison. Debbie Sferrazza is a citizen of Great Britain, so she may face deportation. She is the wife of Salvatore Sferrazza and the brother of Keiron Ashurst.

James Ashurst, 27, of West Chester, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, and one count of money laundering which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  He is the husband of Heather Ashurst and a son of Debbie Sferrazza.

Whitney Bonapfel, 22, of Cincinnati, Debbie Sferrazza’s daughter, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement or report to HUD (a misdemeanor offense).  She faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison, a fine of up to $100,000, and one year of supervised release. 

On May 25, 2010, Tabatha Sturgill, 35, of Hamilton, who was employed by Debbie Sferrazza, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and one count of filing a false income tax return which is punishable by up to three years in prison. 

According to court documents, the conspirators prepared false loan applications and used fraudulent supporting documents to acquire loans in connection with 14 real estate transactions involving eight residential properties.

The pleas also require the defendants to make restitution to the lenders involved and to the IRS.

Judge Dlott will set dates for sentencings for the defendants.

In addition to the FBI, IRS, and Postal Inspection Service, agencies participating in the Greater Cincinnati Mortgage Fraud Task Force include the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, the Cincinnati Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service, the Springdale Police Department, Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Kentucky, the West Chester Police Department, the Middletown Police Department, Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis, the FDIC, and the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Financial Institutions.

Stewart commended the Task Force’s cooperative investigation, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy Mangan and Jennifer Barry, who are prosecuting the case.

 

 

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