News and Press Releases

Former York County Woman Sentenced to Nearly 20 Years for Fraud

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 20, 2012

     The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, announced today that a former York County woman has been sentenced to 238 months’ incarceration for defrauding 36 homeowners in Cumberland, York and Adams Counties out of $2,470,666 between 2006 and 2008.

     United States Attorney Peter J. Smith said that following a six-day jury trial in November 2011, Joanne M. Seeley, age 42, formerly of East Berlin, Pennsylvania, was found guilty in November of 2011 on four counts of Wire Fraud and four counts of Money Laundering. After a lengthy sentencing hearing that started yesterday and ended today, Judge Sylvia Rambo sentenced Seeley to the term. Judge Rambo also ordered Seeley to pay $2,470,666 in restitution to the 36 homeowners.

     Seeley, who now lives in South Carolina, was a Pennsylvania licensed real estate agent until December 12, 2006, when she permanently surrendered her license in lieu of disciplinary action. Testimony during the trial showed that between September 2005 and December 2008 Seeley perpetrated a wire fraud scheme that defrauded 36 homeowners plus dozens of mortgage lenders and several investors.

     The particular scheme Seeley executed is more commonly known as a Foreclosure Rescue/Equity Skim, operating under the name of a new business she created, S&D Property Solutions. Seeley would identify a residence scheduled for Sheriff's Sale and advise the homeowner he could avoid foreclosure by selling the home to her or one of her investor/buyers, who would then lease the property back to the homeowner after the sale. Seeley assured the homeowner she would use the equity in the property to pay off his personal debts, rebuild his credit rating, and allow him to buy his home within one year. Seeley also promised other homeowners that their equity would be held in escrow by the investor/buyer for their repurchase of their home.

     Before surrendering her real estate license Seeley would simply charge the distressed homeowner an extremely high commission equal to the exact penny of the homeowner’s proceeds from the sale. Later, Seeley would have the homeowner sign over their sales proceeds check to S&D Property Solutions. Contrary to what the homeowners were promised, no funds were ever escrowed on their behalf and no sales proceeds were ever applied against their personal, unsecured debts. As a result, no homeowner was ever able to buy back the home.

     Seeley recruited and induced several investor/buyers into participating in her program by assuring them they would be reimbursed for all out-of-pocket expenses, including their down payment plus an $8,000 "fee" for engaging in the transaction. Seeley also promised the investor/buyers they would receive monthly rent from the homeowner that would cover most, if not all, of their mortgage payments. Some buyers were also promised an up-front payment designed to make up the difference between their mortgage payments and the rent they received.

     Seeley submitted a plethora of false documents to mortgage lenders in order to induce them into approving the investor/buyers’ loan applications, including false employment verifications, false leases, false rental income, and false occupancy verifications. Seeley also submitted redacted sales contracts to the lenders that concealed the fact the buyer and seller had entered into buy-back agreements and that the buyer’s down payment was being refunded to the investor/buyer from the loan proceeds.

     The trial also showed Seeley used a large portion of the homeowners’ equity she stole to live a lavish lifestyle, including the purchase of a 23-acre York County horse farm; several Jaguar automobiles; a $200,000 truck and horse trailer; a built-in swimming pool; a Caribbean cruise; and a Rehoboth Beach, Delaware rental property. The evidence also showed Seeley spent more than $400,000 on horses and other animal expenses between 2006 and 2008.Judge Rambo directed Seeley to begin serving her 238-month sentence on August 20, 2012.

     The case was investigated by the Harrisburg Office of the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kim Douglas Daniel.

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