News and Press Releases

Appraisal Company Owner Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison for Participating in Two Mortgage Fraud Schemes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2014

PITTSBURGH - A resident of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to 96 months imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, on his conviction of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

United States District Judge Nora Barry Fischer imposed the sentence on Jason Moreno, 30, of Pittsburgh, Pa.

According to information presented to the court, Moreno committed and conspired to commit wire fraud from November 2005 to November 2007. Moreno owned and operated a company called Platinum Appraisal Services that regularly prepared fraudulent appraisals that overstated the values of the properties serving as collateral for the loans. He was convicted in connection with two complex mortgage fraud schemes. The primary actor in the first scheme was Robert Arakelian, who operated Pittsburgh Home Loans. The primary action in the second scheme was James Platts, who operated Easy Realty Solutions. Both schemes involved overstating the sales prices of the properties, falsely representing that the borrowers had the financial wherewithal to make a significant down payment associated with the purchase of the properties and to make the mortgage payments. In fact, the borrowers, many of whom were unsophisticated and had poor financial conditions, did not make down payments associated with the purchase of the properties and could not make the mortgage payments.

Moreno’s role was to provide fraudulent appraisals that overstated the values of the properties serving as collateral for the loans. The appraisals often reported that the conditions of the properties were vastly superior to their actual conditions. Many of the properties were, in fact, in deplorable condition. Moreno, who was not even licensed to prepare appraisals, also falsely represented that a licensed appraiser prepared the appraisals.

Moreno also participated in the schemes as an investor in some of the properties. In that role, not only did Moreno prepare fraudulent appraisals, but he also misled the borrowers and the lenders on numerous other aspects related to the transactions. Some of those transactions involved his own family members, including his mother, his aunt, and his uncle.

Assistant United States Attorney Brendan T. Conway prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.

U.S. Attorney Hickton commended the Mortgage Fraud Task Force for the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Moreno.

The Mortgage Fraud Task Force conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case. The Mortgage Fraud Task Force is comprised of investigators from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and others involved in the mortgage industry. Federal law enforcement agencies participating in the Mortgage Task Force include the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations; the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; the United States Postal Inspection Service; and the United States Secret Service. Other Mortgage Fraud Task Force members include the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office; the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, Bureau of Consumer Protection; the Pennsylvania Department of Banking; the Pennsylvania Department of State, Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation; and the United States Trustee's Office.

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