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Aug. 11, 2011

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Businessmen, Loan Officer and Title Company Attorney Indicted for Wire Fraud and Money Laundering in a Multi-Million Dollar Mortgage Fraud Scheme

HOUSTON – Two Houston businessmen, a mortgage company loan officer and a title company attorney and escrow officer have been indicted for their alleged involvement in a scheme to defraud residential mortgage lenders of more than $22 million in loans, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today along with FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen L. Morris and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge Rodney E. Clarke.

A Houston grand jury returned a six-count indictment yesterday charging Walter Ryan Macapaz, 34, Tony David Maldonado, 31, Buffy Marie Lawrence, 40, and Lisa Carol Ross, 49, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Macapaz, Maldonado and Lawrence are expected to surrender themselves to federal authorities next week. Ross is currently being held in the Harris County Jail on unrelated state charges and is expected to be transferred into federal custody to answer the charges in the near future. 
According to the indictment, from November 2005 through October 2008 Macapaz and Maldonado recruited persons called “straw borrowers” to obtain mortgage loans to purchase condominium units in the Commerce Towers building located on Main Street in downtown Houston as well as residential homes in the Houston area. A straw borrower is paid money to allow his name and credit history to be used to obtain a mortgage loan to purchase a home when the person has no intention of actually living in the home or having any responsibility for making the mortgage payments. Macapaz and Maldonado allegedly used fraudulent documents to help the borrowers qualify for the loans including documents with false and misleading information about the borrowers’ income, assets, liabilities, employment status, bank deposits, rental payments, intent to use properties as a primary residence and source of funds used to close the real estate transactions. Lawrence, a loan officer for mortgage broker Mortgages First Real Estate Services LLC, allegedly assisted the borrowers to obtain the loans. Ross, an attorney and escrow officer for Vision Title LLC, allegedly arranged for disbursements from the title company to be turned into cash and money orders and distributed to the involved parties. According to the indictment, the mortgage loans allegedly totaled more than $22 million.

The maximum penalty for each wire fraud and conspiracy count is 20 years in prison as well as substantial fines. A conviction for money laundering conspiracy carries the most significant fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of the criminally derived property, whichever is greater.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by the FBI, IRS-CI, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – Office of Inspector General and Houston Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney John Lewis is prosecuting the case.