Virginia Couple Pleads Guilty in Million-Dollar Foreclosure Rescue Scheme
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Mark H. Simmons, 54, and his ex-wife, Cecilia Contreras, 52, of Cassanova, Va., pled guilty today to conspiracy and aggravated identity theft for conducting a foreclosure rescue scheme.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Jeffrey Irvine, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.
Simmons and Contreras were indicted on Aug. 12, 2010, and face a maximum penalty of 22 years in prison when they are sentenced on Dec. 17, 2010.
In a statement of facts filed with their plea agreements, Simmons and Contreras operated a business named RETE Funding LLC through which they conducted a foreclosure rescue scheme. They approached homeowners facing foreclosure and proposed to help them through a sale/lease back transaction in which the homeowners would sell their houses to “investors” and then rent them back with an option to buy after several years during which the homeowners, at least theoretically, could get their finances in order.
Prior to the sales of the homes, Simmons and Contreras prepared false deeds of trust reflecting that the homeowners each owed them tens of thousands of dollars. Simmons and Contreras had these deeds recorded against the homes and these false debts were paid off when the houses were sold. In this way, Simmons and Contreras effectively looted the homeowners’ equity in the properties. In addition to defrauding the homeowners, they also defrauded the lenders that funded the loans used to purchase the properties. The “investors” in these deals were relatives of Contreras and Simmons, and the two defendants prepared fraudulent loan applications to obtain the mortgage proceeds. In applying for the mortgages, Simmons and Contreras stole the identity of their accountant and used it to write false letters to support false claims made in the loan applications. The combined loss to the homeowners and the lender potentially exceeds $1 million.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorney Edmund P. Power is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.uspci.uscourts.gov.