warrenton couple sentenced in million dollar foreclosure rescue scheme
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Mark H. Simmons, 54, of Warrenton, Va., was sentenced today to 72 months in prison for operating a foreclosure rescue scheme that defrauded lenders and homeowners of more than $1 million. Separately, his ex-wife, Cecilia Contreras, 52, of Warrenton, Va., was sentenced to 24 months in prison for her role in the scheme. The two were also sentenced to pay restitution of $1,025,776 to their victims.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Andrew Adelmann, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the sentence was imposed by United States District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.
Simmons and Contreras had been indicted on charge of conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft on Aug. 12, 2010 by a federal grand jury on. They pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and identity theft charges on Oct. 4, 2010.
According to court documents, Simmons and Contreras operated a business named RETE Funding LLC, through which they conducted the foreclosure rescue scheme. They approached homeowners facing foreclosure and proposed to help them avoid it 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. Prior to the sales of the homes, Simmons and Contreras prepared fraudulent deeds of trust that falsely reflected that the homeowners each owed them tens of thousands of dollars. Simmons and Contreras had these non-existent debts recorded against the homes, and they 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, in some cases, the defendants themselves, 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.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorney Edmund P. Power prosecuted 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.