SEATTLE AREA MAN WHO FLED TO MEXICO, SENTENCED FOR BANK FRAUD IN “LIES FOR LOANS” SCHEME
Defendant Defrauded Credit Unions with Phony Purchase Orders for Luxury Cars
MAXI DINGA SOPO, a/k/a GILBERT NGWA, a/k/a MARCEL ANYE, a citizen of Cameroon who was residing in the Seattle area at the time of the fraud scheme, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 33 months in prison, five years of supervised release and $147,249 in restitution for four counts of bank fraud. SOPO was extradited from Mexico in April 2010. He was taken into custody last fall in Cancun after his Facebook postings led investigators to him. SOPO had fled the Seattle area to Mexico when he learned of the federal investigation. SOPO’s co-conspirator, Edward Asatoorians, was convicted at trial in October 2009, and was sentenced in January to 41 months in prison. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman noted that SOPO recruited, directed and used charm and influence to get vulnerable young adults involved in the scheme. “Your conduct in the course of this scheme presents you as a con man, one who is willing to tell whatever lie helps you at the moment,” Judge Pechman said.
According to testimony at trial and records filed in the case, Asatoorians and SOPO recruited young, naive co-conspirators to apply for car loans for vehicles they never had any intention of purchasing. Under the direction of SOPO and Asatoorians, members of the conspiracy lied to the lenders about their employment and monthly income. For example, a struggling college student claimed on her loan application that she was employed and making $15,000 a month. SOPO provided the co-conspirators with fake pay stubs to “document” the income. In all, SOPO and Asatoorians obtained over $200,000 in fraudulent loans.
SOPO pleaded guilty May 13, 2010.
In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors noted that SOPO and co-defendant Asatoorians had recruited young people to the scheme, leaving them with felony convictions and terrible credit histories. “In addition to the ruin to these people’s lives, Sopo and Asatoorians also wreaked
havoc with the victim credit unions. They repeatedly submitted false dealer paperwork and convinced applicants to inflate their income and lie about their employment. They used the loan proceeds for a variety of purposes, including for personal expenses and a lavish trip to Las Vegas, leaving the applicants on the hook for the loan amounts in the event Sopo and Asatoorians were unable to muster the funds to repay the loans,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Scoville and Thomas Woods.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.