Connecticut Resident Admits Role in Decade-long Mortgage Fraud Scheme in Bridgeport
Robert Ilunga, 48, of Naugatuck, Conn., waived his right to indictment and pleaded guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez in Hartford, Conn., to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, announced David B. Fein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut. The charges stem from Ilunga’s participation in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme that involved more than 40 properties located in Bridgeport, Conn.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Ilunga was involved in the operation of Waikele Properties Corp., a real estate company with offices in Garden City, N.Y. From approximately 2001 to August 2011, Ilunga conspired with New York residents Winston Shillingford and Marleen Shillingford, and others, to obtain fraudulent mortgages for the purchase of more than 40 multi-family properties in Bridgeport.
As part of the scheme, Ilunga, the Shillingfords and others purchased existing multi-family houses and vacant parcels of land, and erected new houses on them to sell. The co-conspirators recruited individuals to purchase the properties, acted as the buyers’ real estate agent and assisted the buyers in applying for residential mortgage loans to purchase the houses. Ilunga’s co-conspirators then prepared loan applications for the buyers that included fraudulent information concerning, among other things, the buyers’ employment, income, assets and liabilities, previous property ownership and intention to make the properties their primary residences. The co-conspirators also provided false and fraudulent supporting documentation, including false letters from fictitious employers, false earnings statements and fraudulent bank records. Some of those loan applications were submitted to banks that received funding under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
After the loans were approved, the illicit proceeds of the scheme were wired into the Waikele Properties bank account and then transferred to Ilunga, the Shillingfords and others. Some of the proceeds also were used to continue the mortgage fraud scheme.
Contrary to the representations made on the loan applications, several straw purchasers never occupied the houses as their primary residences and subsequently defaulted on the loans. As a result of the scheme, mortgage lenders have suffered more than $7 million in losses.
Ilunga is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny on April 5, 2012, at which time Ilunga faces a maximum term of 40 years in prison. The government also is seeking the forfeiture of 20 properties located in Bridgeport and $26,372.32 that was seized from a bank account held by Waikele Properties.
Ilunga is detained pending sentencing.
Winston and Marleen Shillingford have pleaded guilty to the same charges and await sentencing.
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the FBI, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) and the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), which investigates fraud, waste and abuse in connection with TARP.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas P. Morabito and David T. Huang.
In July 2009, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI announced the formation of the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud cases and related financial crimes occurring in Connecticut. Citizens are encouraged to report any suspected mortgage fraud activity by calling 203-333-3512 and requesting the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; FBI; IRS-CI; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; HUD-OIG; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General; SIGTARP; and state of Connecticut Department of Banking.
This case was brought in coordination with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was established to wage an aggressive and coordinated effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
To report financial fraud crimes, and to learn more about the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov .
To report suspected illicit activity involving TARP, dial the SIGTARP Hotline at 1-877-SIG-2009 (1-877-744-2009).