South Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Wire Fraud Charge, Admits Using Forged Deeds to Steal Homes
Defendant Sold Two Homes in the District of Columbia, Using Fake Identifications
WASHINGTON – Robert McCloud, 39, most recently of Warrenville, S.C., pled guilty today to a federal wire fraud charge stemming from a real estate scheme in which he and others used forged deeds and fake driver’s licenses to fraudulently transfer ownership of District of Columbia homes from the rightful owners.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu, Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Peter Newsham, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
McCloud pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, McCloud faces a likely range of 27 to 33 months in prison and a fine of up to $60,000. He also has agreed to pay $200,488 in restitution to two title insurance companies, as well as a forfeiture money judgment of $57,965. The Honorable Amit P. Mehta scheduled sentencing for Oct. 19, 2018.
According to the government’s evidence, McCloud and others identified vacant or seemingly abandoned residential properties in the District of Columbia, and then prepared and filed forged deeds with the District of Columbia’s Recorder of Deeds transferring the properties into fictitious names. Next, they agreed to sell these properties to legitimate purchasers and arranged with unsuspecting title and escrow companies to finalize the sale and transfer ownership. Finally, they shared the fraudulently-obtained sales proceeds amongst themselves.
In his guilty plea, McCloud admitted taking part in two such fraudulent transactions within a two-month period of 2015, which generated a total of $580,482 in proceeds.
In the first, in April 2015, McCloud filed a forged Intra-Family deed with the District of Columbia’s Recorder of Deeds purporting to show that a home in the unit block of K Street NW was transferred from the true owners to a fictitious person. The true owners, who owned the home outright without any mortgage liens, did not sign the deed and did not give anyone permission to transfer their home. McCloud then appeared at the title company pretending to be the owner in order to close the transaction, presenting a California driver’s license with his photograph but in the name of the fictitious person, signing the settlement documents and selling the property. The title company sent by wire transfer $195,527 to a bank account opened in the name of the fictitious person. McCloud withdrew approximately $43,000 of the funds before the crime was discovered; the rest of the funds were returned to the title company.
In the second transaction, in May 2015, a conspirator arranged for a forged deed with respect to another home, in the 6400 block of 16th Street NW, to be filed with the Recorder of Deeds. As with the other property, the true owners, who owned the home outright without any mortgage liens, did not sign the deed and did not give anyone permission to sell the residence. In June 2015, McCloud appeared at the title company pretending to be the owner and using another fake California driver’s license with his photograph. He again signed the settlement documents in the fictitious name. The title company sent by wire transfer $384,955 to a bank account opened in the name of the fictitious person. McCloud was arrested the following day.
Although McCloud received $580,482 in proceeds from his wire fraud scheme regarding both real properties, law enforcement seized a total of $369,990, which was later administratively forfeited. These forfeited funds, and the partial return of funds to the title company from the K Street transaction, reduced the amount owed in forfeiture to $57,965, which is the amount of the forfeiture money judgment.
The harm caused to the owners, buyers, and title companies was covered by title insurance; the restitution amount of $200,488 is the amount due and owing to the title insurance companies after giving credit to the forfeited funds, which were returned to the victims.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Liu, Assistant Director in Charge McNamara, and Chief Newsham commended the work performed by those who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Metropolitan Police Department. They acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorneys Diane Lucas and Stephanie Miller, former Paralegal Specialist Christopher Toms, Paralegal Specialist Aisha Keys, and Litigation Technology Specialist Leif Hickling. Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham, who is prosecuting the case.