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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Tennessee

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sevierville Developer Receives Five Year Sentence For Wire And Bank Fraud Conspiracy And Money Laundering In $6 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Jeffrey Whaley, 49, of Sevierville, Tenn., was sentenced on July 1, 2013, by the Honorable Thomas W. Phillips, U.S. District Court Judge, to serve five years in prison for his May 2012 federal convictions for wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, all arising from a mortgage fraud scheme. Whaley’s sentencing today followed his co-defendant and Sevierville title attorney Jerry Kerley’s four-year sentence imposed on June 6, 2013.

Whaley and Kerley were convicted of conspiring to defraud Citizens Bank, located in New Tazewell, Tenn., and SunTrust Mortgage, Inc., located in Richmond, Va., through a mortgage fraud scheme. The conspiracy involved a "straw borrower" mortgage fraud scheme in which straw borrowers were induced to obtain mortgage loans in their names based on promises that they would not have to make a down payment or mortgage payments for the property, would receive cash at closing, and would share in the profit following a resale of the property. As part of the conspiracy, materially false representations were made to Citizens Bank and SunTrust Mortgage, which, among other things, included false representations related to the straw borrowers’ source of funds for down payments and amounts recorded as "cash from borrower" on HUD-1 Settlement Statements and loan applications, for the purpose of inducing Citizens Bank and SunTrust Mortgage to disburse the mortgage loan proceeds it had wired to and entrusted with Kerley's title company Guaranty Land Title.

Kerley and Whaley concealed eight real estate transactions from Citizens Bank and SunTrust Mortgage that the borrower did not provide at closing the money identified as the "cash from borrower" on the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. In those eight transactions, Citizens Bank and SunTrust Mortgage, in total, wired more than $6 million in loan proceeds to Guaranty Land Title Company for disbursement. Kerley, a Tennessee licensed attorney, was the owner of Guaranty Land Title Company where the fraudulent loans were closed. Whaley conducted business through a company known as GBO Enterprises which received substantial sums of money from the loan proceeds. Kerley and Whaley committed money laundering offenses through financial transactions that involved proceeds from the mortgage fraud scheme.

“As we know from the all too recent financial crisis, fraud on mortgage lenders has the potential to disrupt our nation’s economic stability. The five- and four-year prison sentences for Whaley and Kerley demonstrate that mortgage fraud will be vigorously prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Killian.

This investigation was conducted jointly by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and United States Secret Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Trey Hamilton and Zac Bolitho represented the United States.

Updated March 18, 2015