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Justice News

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

Friday, January 17, 2014

Maryland Man Sentenced To 12 Years In Prison For Real Estate Fraud

Defendant targeted vulnerable properties, stole identities
using fraudulent probate court proceedings

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Colin Conroy Williams, 42, of Dayton, Md., was sentenced today to 12 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for serving as the mastermind of a multi-year conspiracy to commit real estate fraud.

Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee.

Williams pleaded guilty on Oct. 28, 2013 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.  According to court records, much of Williams’ criminal activity involved fraudulently selling homes that did not belong to the purported property owner.  As part of this scheme, Williams first would identify vulnerable properties based on several characteristics—for example, because the property had significant tax liabilities, the true owners lacked a sophisticated understanding of real estate transactions, or the true titleholder had died recently and the rightful heirs had not come forward to claim the property.

Williams used a variety of means to identify the vulnerable properties.  He sometimes would visit the D.C. tax courts to identify properties with overdue property tax bills, which was an indication that the rightful owner was not alive or able to pay those tax bills.  In other instances, Williams would use open source or subscription services, such as ancestry.com and the D.C. property tax database, to determine whether a particular property was owned by a recently deceased person and whether that person had any living or nearby relatives.

After identifying vulnerable properties, Williams would manipulate the District of Columbia Probate Court process to have a co-conspirator appointed as a “personal representative” for the rightful owner.  Williams then would arrange for that newly appointed representative to sell the property without the rightful owner’s knowledge.  In so doing, Williams stole multiple identities belonging to the living or recently deceased property owners.

Williams conducted this scheme on at least five homes, including after he knew that he was under investigation by the FBI.  He also conducted this scheme despite knowing that two of the actual homeowners were alive.  Nevertheless, once the properties were sold, Williams would keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds for himself, which he laundered to buy expensive cars and fancy jewelry.

Before Williams began conducting this “personal representative” scheme, he repeatedly engaged in more conventional real estate fraud, including directing co-conspirators to lie on loan documents and placing false liens on homes to force his victims to pay him thousands of dollars before they could sell their homes.  All told, Williams defrauded numerous victims of more than $1,700,000 in actual and intended losses.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  Assistant United States Attorneys Chad Golder and Kosta Stojilkovic 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.justice.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 https://pcl.uscourts.gov.
Updated March 18, 2015