Baltimore Real Estate Agent Pleads Guilty in $736,000 Mortgage Fraud Scheme Involving Baltimore City Properties
Baltimore, Maryland – Michael Gerard Camphor, age 60, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to charges arising from the fraudulent purchase of four properties in Baltimore, using fraudulent loan documentation and straw purchasers, resulting in losses of over $736,000.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Cary A. Rubenstein of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General; and Special Agent in Charge Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office.
According to Camphor’s plea agreement and other court documents, since 2002, co-conspirator Andreas Tamaris purchased, renovated, and then resold distressed row houses in Baltimore City, primarily in the Highlandtown neighborhood. Camphor had worked as a real estate agent for a company and also operated a real estate consulting business called Ron Gerard LLC, a/k/a Ron Gerard & Associates.
From approximately February 2008 to July 2009, Camphor and his co-conspirators, including Cecil Chester, found buyers for Tamaris’ properties and for other property owners. They sought potential buyers who were inexperienced with residential real estate transactions. Camphor and his co-conspirators advised these “straw purchasers,” who lacked the funds needed to pay the down payment and closing costs that they didn’t need to contribute these funds to buy the properties. Because the straw purchasers also lacked the earnings to keep up the mortgage payments, the conspirators typically advised that they would place tenants in the properties whose rent payments would cover the monthly mortgage payments after the transactions closed. The conspirators promised to collect the rent and make the mortgage payments.
Camphor and his co-conspirators set the purchase price for the properties to exceed their actual fair market value, thereby generating excess proceeds from the transactions from which they could profit. The conspirators provided false information about the straw purchasers’ employment, income and financial assets to the mortgage loan brokers to enable the straw purchasers to qualify for home mortgage loans. The conspirators falsely indicated to the mortgage loan brokers that the straw purchasers each intended to use the property as their primary residence following the purchase. Tamaris and other individuals supplied the funds needed for the down payment and closing costs on each of the transactions, and were in turn reimbursed from the loan proceeds at settlement.
One of the conspirators brought the straw purchaser to the closing and then caused the straw purchaser to falsely sign certifications in the closing documents affirming that the property was to be used as the primary residence, and that no portion of the down payment and closing costs were borrowed. Following the settlement on each transaction in which they participated, Camphor and his co-conspirators received substantial payments drawn from the proceeds of the loan.
Few, if any, payments were made towards the mortgages.
Camphor was integrally involved in the fraud scheme by which four of the properties handled by the conspirators were sold and financed: 126 S. Curley Street; 1720 W. Pratt Street; 322 S. Robinson Street; and 8020 Gough Street, all located in Baltimore. All four properties went into foreclosure, resulting in a loss of at least $736,748.46.
Camphor has agreed to forfeit property retained or obtained as a result of the fraudulent conspiracy, including 1619 W. Baltimore Street; 2040 Linden Avenue, Unit A, and 1610 N. Smallwood Street, all located in Baltimore.
Camphor faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud, and for wire fraud. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has scheduled sentencing for August 26, 2016 at 11:30 a.m.
Cecil Sylvester Chester, age 69, of Mitchellville, Maryland previously pleaded guilty to the same charges and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 4, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.
In a related proceeding, co-conspirator Andreas E. Tamaris, age 45, of Bel Air, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Alexander Sivels, II, age 32, of Baltimore, previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud involving the fraudulent purchase of at least nine properties in Baltimore. Both Tamaris and Sivels are scheduled to be sentenced on September 27, 2016.
The Maryland Mortgage Fraud Task Force was established to unify the agencies that regulate and investigate mortgage fraud and promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of mortgage fraud schemes. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Task Force, demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to protect consumers from fraud and promote the integrity of the credit markets. Information about mortgage fraud prosecutions is available at http://www.justice.gov/usao-md/financial-fraud-and-identity-theft.
Today’s announcement is part of the efforts undertaken in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, HUD OIG - Office of Investigations and the U.S. Secret Service for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Jefferson M. Gray, who is prosecuting the case.