Co-Owner Of Company That Originated Millions In Fraudulent Mortgages Sentenced To 21 Months In Prison
NEWARK, N.J. - The co-owner of a mortgage company that was responsible for a long-running, large-scale mortgage fraud scheme that caused millions in losses was sentenced today to 21 months in prison, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Lester Soto, 59, of Freehold, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas to an information charging him with two counts of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Judge Salas imposed the sentence today in Newark federal.
According to the documents filed in this and other cases, as well as statements in court:
From September 2006 to May 2008, Soto and others, including fake document creators, a complicit lawyer and paralegal, and numerous loan officers, engaged in two related mortgage fraud conspiracies through a company called Premier Mortgage Services (Premier). Soto and his conspirators targeted properties in low-income areas of New Jersey. After recruiting “straw buyers,” Soto and his conspirators used a variety of fraudulent documents to make it appear as though the straw buyers possessed far more assets and income than they actually did.
Soto and his conspirators then submitted these fraudulent documents as part of mortgage loan applications to financial institutions. Relying on these fraudulent documents, financial institutions provided mortgage loans for the subject properties. Soto and his conspirators then split the proceeds from the mortgages among themselves and others by using fraudulent settlement statements (HUD-1s), which hid the true sources and destinations of the mortgage funds provided by financial institutions. The straw buyers had no means of paying the mortgages, and many of the properties entered into foreclosure proceedings.
Besides being a part-owner of Premier, Soto also acted as a loan officer on certain Premier mortgage loan applications and took a percentage of Premier’s profits. Soto employed document makers to create false and fraudulent documents and put mortgage brokers at Premier in contact with these document makers to create other false and fraudulent documents. Soto instructed Premier employees to provide him with loan files that Premier employees believed contained suspicious information, and then personally shepherded these loan files through to funding.
Other conspirators, including Isaac DePaula, 36, of Brazil, Adilson Silva, 50, of Union, New Jersey, and Klary Arcentales, 47 of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, were loan officers at Premier. DePaula, Silva, and Arcentales recruited straw buyers, provided false and fraudulent documents to the straw buyers, and incorporated false and fraudulent documents into loan applications to induce financial institutions to fund mortgage loans. The loan officers profited illegally by receiving a commission from Premier for each mortgage loan that they closed and also profited illegally by diverting portions of the fraudulently obtained mortgage proceeds for themselves, often via shell corporations or nominee bank accounts.
Rodrigo Costa, 35, of Brazil, created false and fraudulent documents, including Verifications of Deposit (VODs) and Verifications of Rent (VORs). Other defendants, including DePaula and Silva, then submitted Costa’s fraudulent documents to support the fraudulent mortgage loan applications of various straw buyers. For his participation, Costa received a portion of the illicit proceeds from the mortgages.
Michael Rumore, 57, of Toms River, New Jersey, was an attorney licensed in the State of New Jersey. Rumore served as the settlement agent on mortgage loans brokered by DePaula, Silva, and Soto for various subject properties. Rumore used his status as an attorney to further the fraudulent scheme, including by convening closings, receiving funds from lenders, and preparing HUD-1s that purported to reflect the sources and destinations of funds for mortgages on subject properties B when in fact, the HUD-1s were neither true nor accurate. Rumore disbursed mortgage loan proceeds directly to Premier, Soto, DePaula, and Silva, including amounts not reflected on the HUD-1s. Rumore received a fee for each fraudulent loan in which he participated.
Antonio Pimenta, 48, of Neshanic Station, New Jersey, owned and managed Kelmar Construction Co. (Kelmar). Kelmar built properties that were then sold to straw buyers utilizing fraudulent mortgage loans brokered by Arcentales.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Salas ordered Soto to serve five years of supervised release and pay restitution of $3,745,344.19.
Arcentales, one of the loan officers who provided fraudulent documents to financial institutions on behalf of straw buyers, was recently sentenced on March 28, 2016 to 18 months in prison. Linda Cohen, 58, of Orange, New Jersey, a paralegal who served as the settlement agent on mortgage loans brokered by Arcentales for various properties, was sentenced on March 30, 2016 to six months in prison.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher, and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, for the investigation leading to today’s sentence. Fishman also thanked the Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward Ryan, for its participation in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Agarwal and Zach Intrater of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division.
This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’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. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov
Defense counsel: Jeff Smith Esq., of Teaneck, New Jersey