Three New Jersey Men Arraigned on Mortgage Fraud Charges
TRENTON, N.J. – Three New Jersey men – a real estate investor, a builder, and a real estate settlement attorney – were arraigned today on multiple charges in connection with their alleged roles in a mortgage fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Victor Santos, a/k/a “Vitor Santos,” 58, of Watchung, New Jersey; Arsenio Santos, a/k/a “Gaspar Santos,” 51, of Warren, New Jersey; and Fausto Simoes, 65, of Millington, New Jersey, were charged on Sept. 24, 2018, in a 19-count indictment. They were each charged with one count of conspiring to commit bank fraud. Victor Santos was charged with nine counts of bank fraud and nine counts of making false statements in an application for credit. Arsenio Santos was charged with four counts of bank fraud and four counts of making false statements in an application for credit. Simoes was charged with seven counts of bank fraud and seven counts of making false statements in an application for credit.
All three were arraigned today before U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp in Trenton federal court.
According to documents filed in this case:
From September 2007 through November 2008, Victor Santos, a real estate investor; Arsenio Santos, a builder; and Simoes, a real estate settlement attorney, and others allegedly conspired to fraudulently obtain mortgage loans with a total value of more than $4 million.
Victor Santos, Arsenio Santos, and their conspirators allegedly recruited “straw buyers” –individuals who purchase a property for another in order to conceal the identity of the actual purchaser, usually in exchange for a fee – to purchase properties in Newark.
In exchange for the use of the straw buyers’ identity and credit history, Victor Santos, Arsenio Santos, and others allegedly agreed to pay each of the straw buyers a fee of at least $5,000, provide the straw buyer’s down payment and cash required for closing, secure tenants to lease the purchased property, and make the mortgage payments on each of the fraudulently obtained mortgages. These secret agreements were not disclosed to the bank. Shortly after the properties were acquired the mortgages went into default.
For the three representative schemes highlighted in the indictment, Victor Santos, Arsenio Santos, and their conspirators prepared and submitted mortgage applications containing false information to the bank and obtained loans totaling more than $1.3 million. The conspirators allegedly arranged transactions for the Newark properties whereby the straw buyers would nominally purchase the properties for far more than the sellers had agreed to sell them, and the conspirators diverted excess loan proceeds for their own benefit and to further the conspiracy.
Simoes was the closing attorney on approximately 10 of the fraudulent transactions and signed and certified the final settlement statements. These statements falsely stated that the cash required for closing for each transaction came from the straw buyer. In fact, Victor Santos and his conspirators provided those funds to Simoes and the funds were deposited into Simoes’ attorney trust account. For certain transactions, a shell company – whose bank account was controlled by Victor Santos and a conspirator – and to which funds from fraudulently obtained mortgage loans were disbursed – was the source of the cashier’s checks given to Simoes to fund the straw buyer’s cash required at closing. For other transactions, down payments came from an account owned and controlled by Arsenio Santos or from the proceeds of a previously obtained fraudulent loan.
The conspiracy to commit bank fraud count, the bank fraud counts, and the false statement counts, each carry a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison, a fine of $1 million or twice the gross gain to the defendants or twice the gross loss to others whichever is greater.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Manchak, and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie of the Newark office, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charlie Divine and Kevin DiGregory of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit in Newark and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Office of Inspector General.