Former North Miami Mayor Convicted for her Involvement in a Multi-Million Dollar Mortgage Fraud Scheme
After a 12-day trial, a federal jury convicted former North Miami Mayor Marie Lucie Tondreau, a/k/a “Lucie Tondreau,” 54, for her recruitment of straw buyers and other conduct in an $8,000,000 mortgage fraud scheme.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Drew J. Breakspear, Commissioner, Florida Office of Financial Regulation, made the announcement.
As shown at trial, between December 2005 and May 2008, co-defendant Karl Oreste, 56, of Miramar, Florida, president of KMC Mortgage Corporation of Florida (KMC Mortgage), a mortgage lending business in North Miami Beach, identified residential properties in South Florida that were for sale. Oreste and Tondreau, who at the time was a community activist, hosted several radio show programs in the South Florida area in which they advertised the services offered by KMC Mortgage. Oreste and Tondreau recruited and paid some of the listeners who responded to those advertisements, as well as other individuals, to pose as borrowers and purchase properties identified by Oreste.
Oreste and co-defendant Okechukwu Josiah Odunna, a/k/a “O.J. Odunna,” 49, of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, as well as other co-conspirators, prepared or caused to be prepared loan applications on behalf of straw borrowers recruited by Oreste and Tondreau. Odunna was an attorney previously licensed to practice law in Florida, and president of O.J. Odunna, P.A. and Direct Title and Escrow Services (Direct Title). These loan applications included false information relating to employment, wages, assets and intent to make the property being purchased a primary residence. The loan applications and documents were submitted by co-conspirators to various mortgage lenders throughout the United States. Once the loan applications were approved, the lenders wired funds to O.J. Odunna, P.A., Direct Title or other title companies for closing.
In some instances Oreste, Odunna and other co-conspirators created and submitted duplicate HUD-1 Settlement Statement Forms, which grossly inflated the true purchase price of the properties. HUD-1 Settlement Statements also falsely and fraudulently represented to the mortgage lenders that the straw borrowers had met their down payment and cash to close obligations, when, in fact, the straw borrowers had never made any such payments.
At closing, a portion of loan proceeds were disbursed to Oreste through his corporation, JR Investment and Mortgage Corporation, or other bank accounts controlled by him. In some instances, a portion of the loan proceeds was diverted to O.J. Odunna, P.A. or Direct Title accounts. Oreste disbursed some of the proceeds he received to pay Tondreau and other, as well as to pay the straw borrowers. Oreste also transferred a substantial portion of the funds to bank accounts of LTO Investment Corporation, a corporation controlled by Tondreau. Tondreau used funds deposited in LTO Investment Corporation’s bank accounts to make payments on the falsely and fraudulently obtained mortgages in order to maintain the loans, and to conceal and further the fraud. She also used a portion of the funds deposited into LTO Investment Corporation’s bank accounts for her own personal use and benefit. Finally, Tondreau also rented out the properties and collected rent for her own personal use and to further the conspiracy.
As further demonstrated at trial, over the course of the mortgage fraud scheme, Tondreau was involved in obtaining 13 fraudulent loans, for which the lenders have suffered losses in the amount of approximately $8,000,000.00. Tondreau received in excess of $300,000 into a business account controlled by her, and in excess of $100,000 into her personal bank accounts.
“Today’s conviction against Marie Lucie Tondreau is a success in our continuing efforts to fight mortgage fraud that jeopardizes our nation’s financial institutions,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer. “Tondreau abused her prominence in the community to perpetrate the $8,000,000 mortgage fraud scheme, which thanks to the efforts of my Office’s prosecutors and federal and state law enforcement we successfully unraveled. We will continue to investigate and prosecute individuals who engage in deceptive and fraudulent behavior, fueled by greed.”
“Marie Lucie Tondreau, a former mayor of North Miami, FL, and her co-conspirators devised a mortgage fraud scheme for their own personal enrichment,” said George L. Piro, SAC Miami. “Their desire to line their pockets with stolen loan proceeds has, instead of making them rich, resulted in an investigation, a trial and ultimately a conviction. Let this be a lesson to would-be mortgage fraudsters. The FBI remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to root out this type of fraud.”
“Exploiting the trust of Floridians is atrocious,” said OFR Commissioner Drew J. Breakspear. “We thank the FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida for their hard work, which has led to this positive outcome. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation remains dedicated to thoroughly investigating those who prey upon others for illegal financial gain.”
Tondreau, who was remanded into custody, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 20, 2015, at 8:30 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr. She faces a maximum term of 30 years in prison.
Oreste previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 12, 2015, at 8:30 a.m., before Judge Scola.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lois Foster-Steers and Gera R. Peoples.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.