Three Individuals Indicted for Mortgage Fraud Scheme
Today a federal grand jury sitting in West Palm Beach returned a nine-count Superseding Indictment charging three individuals with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and various substantive bank fraud offenses, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1349 and 1344.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Timothy Mowery, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Housing Finance Agent, Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG), Southeast Region, and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Division, made the announcement.
George Heaton, 73, of West Palm Beach, Florida, Deborah Dentry Baggett, 54, of Greenville, Tennessee (formerly of Palm Beach County), and Eric Granitur, 59, of Vero Beach, Florida are charged in the Superseding Indictment. If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum term of 30 years’ imprisonment, a $1 million fine, and mandatory restitution, on each count in the indictment.
According to allegations contained in the Superseding Indictment:
From 2006 through 2009, defendants Heaton, Baggett, Granitur and others conspired to perpetrate a complex mortgage fraud scheme against various FDIC-insured lenders by concealing incentives offered and paid to buyers of condominium units at the Vero Beach Hotel and Club in Vero Beach, a luxury ocean-front condo-tel developed by Palm Beach County based real estate developer George Heaton.
The defendants and their coconspirators concealed and misrepresented the amount of seller paid incentives, including cash-to-close, cash rebates, and seller-provided cash deposits, and transferred incentive money through a Palm Beach County law firm’s bank account in order to conceal the fact that the funds were coming from the seller, and not the buyer, as was required by the mortgage lenders.
On several occasions, defendant Baggett took large sums of money, without permission, from the bank account of another client of her accounting business to use for deposit and down payment money for condo purchases. Defendant Baggett also forged client names on sale and purchase contracts, and provided the personal financial information of those other clients without their permission, all to give defendant Heaton’s commercial lender the false impression that he had obtained actual buyers for the units, in order to maintain construction financing.
The fraud scheme caused financial institutions to fund mortgage loans, totaling more than $20 million.
Mr. Ferrer commends the investigative efforts of the FHFA-OIG and FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Joseph A. Capone.
An Indictment is a formal charging documents notifying the defendant of the charges. All persons charged by indictment are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.