Fugitive Sought in Mortgage Fraud Scheme
HOUSTON – A 53-year-old Houston-area contractor, set for sentencing in a $16 million loan fraud scheme, has now been charged with failing to appear, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.
Oscar Cantalicio Ortiz, who resided in Kingwood, pleaded guilty June 30, 2016, to conspiring to commit bank, mail and wire fraud. He was set for sentencing in that case Monday, April 24, 2017, but failed to appear at the hearing. Late yesterday, a federal grand jury returned a new indictment against him for failure to appear.
He is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the FBI at 713-693-5000.
His codefendant – Houston realtor Seung Min Santillan, aka Suzy, 57, also of Houston – pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and making false statements on a loan application in September 2016. She was sentenced earlier this month to 168 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $5,299,500 in restitution.
Ortiz and Santillan operated a mortgage fraud scheme in which they recruited straw borrowers to purchase residential properties in the Houston area. Loans were obtained from lending institutions to purchase these properties in the names and using the credit of the straw borrowers. The lenders were provided materially false information to induce them to fund these residential loans. The loans were funded and ultimately fell into default when Ortiz and Santillan failed to make all the mortgage payments as promised.
Ortiz and Santillan utilized several business entities during the execution of the scheme to defraud including Uptown Builders LLC, Americorp Builders LLC, Luxury Quality Homes LLC and Santi Investments. In recruiting straw borrowers during the scheme, the borrowers were told the residential property would be in their name for a short period while Ortiz made modifications to the property prior to reselling the house. Ortiz and Santillan promised the straw borrowers that they would handle all the costs associated with purchasing and holding these properties.
Once the loans to purchase the residence funded, one or more of the business entities Ortiz utilized would receive a large portion of the loan proceeds. This occurred even when the same property was purchased for the second time in the name of a new straw borrower. The defendants were able to take a large portion of the loan proceeds since the value of the residence was inflated with fraudulent appraisal reports.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Annis is prosecuting the case.