KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that the owners and operators of a Kansas City, Mo., firm that promised to help financially-strapped clients get out of debt have been indicted by a federal grand jury for defrauding their clients, causing some of them to lose their homes and vehicles.
John Lee Norris, 42, and Julie Tina Hatcher, 37, both of Kansas City, were charged in a 21-count indictment that was returned under seal by a federal grand jury on Feb. 19, 2013. The indictment was unsealed and made public today upon the arrests and initial court appearances of Norris and Hatcher.
According to the indictment, Norris and Hatcher operated Reaper Investment Partners, LLC; in August 2011 they formed Death Productions LP. Between August 2010 and April 2012, the indictment alleges, Norris and Hatcher participated in a conspiracy to defraud homeowners and other debtors who were in financial distress (as well as their victims’ lenders and the Federal Housing Administration).
Norris and Hatcher allegedly recruited and targeted homeowners and others who were in financial difficulties with promises that they would be rescued from their financial problems, including foreclosure. Norris and Hatcher allegedly told victims that Reaper Investment Partners (RIP) would refinance the homeowners’ existing mortgages for a lower amount and at an interest rate of three percent.
As part of their scheme, the indictment says, RIP would control title to the homeowners’ properties. The homeowners would stop making payments to their lenders and instead make their monthly payments to RIP. The homeowners gave Norris and Hatcher power of attorney. Homeowners did not communicate with their lenders, the indictment says, even when they received telephone calls, late notices and foreclosure notices from their lenders. Instead, homeowners forwarded the notices and other documents to Norris and Hatcher. When homeowners contacted Norris and Hatcher to report that they had received notice that their homes were being foreclosed, the defendants reassured them by telling them not to worry, that was part of the process.
Norris and Hatcher allegedly told some of their client-victims that one or both of them were lawyers, had legal experience, or were able to practice law. They allegedly said that RIP would draft, serve, file, and record legal forms, pleadings, and other documents and would conduct necessary legal processes, contact the relevant parties, and implement administrative procedures. Norris and Hatcher allegedly mailed documents to the homeowners’ lenders, demanding the lenders “cease and desist” collection activities.
Norris and Hatcher also allegedly told individuals who were in financial difficulties due to credit card debt, vehicle loans, and other debt, that they would refinance the debt for a lower amount and interest rate and lower their monthly payments. These clients, likewise, would stop making payments to their lenders and instead make their monthly payments to RIP.
The federal indictment refers to victims from Lee’s Summit, Mo., St. Joseph, Mo., Gardner, Kan., Paducah , Ken., and North Wales, Penn. Victims and lenders suffered losses as a result of the conspiracy, including the loss of homes and vehicles (a specific dollar amount of the total loss is not identified in the indictment).
In addition to the conspiracy, Norris and Hatcher are charged together with nine counts of mail fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud.
Hatcher is also charged with one count of Social Security disability fraud. Hatcher allegedly failed to report her work activities and income while she received Social Security disability insurance benefits from August 2010 through April 2012.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Linda Marshall and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian P. Casey. It was investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, the Social Security Administration – Office of Inspector General, the Johnson County, Kan., District Attorney’s Office and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.