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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On Wednesday, October 1, 2014, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict against Kurosh Mehr for his role in a $75 million racketeering conspiracy, announced the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina. This conviction is the latest in Operation Wax House, an investigation which began in 2007 and has netted 91 defendants to date, of which 88 have pleaded guilty or have been convicted at trial. Mehr, 53, of Charlotte was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud, and money laundering conspiracy.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division and Thomas J. Holloman III, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI).
The federal criminal trial began on Monday, September 29, 2014 before Senior U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen. According to evidence introduced at trial, the enterprise, which operated from 2005 to 2012, engaged in an extensive pattern of racketeering activities, which included investment or securities fraud, mortgage fraud in the form of wire fraud and bank fraud, and money laundering.
According to trial evidence, Mehr was a promoter and buyer in the enterprise’s mortgage fraud operations. The evidence at trial showed that initially Mehr served as a promoter, providing tens of thousands of dollars as down payment money for the enterprise’s purchase of luxury homes utilizing several straw buyers. In exchange, trial evidence showed that the conspiracy would divide up the loan funds that were supposed to be the seller’s proceeds, paying themselves back the down payment money they fronted plus a 10% kickback following the closing of the loan. According to trial evidence, Mehr later agreed to serve as a buyer for the enterprise in a flip transaction, in which he bought a house from a straw buyer for a price that was approximately $500,000 over the price the enterprise had purchased the house for months earlier. The evidence showed that this $500,000 difference was used to cover the down payment (which was netted from the seller’s proceeds) and to pay kickbacks to members of the enterprise, including more than $300,000 which was transferred to Mehr and his coconspirators. Following the jury’s conviction, the defendant was remanded to custody. The racketeering conspiracy charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross profits or other proceeds. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine or twice the amount of criminally derived proceeds. The mortgage fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison term 30 years in prison and $1 million fine. A sentencing date for the defendant has not been set yet.
Three defendants have charges pending in the case, two of which, including one of the leaders, are international fugitives. Each remaining defendant and his or her status are listed below:
• Ramin Amini, 45, of Tehran, Iran, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, mortgage fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Leader and promoter in the scheme. Status: International fugitive.
• John Wayne Perry, Jr., 32, of Charlotte, is charged with racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Role: Promoter. Status: On bond; Scheduled for trial after September 2014.
• Nazeere Saddig, 41, formerly of Charlotte, is charged with racketeering conspiracy and mortgage fraud. Role: Promoter and buyer. Status: International fugitive.
Operation Wax House in the Western District of North Carolina is being handled by the Charlotte Division of the FBI and the Criminal Division of the IRS for the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, along with the Securities Division of the North Carolina Secretary of State. The case was tried by Assistant United States Attorneys Maria K. Vento and Jenny Grus Sugar.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since the inception of FFETF in November 2009, the Justice Department has filed more than 12,841 financial fraud cases against nearly 18,737 defendants including nearly 3,500 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.