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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Two defendants were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, for their role in a mortgage fraud conspiracy that primarily targeted neighborhoods in Union and Mecklenburg counties, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Joining U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement is Jeannine A. Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI).
Kenneth Egri, 55, of Charlotte was sentenced to 78 months in prison and his co-defendant Dean Huffman, 57, formerly of Charlotte, was sentenced to 65 months in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Frank D. Whitney also ordered both defendants to serve two years of supervised release following their prison terms.
“Mortgage fraudsters like Egri and Huffman harm more than just the affected financial institutions; they wreak havoc on neighborhoods by virtue of the foreclosures resulting from their scheme” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins. “The defendants exploited the American Dream of home ownership in order to satisfy their own selfish greedy interests and they now have years of federal prison to contemplate their shameful conduct.”
“Individuals who commit mortgage fraud may be prosecuted on several charges including failure to file income tax returns. The law is crystal clear: people must pay their taxes. There is no gray area on this issue,” stated Jeannine A. Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Field Office.
In July 2011, Egri and Huffman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with their operation of a mortgage fraud cell that primarily targeted the neighborhood of Providence Downs. In addition, Egri pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to file income tax returns for the 2005 and 2006 tax years.
According to filed court documents and yesterday’s sentencing hearing, from in or about 2001 through in or about 2006, Egri and Huffman owned and operated Direct Home Services (DHS) in Charlotte. Egri and Huffman utilized DHS to generate over $37.4 million in fraudulent loans and to funnel over $5.4 million in fraudulent loan proceeds to themselves. To promote their scheme, Egri and Huffman would agree with a builder to purchase a property at the “true price.” Egri and Huffman would then arrange for a buyer to purchase the property at an inflated price—usually between $100,000 and $300,000 above the true price. In most circumstances, the buyer would agree to purchase the property in his or her own name and sign whatever documents were necessary, in exchange for a hidden kickback. The builder would sell the property at the inflated price, the lender would make a mortgage loan on the basis of that inflated price, and the difference between the inflated price and the true price would be extracted at closing by Egri and Huffman. To induce lenders to make mortgage loans, Egri and Huffman caused fraudulent loan packages to be submitted which included lies and misrepresentations about, among other things, buyers’ income and assets, place of employment, intent to occupy the homes as their primary residence, and true source of cash at closing.
In addition, according to the filed court documents and yesterday’s sentencing hearing, from 2003 through 2006, Egri failed to file income tax returns reporting $1,288,604 of income from the mortgage fraud scheme.
In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Whitney noted that both defendants were “integral players in the mortgage fraud scheme” and emphasized the harm their unlawful conduct caused to the community. Judge Whitney ordered Egri and Huffman to pay restitution to Bank of America in the amount of $1,335,744 and ordered Egri to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $257,721.
Egri and Huffman were ordered to self-report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
The investigation was handled by the IRS. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark T. Odulio, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.