Grand Jury Returns Three Indictments
MADISON, WIS. -- A federal grand jury in the Western District of Wisconsin, sitting in Madison, returned the following indictments today. You are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
New Richmond Man Charged with Mortgage Fraud Scheme
Aston Wood, 55, New Richmond, Wisconsin, is charged with four counts related to an alleged mortgage fraud scheme. The indictment charges that Wood engaged in a scheme to defraud from September 2015 to July 2019. He is charged with one count of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of bankruptcy fraud, and one count of criminal contempt of court.
The indictment alleges that Wood represented to owners of homes in foreclosure that he could help them stay in their home by obtaining refinancing or modification of their mortgage, and that he instructed customers to make monthly mortgage payments towards a new or modified loan in an amount he selected, payable to him or to a limited liability company of which he was the sole member. The indictment alleges that rather than remit the payments to lenders as promised, Wood instead deposited the payments in bank accounts he controlled and used the funds for his own personal expenses.
The indictment further alleges that Wood offered to help some customers buy back their foreclosed property, and he continued to solicit and receive funds from customers or their families based on false representations that the funds would be used to repurchase the property. In addition, the indictment alleges that Wood told some customers to file for bankruptcy to stall foreclosure proceedings, which allowed Wood to delay detection and continue collecting monthly mortgage payments from customers.
The fourth count of the indictment alleges that Wood disobeyed a lawful order of a Court of the United States, an injunction issued on October 24, 2017, by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Catherine J. Furay in the Western District of Wisconsin, which permanently enjoined Wood from soliciting customers, offering to perform, and performing services related to mortgage foreclosure and debt relief.
If convicted, Wood faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on both the wire fraud charge and the mail fraud charge, and five years on the bankruptcy fraud charge. The criminal contempt of court charge has no maximum penalty; the penalty is at the Court’s discretion.
The charges against Wood are the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of Inspector General. The U.S. Attorney’s Office acknowledges the assistance of the Office of the U.S. Trustee. Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Duchemin is handling the prosecution.
Clark County Man Charged with Methamphetamine Crime
Keith Strong, 49, Thorp, Wisconsin, is charged with possessing 50 grams or more of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. The indictment alleges that he possessed the methamphetamine on June 30, 2019.
If convicted, Strong faces a mandatory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 40 years in federal prison. The charge against him is the result of an investigation by the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Chadwick Elgersma is handling the prosecution.
Middleton Man Charged with Distributing Cocaine
Cameron A. Bates, 30, Middleton, Wisconsin, is charged with five counts of distributing cocaine. The indictment alleges that he distributed cocaine on five occasions in July and August 2019.
If convicted, Bates faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on each count. The charges against him are the result of an investigation by the Madison Police Department and the Dane County Narcotics Task Force, with the assistance of the Middleton Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman is handling the prosecution.