OPERATION HOMEWRECKER – FBI and IRS Announce Indictment of 19 in MORTGAGE FRAUD Related Offenses!

April 1, 2008

Every day there is more being reported about Mortgage Fraud. It is widespread and will take years to determine just how costly and extensive the problem is. Meanwhile, people, innocent people, are duped into losing their homes by falling for scams that are still widespread.

According to the FBI and IRS, 19 individuals were indicted for mortgage fraud-related offenses under Operation Homewrecker. The leader of this nationwide scam is Charles Head, 33, of Los Angeles, California, who targeted homeowners in dire financial straits, fraudulently obtaining title to over 100 homes and stole millions of dollars through fraudulently obtained loans and mortgages.

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According to the FBI: “From approximately January 1, 2004 to March 14, 2006 , the defendants contacted desperate homeowners, offering two “options” allowing them to avoid foreclosure and obtain thousands of dollars up-front to help pay mounting bills. If the homeowner could not qualify for the “ first option,” which virtually none could, they would be offered the “second option.” Under the latter option, an “investor” would be added to the title of the home, to whom the homeowner would make a “rental” payment of an amount allegedly less than their mortgage payment, thereby allowing the homeowner to repair their credit by having the mortgage payments made in a timely fashion. Unfortunately all of this was a scam. The defendants would recruit straw buyers as the “investors” and oftentimes these individuals would in fact replace the homeowners on the titles of the properties without the homeowners’ knowledge. These straw buyers were often friends and family members of the defendants. Once the straw buyer had title to the home, the defendants immediately applied for a mortgage to extract the maximum available equity from the home. The defendants would then share the proceeds of the ill-gotten equity and “rent” being paid by the victim homeowner. When the defendants ultimately would sell the home, stop making the mortgage payment, and/or pursue an eviction proceeding, the victim homeowner was left without their home, equity, or repaired credit.”

The following defendants were charged in the February 28, 2008 “Head One” indictment: Charles Head, 33, of La Habra, California; Jeremy Michael Head, 30, of Huntington Beach, California; Elham Assadi, aka Elham Assadi Jouzani, aka Ely Assadi, 30, of Irvine, California; Leonard Bernot, 51, of Laguna Hills, California; Akemi Bottari, 28, of Los Angeles; Joshua Coffman, 29, of North Hollywood; John Corcoran, aka Jack Corcoran, 52, of Anaheim; Sarah Mattson, 27, of Phoenix, Arizona; Domonic McCarns, 33, of Brea, California; Anh Nguyen, 36, of Los Angeles; Omar Sandoval, 32, of Rancho Cucamonga, California; Xochitl Sandoval, 29, of Rancho Cucamonga; Eduardo Vanegas, 28, of Phoenix; Andrwe Vu, 39, of Santa Ana; Justin Wiley, 28, of Irvine; and Kou Yang, 32, of Corona, California.

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“Head Two” involved an “equity stripping” scheme, netting approximately $5.9 million in stolen equity from 68 homeowners in states across the nation. While still targeting distressed homeowners and defrauding mortgage lenders through the use of straw buyers, this time Charles Head altered the scheme so that he would receive approximately 97 percent of the stolen equity, while his “sales agents” and employees, and the other defendants, would receive either the remaining 3 percent of equity or a salary from the fraudulently-obtained funding.

Instead of recruiting friends and family members as straw buyers, as in “Head One,” in “Head Two” the defendants recruited strangers via the Internet. They also used referrals from mortgage brokers to identify and solicit new victim homeowners. Beyond advertising on the Internet, the defendants also would send “blast faxes” to mortgage brokers throughout the country and generate mass emails to potential victims. Through material misrepresentations and omissions, victim homeowners would be offered what appeared to be their last best chance to save their homes. Unfortunately, as in “Head One,” these victims also were left without their homes, equity, or repaired credit.

On March 13, 2008, the federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment in “Head Two” against seven defendants, including Charles Head, John Corcoran, Kou Yang, each also charged in “Head One,” as well as Keith Brotemarkle, 42, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Benjamin Budoff, 41, of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Domonic McCarns, 33, of Brea; and Lisa Vang, 24, of Westminster.

A question has been raised as to whether there would be a nationwide Mortgage Task Force. It looks like California has taken the lead in this regard. In recent months, an Eastern District of California Mortgage Fraud Task Force has been established. This action was taken as a result of the significant increase in reported mortgage fraud as economic conditions and the housing market have worsened. Members of the task force include representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, IRS-CI, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the United States Bankruptcy Trustee’s Office, and the California Department of Real Estate.

“Mortgage fraud is a very real problem, both legally and economically. Federal law enforcement here in the Eastern District is fully committed to holding responsible those who in their greed have stolen from their fellow citizens. It is our duty to do all we can to restore faith and confidence in the marketplace by placing these thieves where they belong: in prison.” stated U.S. Attorney Scott.

Every choice has a consequence. As a white collar crime and business ethics speaker, I speak from first hand experience about the truth about consequences. Reality is – no one escapes the consequences of their choices. While Head and others may have looked good for a time and avoided the consequences – they did not avoid the consequences all together. Prison is no fun and Head and other are facing 10++ years plus substantial restitution for a conviction in this case. Likely they will serve time and that will prove to be a dramatic change from their prior activities. You do reap what you sow.

If anyone reading has any background on Head and his co-defendants or was defrauded by them – feel free to comment as I study the behaviors and backgrounds of those convicted of white collar crime.

White Collar Crime Speaker – Chuck Gallagher – signing off…