“Rogue Builder” Duped JP Morgan Chase Into Making Mortgage Loans In Mortgage Fraud Scheme

27 12 2008

“…the suit alleges that Percudani, Chase Manhattan Mortgage, Stroudsburg appraiser Dominick Stranieri and several others engaged in widespread fraud by selling homes in Monroe County at inflated prices through several of Percudani’s companies, including Raintree Homes, Why Rent? and Chapel Creek Mortgage…”

 

 

“…Chase Manhattan Mortgage, a division of JP Morgan Chase, denied the allegations, claiming that Percudani was a rogue builder who duped Chase into making the loans. Chase also argued that after being alerted to the alleged scam, it reduced the principal on more than 200 mortgages in 2002 after appraisers hired by Chase determined many of the homes were sold for as much as $50,000 more than their true value…”

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-b3_5chase.6720064dec26,0,5613229,print.story

 

A U.S. District judge has called for an attempt at a negotiated settlement and delayed the trial related to the federal lawsuit that alleges more than 100 home buyers were defrauded by JP Morgan Chase Bank and a Poconos developer.

Originally scheduled for February, Judge Christopher Connor rescheduled the trial to June 1, 2009, after a mediation session with retired Judge Diane M. Welsh was scheduled for Jan. 28.

The mediation was ordered by Connor after he delivered a strongly worded opinion filed in October saying the ”record supports the conclusion that the Chase defendants” aided the alleged scheme by Tannersville builder Gene Percudani to sell homes at inflated prices.

Filed in 2002, the suit alleges that Percudani, Chase Manhattan Mortgage, Stroudsburg appraiser Dominick Stranieri and several others engaged in widespread fraud by selling homes in Monroe County at inflated prices through several of Percudani’s companies, including Raintree Homes, Why Rent? and Chapel Creek Mortgage.

The suit claims that Chase took part in the alleged scam by ignoring its usual underwriting guidelines in approving mortgages for Percudani’s customers, many of whom were people with poor credit from the New York area drawn to the Poconos by an advertising campaign that asked ”Why Rent?” and which offered new homes for as little as $1,000 down and mortgage payments of $685 per month.

But the actual payments were much higher and mortgages far more than the real value of the homes. Unable to sell or refinance their mortgages, many of the plaintiffs were forced into bankruptcy and foreclosure while others suffered financial hardships, according to the suit.

Chase Manhattan Mortgage, a division of JP Morgan Chase, denied the allegations, claiming that Percudani was a rogue builder who duped Chase into making the loans. Chase also argued that after being alerted to the alleged scam, it reduced the principal on more than 200 mortgages in 2002 after appraisers hired by Chase determined many of the homes were sold for as much as $50,000 more than their true value.

After six years of depositions, Connor said testimony from current and former Chase employees indicates that Chase officials knew about the scam, and even established unusual underwriting guidelines to approve the mortgages, many of which didn’t go into default until after they were sold by Chase to the secondary market, chiefly Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

A Chase spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Percudani has denied the allegations. He closed his homebuilding businesses and now operates the Cherry Valley Golf Course near Stroudsburg.





Mortgage Brokers And Mortgage Bankers Pushed Subprime Loans To Borrowers Because There Was No Risk To Lenders As Loans Were Sliced Up And Sold Off Quickly

26 12 2008

Subprime depended basically on brokers who did not care whether the borrower could pay his loan because they got paid their commission at closing, on banks that also did not care much whether the borrower could pay since the loan was being sold off, on packagers of loans who cut and sliced the packages of loans so that some could be called AAA rated loans (generally called CMO’s).

http://seekingalpha.com/article/112297-was-subprime-lending-just-as-dishonest-as-madoff?source=email

 

 

Subprime is a specific type of transaction more generally called CMO’s (Collateralized Mortgage Obligations) and CDS (Credit Default Swaps). Subprime depended basically on brokers who did not care whether the borrower could pay his loan because they got paid their commission at closing, on banks that also did not care much whether the borrower could pay since the loan was being sold off, on packagers of loans who cut and sliced the packages of loans so that some could be called AAA rated loans (generally called CMO’s). They paid credit rating companies to put triple A ratings which could not possibly be justified with any analysis of the underlying package of loans. Finally, they paid credit insurance companies to give guarantees (Credit Default Swaps) that they would cover any default when the credit insurance companies did not have the financial ability to pay if called on to pay. To make it even better, everyone seems to have had the idea that real estate prices would always go up. Finally, we even had President Bush saying all this was good because we were increasing housing without looking at the inevitable results.

 

1.     Financial Results: There was never a history of the returns. Financial institutions and their sales representatives told everyone that this was an exceptional investment. They talked about a piece of paper that is “triple A rated “and “guaranteed by insurance through Credit Default Swaps.” While Madoff peddled dishonest results, here banks peddled a dishonest idea without any results.

2.     Public Explanation of the process: Salesmen only explained these were triple AAA rated investments “structured so that they could not fail.” Furthermore, there was an insurance guarantee just in case. When it all fell apart, we naturally got the obvious truth that the so called protection never existed in reality. When the problem was obvious, Merrill Lynch (MER) sold these triple A rated bonds with insurance guarantees for 22 cents on the dollar and most people said the real value for Merrill was only 5 cents on the dollar. Madoff’s explanation was no phonier than the banks explanation of the value of Subprime triple A rated with CDS guarantees.

3.     What kept the fraud going? While Madoff had to pay out early investors, this fraud did not even depend on really paying investors off. The only ones who really collected on this were the bankers who earned bonuses or a percent of the profits (which can be 40% of the transactions’ profits) when these subprime loan packages were sold. The finance community had never made so much money on an idea like this. Who was going to say that it would not work? Here is a clear case that the personal greed of the bankers led to their own demise and that of their investors. Probably anyone that wanted to cut back on the system was probably told to shut up. As a former banker, I know the pressures put on people. “X bank is making all that money. What is wrong with you?” If you try to say it is a bad idea, most people get run over by the system. Years ago, former Fed Chairman Greenspan said that he trusted the bankers to protect their own interests. He recently said in congress that he made a terrible mistake in this assumption. And in this simple mistaken assumption, we see a root cause of the problem.

4.     Professional Opinion: The personal interest of bankers led them to tell all their investors that this is a splendid investment. In this case, the professional bankers did a 20 times greater disservice to themselves and their customers than all of the Madoff salesmen.

 

 

 

 





Minnesota Mortgage Fraud Ring Convicted Of Lining Up Straw Buyers, Originating Fraud Mortgages, And Then Selling Properties At Inflated Prices

22 12 2008

“…Shinon Lindberg would allegedly recruit “straw buyers” for pieces of real estate. They had a third accomplice, a mortgage broker who would secure fraudulent loans, and then Scott Rosenlund would use his company 10Spring Homes to buy and sell the properties at inflated prices…”


http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/myfox/pages/News/Detail?contentId=8104640&version=2&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=TSTY&pageId=3.2.1

Two men were found guilty Thursday in a big mortgage scam that’s made headlines for a year. Prosecutors say they defrauded banks and investors all over Hennepin County.


Shinon Lindberg and Scott Rosenlund allegedly masterminded the largest mortgage fraud case in
Minnesota‘s history. They were found guilty Thursday of racketeering and seven counts of theft by swindle.”We’re seeing too many schemes. This is one time the bad guys got caught and they’re doing time,” says Mike Freeman, Hennepin County

Attorney.

Shinon Lindberg would allegedly recruit “straw buyers” for pieces of real estate. They had a third accomplice, a mortgage broker who would secure fraudulent loans, and then Scott Rosenlund would use his company 10Spring Homes to buy and sell the properties at inflated prices.

For instance, court documents show that one parcel of land was bought and sold the same day for a $100,000 mark-up.

Deals like this were done time and time again over three years, eventually bilking banks and unwitting investors out of more than $100 million.

Freeman says the properties were scattered all over southwest Hennepin County, and investors never saw any of the money they were promised.

Rosenlund and Lindberg will be sentenced in February. They face up to 100 months in prison.





Investment Bankers And Predatory Lenders Combined To Make Risky, Deceptive Mortgage Loans To Naïve Home Buyers Who Purchased Homes They Couldn’t Afford

17 12 2008

“…The widespread securitization of mortgages prompted lenders to give virtually anyone a loan that they could resell at a profit while offloading the risk. It also gave them incentive to mislead borrowers about what they could afford, what risks they were undertaking and, in some cases, the terms of the mortgage they were signing. The public face of this racket could well be Angelo Mozilo, co-founder of mortgage giant Countrywide Financial…”

“…though the poster child of mismanagement has to be Richard Fuld, former CEO of the former company known as Lehman Bros. Fuld, who received as much as $480 million in compensation from 2000 to this year, took risks that drove the storied investment house straight into the ground…”

 

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2008/12/whos-to-blame-f.html

 

Investment bankers

In the war on drugs, the top target is always the traffickers. The same principle is true with the massive implosion of credit markets and corporate ethics. In this case, the traffickers were the Wall Street firms that created bundles of subprime mortgages and other toxic financial instruments, then peddled them as low-risk, high-return investments. These securities, and enormous side bets on them, fueled the housing bubble and infected the global financial system.

Nearly all the big investment banks were culpable, though the poster child of mismanagement has to be Richard Fuld, former CEO of the former company known as Lehman Bros. Fuld, who received as much as $480 million in compensation from 2000 to this year, took risks that drove the storied investment house straight into the ground. But he had lots of co-conspirators.

Predatory lenders

Lending is easy when it is someone else’s money. The widespread securitization of mortgages prompted lenders to give virtually anyone a loan that they could resell at a profit while offloading the risk. It also gave them incentive to mislead borrowers about what they could afford, what risks they were undertaking and, in some cases, the terms of the mortgage they were signing. The public face of this racket could well be Angelo Mozilo, co-founder of mortgage giant Countrywide Financial. But many others got into this game, as well. Subprime lending shot up from $130 billion in 2000 to $625 billion in 2005.

Clueless borrowers

It might seem cruel to put blame on people who have lost their homes, or are in jeopardy of it. But hundreds of thousands of homebuyers bought more house than they could afford, or financed investment properties with no clue about what they were doing. It takes two parties to sign a mortgage contract, so some borrowers share responsibility for the housing mess.

 

 





Mortgage Brokers And Lenders Pushed OptionARM Mortgages To Good Credit Alt-A Borrowers Who Are Now Defaulting In Record Numbers

16 12 2008

“The defaults right now are incredibly high. At unprecedented levels. And there’s no evidence that the default rate is tapering off. Those defaults almost inevitably are leading to foreclosures, and homes being auctioned, and home prices continuing to fall,” Tilson explains.

 

http://www.wwj.com/A-Second-Mortgage-Disaster-On-The-Horizon-/3494300

 

The trouble now is that the insanity didn’t end with sub-primes. There were two other kinds of exotic mortgages that became popular, called “Alt-A” and “option ARM.” The option ARMs, in particular, lured borrowers in with low initial interest rates – so-called teaser rates – sometimes as low as one percent. But after two, three or five years those rates “reset.” They went up. And so did the monthly payment. A mortgage of $800 dollars a month could easily jump to $1,500.

Now the Alt-A and option ARM loans made back in the heyday are starting to reset, causing the mortgage payments to go up and homeowners to default.

“The defaults right now are incredibly high. At unprecedented levels. And there’s no evidence that the default rate is tapering off. Those defaults almost inevitably are leading to foreclosures, and homes being auctioned, and home prices continuing to fall,” Tilson explains.

“What you seem to be saying is that there is a very predictable time bomb effect here?” Pelley asks.

“Exactly. I mean, you can look back at what was written in ’05 and ’07. You can look at the reset dates. You can look at the current default rates, and it’s really very clear and predictable what’s gonna happen here,” Tilson says.

Just look at a projection from the investment bank of Credit Suisse: there are the billions of dollars in sub-prime mortgages that reset last year and this year. But what hasn’t hit yet are Alt-A and option ARM resets, when homeowners will pay higher interest rates in the next three years. We’re at the beginning of a second wave.

“How big is the potential damage from the Alt As compared to what we just saw in the sub-primes?” Pelley asks.

“Well, the sub-prime is, was approaching $1 trillion, the Alt-A is about $1 trillion. And then you have option ARMs on top of that. That’s probably another $500 billion to $600 billion on top of that,” Tilson says.

Asked how many of these option ARMs he imagines are going to fail, Tilson says, “Well north of 50 percent. My gut would be 70 percent of these option ARMs will default.”





New York Mortgage Broker Fraud Operation Found Straw Buyers For Own Properties, Inflated And Falsified Income, And Then Obtained Mortgages Which Quickly Went Into Foreclosure

13 12 2008

“…The two falsified documents to make it seem that the straw buyer made $23,000 a month – in fact, he parked cars for $22,000 a year, prosecutors said. The scheme unraveled when Poulard could no longer afford mortgage payments to the now-defunct American Brokers Conduit of Melville. She and Spindel pleaded not guilty…”

How prosecutors say the scheme worked:

1. LaDonna looked for phony buyers for three houses owned by him or his company.

2. LaDonna set the prices for the houses above their real value. The phony buyers used fake documents that say they have sufficient funds to be approved for mortgages.

3. The phony buyers obtained mortgages and completed the home sales in their names. The mortgage lenders paid LaDonna for his properties.

4. The phony buyers received $10,000 to $20,000 for participating in LaDonna’s scam. Only a few payments were made on the homes before they went into foreclosure.

 

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/suffolk/ny-limort125961867dec12,0,2469861,print.story

An ongoing probe into the home mortgage business by the Suffolk district attorney’s office has led to the indictment of a West Islip man on charges of scheming to defraud lenders out of about $2.5 million.

“What we’re seeing in Suffolk County is an explosion of fraud involving, depending on the scheme, every facet of the mortgage process,” District Attorney Thomas Spota said. The probe by Spota’s Mortgage Fraud Unit has resulted in 27 arrests and nine indictments since June.

In the latest case, Louis LaDonna, 39, pleaded not guilty Thursday to 13 counts, including grand larceny. Prosecutors accused LaDonna of inflating the value of houses in West Islip, Babylon and Lindenhurst owned by him or his company, LaDonna Properties.

But LaDonna’s attorney, William Keahon, said the case is weak. “Based upon the documents being given to me by the DA’s office and based on my own investigation, they’re never going to be able to prove what he’s accused of,” Keahon said.

Between 2006 and 2007, LaDonna contacted people who found “straw buyers” to pretend to buy the houses, prosecutors said. The straw buyers received payments of $10,000 to $20,000 for acting as if they were actually purchasing the houses.

“He [LaDonna] engaged appraisers to inflate the values of all of the properties well beyond what they were worth,” Spota said at a news conference.

Using fake documents, the phony buyers overstated their incomes and assets to qualify for no-down-payment mortgages, prosecutors said. When transactions were complete, the lenders – Mortgage-It and First Franklin Financial Corp. – paid LaDonna for the houses. But the lenders only received two or three mortgage payments before the houses went into foreclosure.

LaDonna was released on bail of $750,000 bond and is due back in court on Feb. 4.

Earlier this week, Marie Poulard, 50, of East Quogue, and Frank Spindel, 49, of Miller Place, were arrested on grand larceny charges.

Poulard needed $1.2 million to buy an East Quogue house she couldn’t afford. She and Spindel, her mortgage broker, arranged for a straw buyer to buy the house, prosecutors said.

“This is brokers making this thing work at any cost,” said Maureen McCormack, deputy chief of the economic crimes bureau in Spota’s office.





Mortgage Fraud Investigations And Prosecution Centering On Mortgage Brokers And Title Companies

11 12 2008

“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that there is immense criminal fraud involved in this financial crisis,” said U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott, whose district spans California’s vast Central Valley and is among those most affected by the housing bust. “It’s a profound ripple effect that affects everyone.”

“We are mainly focusing on the mortgage brokers and title companies because they are really at the center of mortgage fraud in this district,” said William Edwards, the acting U.S. attorney for northern Ohio.

In addition to California, large numbers of investigations are under way in Nevada, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, Atlanta and Rust Belt states such as Ohio and Michigan, the areas that have experienced the highest rates of home foreclosure.

 

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ieeI0NXfkFVB7LKp1n_hYlEbeagAD95046J80

 

Prosecutors are finding buyers who created fake identities to take out home loans, brokers who paid kickbacks to ensure fraudulent mortgages were approved and lenders who took bribes and forged documents.

They are the ones who fraudulently overstated property values and borrowers’ incomes, who used illegal means to secure loans that homeowners ultimately couldn’t afford, though they had plenty of encouragement from Wall Street.

That fraud helped artificially inflate home values that have since come crashing to earth. Foreclosures are dragging down property values in neighborhoods across the nation. Lenders, in response, have shut the door on almost anyone without platinum credit, and raised a variety of fees to make up for huge losses.

And the fraud is continuing in new ways as desperate homeowners try to unload mortgages they can’t afford and builders shed surplus properties.

The U.S. Justice Department has formed more than 40 mortgage fraud task forces nationwide as prosecutors and investigators struggle with a flood of mortgage-related criminal cases. The FBI reports that its mortgage-fraud caseload has more than doubled in three years to about 1,600 investigations that have cost lenders at least $4 billion. About 200 FBI agents are assigned to the cases, up from 120 a year ago.

Nationally, federal prosecutors charged 226 people with mortgage fraud between July and the end of October, the latest figures available, said U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney. Another 406 were charged as part of a national mortgage-fraud crackdown between March and June.

In Scott’s California district, prosecutors have filed charges related to housing scams against 53 people in 15 ongoing prosecutions. They have another 15 active investigations against 68 individuals.

They estimate hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid out by banks and other lenders because of mortgage fraud in the Central California district, which stretches from just north of Los Angeles to the Oregon border.

“We’re running out of bodies to handle these cases,” said Scott, calling on Congress to approve more money for investigators and prosecutors. “We’re just being overwhelmed.”

Spokesmen for the FBI and Justice Department said there are no plans to ask Congress for more money. They could not say how much the hundreds of agents and prosecutors are spending to investigate mortgage fraud nationwide.

“We continue to re-prioritize as necessary,” Justice spokesman Ian McCaleb said in an e-mail. “Currently, we have shifted significant resources toward investigating mortgage fraud.”

Paul Leonard, director of the California office of the Center for Responsible Lending, welcomed investigators’ attempts to keep up with newer forms of foreclosure and builder fraud. However, wrongdoing remains so widespread that “I think those agencies have to pick their spots,” he said.

“I wish they had engaged in this earlier,” Leonard said. “I think it’s constructive to sort of root out these evil and malicious scams when they occur … Given the state of the economy, it’s too little too late.”

In addition to California, large numbers of investigations are under way in Nevada, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, Atlanta and Rust Belt states such as Ohio and Michigan, the areas that have experienced the highest rates of home foreclosure.

South Florida has been a particular hotbed of activity for federal prosecutors, who have charged 112 people there with an estimated $176 million in mortgage fraud this year.

“It really is an incredible amount,” said Alicia Valle, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami. “You name it and we’ve got it.”

Florida, California and Illinois combined to provide nearly half the nation’s fraud reports in the second quarter, according to a Dec. 2 report from the Mortgage Asset Research Institute. Nationwide, mortgage fraud reports increased 42 percent from January to March and 45 percent from April to June, compared with their year-ago periods.

“We have a duty to put these people in prison,” said Scott, the U.S. attorney in California.

Michael Cardoza, a San Francisco-area attorney representing one of those charged in central California, said prosecutors should be setting their sights higher.

“It’s amazing to me that the people on Wall Street walk away with millions and millions if not billions of dollars,” said Cardoza. “Now they’re just picking off little people … They’re doing scapegoats is what they’re doing.”

The FBI says about 80 percent of mortgage fraud losses under investigation involve industry insiders who inflated property values or made loans based on fictional information.

The remaining 20 percent is by individual borrowers who lied about their income or job history to qualify for loans. So-called “liar loans,” which require little or no documentation about the buyer’s income or employment.

The larger group is where law enforcement is focused.

“We are mainly focusing on the mortgage brokers and title companies because they are really at the center of mortgage fraud in this district,” said William Edwards, the acting U.S. attorney for northern Ohio.

U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello is setting the bar at $400,000 or more in his San Francisco-based district, where home values are among the nation’s highest.

“We could be looking at thousands of potential cases,” Russoniello said. “We’ve been looking at a number of cases that run the gamut from simple mortgage fraud to collusion involving brokers, appraisers … bait and switch, predatory rescue operations.”

His mortgage-fraud task force contracted with a financial analyst in October to help sort through the transactions. Russoniello expects to soon announce “a significant number” of indictments.

Nevada has the nation’s highest foreclosure rate, and now a corresponding amount of mortgage fraud complaints are flooding law enforcement agencies, said U.S. Attorney Gregory Brower. A special telephone hot line has fielded more than 1,100 calls since it was set up in April, said Nevada FBI spokesman David Staretz.

Brower has had to shuffle attorneys to handle cases like the one Nevada prosecutors say involved 432 fake buyers for 227 properties worth more than $107 million. At least 143 of the homes are now in default, costing lenders more than $17 million. Five Las Vegas brokers, mortgage agents and loan officers have pleaded guilty and six are awaiting trial.

“It’s certainly a contributor, if not the contributor, to some of the economic downturn we’re seeing,” Brower said. “It will be a while before the dust settles.”