ATLANTA – Eleven defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States in a four-year mortgage fraud program that resulted in the approval of more than 100 mortgages based on forged documents and false information. Many of the loans are insured with the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which results in defaulted mortgage claims being paid.
“These defendants brazenly manipulated the home loan process by using their knowledge of the system,” said acting US attorney Kurt Erskine. “Mortgage scammers are threatening the health of the real estate market in our community and diverting critical resources away from borrowers who are properly qualified for credit. By eradicating bad actors who try to abuse the system for their own benefit, the mortgage credit system becomes safer and more equitable for all. “
“These defendants, who have damaged our economy through deception, are now being tried and compelled to repay the victims of their conspiracy,” said Chris Hacker, special envoy for the FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is committed to fighting such criminal activity in order to protect our citizens and the real estate market from the predators who are most interested in pocketing money they have no right to.”
“These criminals have committed blatant crimes to get rich at the expense of a federal housing program designed to help millions of American homebuyers. Your fraudulent activity compromises the tax integrity of the FHA and we will work diligently with our law enforcement partners to hold them accountable, ”said Wyatt Achord, special agent in charge of the Inspector General’s HUD office.
“The Federal Housing Agency, Office of the General Inspector (FHFA-OIG) is committed to holding accountable those who waste, steal or misuse the resources of the FHFA-regulated state-sponsored companies. We are proud to have partnered with the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia in this case, ”said Edwin S. Bonano, FHFA-OIG Special Representative, Southeast Region.
Acting US attorney Erskine said the charges and other information were brought to court: The defendants were involved in a conspiracy in which homebuyers and real estate agents used fraudulent loan applications to get mortgage lenders to finance mortgages.
Listing agents Eric Hill and Robert Kelske represented a major nationwide home builder and helped more than 100 home buyers who wanted to buy a home but were not qualified to get a mortgage, scam. The brokers instructed homebuyers what type of assets to claim with the bank and what type of employment and income to submit in their mortgage applications.
Hill and Kelske then coordinated with several document producers, including Defendants Fawziyyah Connor and Stephanie Hogan, who modified homebuyers’ bank statements to inflate their fortunes and create bank entries that reflected false direct deposits from a realtor-selected employer. Document makers also created fake profit and loss statements that matched the direct deposit entries to create the impression that the homebuyer was employed by a fake employer and was earning income. Other participants in the program then acted as employment auditors, answering phone calls or emails from lenders to falsely verify homebuyers’ employment. Defendants Jerod Little, Renee Little, Maurice Lawson, Todd Taylor, Paige McDaniel and Donald Fontenot acted as employment auditors. Hill and Kelske coordinated the creation and delivery of the false information so that the lies to the lenders would be consistent.
In another aspect of the program, real estate agent Anthony Richard falsely claimed to represent home buyers as sales agents in order to collect commissions on home sales. In reality, Richard had never met the buyers he claimed to be representing. To avoid detection, he would often tell senior attorneys that he would not be able to attend the closure and would send instructions for receiving his commissions. When Richard received his undeserved commissions, he returned the majority of the commissions to Hill or Kelske to be added to the deal and kept a small stake for his role in the program.
The following defendants plead guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States:
• Eric Hill, 50, of Tyrone, Georgia
• Robert Kelske, 52, from Smyrna, Georgia
• Fawziyyah Connor, 41, from Tyrone, Georgia
• Stephanie Hogan, 57, from Norcross, Georgia
• Jerod Little, 42, of McDonough, Georgia
• Renee Little, 33, of McDonough, Georgia
• Maurice Lawson, 36, of Powder Springs, Georgia
• Todd Taylor, 54, of Fairburn, Georgia
• Paige McDaniel, 49, of Stockbridge, Georgia
• Donald Fontenot, 52, of Locust Grove, Georgia
• Anthony Richard, 44, of Locust Grove, Georgia
These defendants have agreed to pay compensation to the victims of their conspiracy, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which insures many of the residential mortgages in the United States. For these defendants, conviction hearings have been scheduled before US District Judge Mark H. Cohen.
A twelfth defendant, Cephus Chapman, 49, of Warner Robins, Ga., Is awaiting trial. The public’s attention is drawn to the fact that the charges are only charges. The defendant is deemed innocent of the charges and it is the responsibility of the government to prove the defendant’s guilt unequivocally in court.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Investigation Office, the Office for Housing and Urban Development of the Inspector General and the Office of the Inspector General of the Federal Housing Agency.
Deputy US attorneys Alison Prout and Ryan Huschka are pursuing the case.
For more information, please contact the US Attorney’s Office for Public Affairs at [email protected] or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.