SAN FRANCISCO - Following a weeklong trial, a federal grand jury Wednesday convicted a Nigerian couple employed by a Bay Area mortgage broker of wire fraud and immigration fraud stemming from their role in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme uncovered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.
The jury found Doris Anyanwu, 35, and her husband Hyacinth Udeh, 37, each guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud, and four counts of making false claims to U.S. citizenship. Anyanwu was also convicted of one count of money laundering. The two were employed by New Era Mortgage and Realty in Union City, Calif..
Evidence presented at trial showed that the couple, who reside in San Ramon, Calif, secured 10 mortgages totaling approximately $3.6 million to purchase four residential properties located in Hayward, Calif., Oakland, Calif., and San Ramon, Calif., and to refinance property in Hayward.
The jury found that the pair, who are natives and citizens of Nigeria, conspired with Andrew Ashiegbu and his wife Linda Ashiegbu (Doris Anyanwu's sister), and Ursula Ogamba, a family friend, to obtain loans from various lenders by making fraudulent representations on the loan applications. Ashiegbu, a licensed real estate broker, and his wife Linda owned and operated New Era Mortgage and Realty in Union City, Calif. Ogamba, also a licensed broker, co-owned EZ Mortgage Realty in Tracy, Calif.
The fraudulent representations made by Anyanwu and Udeh included overstating their gross monthly income and asset balances, as well as falsely claiming to be U.S. citizens. To substantiate their claims, the couple provided lenders fraudulent documentation related to rent payments, employment, W-2 forms, and altered bank statements.
Previously, Andrew and Linda Ashiegbu pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. Ogamba pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and to making false declarations before the grand jury. Anyanwu, Udeh and both of the Ashiegbus are scheduled to be sentenced May 18. Ogamba's sentencing is set for May 25.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud is 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million or twice the gross gain or loss involved in the conspiracy, whichever is greater. The maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud is 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. The maximum penalty for monetary transactions using criminally derived property is 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for false declarations before the grand jury is five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for false claim to U.S. citizenship is three years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deborah Douglas and Joshua Hill representing the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. The prosecutors received substantial assistance from paralegal specialist Suzanne Pouteau, financial analyst Allen Williams, and legal assistants Rawaty Yim and Elise Etter.
This case was brought in coordination with President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was formed to provide a coordinated, proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The Task Force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, as well as state and local law enforcement. The Task Force's goals include improving efforts to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes; ensuring effective punishment for those who perpetrate such crimes; combating discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and recovering proceeds for victims of financial crimes.