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Financial Crimes

Miami accountant sentenced on 31 million dollar bank fraud

MIAMI - A 61-year-old certified public accountant from Miami Lakes, Fla. was sentenced to federal prison following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Miami, U.S. Secret Service, and the City of Miami Police Department.

Berta Sanders was sentenced before U.S. District Court Judge Paul C. Huck to 52 months in prison, five years of supervised release and restitution in the amount of $31 million.

"ICE HSI remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate financial fraud crimes and target those individuals and organizations that exploit vulnerabilities in financial systems to launder illicit proceeds," said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Miami. "Individuals and organizations that engage in the deception and financial exploitation of honest investors and financial institutions will be held accountable."

From approximately November 2005 through March 2008, Sanders conspired to submit false loan applications to Wells Fargo Bank (formerly known as Wachovia Bank) in order to obtain approximately $12 million in commercial lines of credit. Sanders promoted herself as someone who could help borrowers get approval for the lines of credit by preparing their loan applications.

Sanders prepared fraudulent loan applications on behalf of the borrowers, which contained false information about the borrowers' business income, assets, and accounts receivable. Sanders also prepared false tax returns, bank statements, and personal financial statements in connection with the line of credit applications. As compensation for preparing the false loan applications that were submitted to Wachovia Bank, the borrowers paid Sanders a fee of approximately 10 percent of the loan amount. Sanders then paid a portion of these fees to a Wachovia Bank officer as compensation for his assistance in preparing and processing the fraudulent applications.

During this scheme, Sanders conspired to obtain approximately $12 million in lines of credit from Wachovia Bank, which has resulted in approximately $10 million in losses to the bank. Sanders also admitted in court that between 2005 and 2008 she prepared additional fraudulent loan applications that have resulted in $19 million in losses to Wachovia. In total, Sanders is responsible for approximately $31 million in losses to the bank.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Gregorie.