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Financial Crimes
06/03/2009

Real estate professionals arrested in Seattle-area mortgage fraud scheme

SEATTLE - Five people were arrested this morning for their roles in a mortgage fraud scheme in the Puget Sound area that bilked banks and property sellers out of more than $18 million, following an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Humerto A. Reyes-Rodriguez, 42, of Federal Way, Wash.; Alexis Ikilikyan, 29, of Auburn, Wash.; Micki S. Thompson, 54, of Tacoma, Wash.; Mario Marroquin, 38, of Kent, Wash.; and William S. Poff, 37, of Marshall, Mich.; were indicted by a federal grand jury last month on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. The indictment alleges that over a three-year period starting in 2004, they were responsible for 80 fraudulent loan transactions in communities throughout King and Pierce Counties.

Reyes-Rodriguez and Ikilikyan were licensed real estate agents and mortgage loan originators. Poff is Ikilikyan's ex-husband and was a licensed notary and loan originator. Thompson was employed by Great American Escrow in Federal Way and acted as the closing officer for many of the fraudulent sales. Marroquin acted as a straw buyer and oversaw fictitious home repair companies.

According to court documents in the case, the five defendants worked together to obtain financing from banks to purchase homes. At the same time, they convinced innocent home sellers to extend private loans to the buyer of the home to cover a portion of the purchase price.

The sellers did not know that the conspirators had already obtained financing from commercial lenders to cover the full cost of the home. When payments were not made, the properties fell into foreclosure. The homes were then sold for less than the total of all loans secured for the property. The sellers who had extended private loans to the buyers were left with nothing.

The conspirators also used straw buyers to purchase and resell properties and then submitted false information to the banks such as employment, income, citizenship status, assets and liabilities. They submitted bogus appraisals and hired fictitious home repair companies to do repair work on the properties. Proceeds from the home sales would go to the fake companies that had, in fact, done no work.

"This complex investigation uncovered a group of real estate professionals who manipulated home sales for pure profit while some of the properties went into foreclosure and innocent private citizens were defrauded," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations. "ICE will continue to use its unique investigative authority to uncover illegal financial transactions in an effort to stop this type of fraudulent activity."

Those arrested in the Seattle area will make their initial appearances in federal court this afternoon at 2:30, on the 12th floor of the courthouse at 700 Stewart Street. The conspiracy and money laundering charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.