SEATTLE - A former loan originator and licensed notary was convicted Wednesday in federal court on 30 felony counts of conspiracy, bank fraud, wire, fraud and money laundering offenses, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
William S. Poff, 37, of Marshall, Mich., was living in Washington state when he and four other individuals were involved in a mortgage fraud scheme that cheated banks and property sellers in the Puget Sound region out of millions of dollars. ICE agents arrested Poff and four others in June 2009.
Court documents reveal that starting in 2005 through 2008, the co-conspirators fraudulently obtained financing from banks to purchase homes. They secured the loans by providing a series of false statement on 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.
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 private loans, which were not disclosed to the banks, allowed the conspirators to obtain loan proceeds far beyond the value of the assets securing those loans.
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 ultimately left with nothing.
During Poff's trial, prosecutors focused on the purchase of eight different properties using various deceptive methods including straw buyers, forged settlement documents, lies on loan applications, inflated sales prices, and undisclosed seller financing. Most of the properties are pending foreclosure.
ICE investigators learned that Poff and his co-conspirators pocketed $1.7 million. Evidence presented at trial showed that Poff used some of it for his living expenses, trips, and child support payments.
"This case illustrates how the desire to turn a quick profit can lead to financial crimes that defraud innocent citizens," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Seattle. "ICE will continue to use its unique investigative authority to expose other illegal financial transactions in an effort to deter this type of activity."
The fraudulent mortgage transactions occurred in communities throughout Western Washington, including in Des Moines, Tacoma, Seattle, Puyallup, Spanaway, SeaTac, Auburn, Bellevue, Renton, Lakewood, Fircrest, Kent, Pacific and Issaquah. The other four defendants in the case have pleaded guilty.
Poff faces up to 30 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14.