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Financial Crimes

2 Miami-Dade and 1 Broward resident charged in $12 million bank fraud scheme

MIAMI - Three South Florida residents were indicted on bank fraud related charges in connection with a $12 million scheme following a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations in Miami, U.S. Secret Service and the City of Miami Police Department.

The indictment charges Richard Garcia, 29, a loan officer at Wachovia Bank, of Miami, Berta Sanders, 61, a certified public accountant, of Miami Lakes, Fla., and Luis Felipe Perez, 38, a former jewelry business owner, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Garcia was also charged with six counts of receiving gifts to procure loans.

The indictment is spin-off from an investigation by ICE special agents in Miami that resulted in the June arrest of Luis Felipe Perez, who was criminally charged with securities fraud in a $40 million Ponzi scheme.

According to the indictment, from approximately November 2005 through March 2008, Garcia, Sanders and Perez conspired to submit false loan applications to Wells Fargo Bank, formerly known as Wachovia Bank, for the purpose of obtaining approximately $12 million in commercial lines of credit.

To execute the scheme, Sanders promoted herself as someone who could help borrowers get approval for the lines of credit by preparing their loan applications.

Sanders allegedly prepared loan applications on behalf of the borrowers, which contained false information about the borrower's 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.

Garcia is alleged to have assisted Sanders in processing these fraudulent loans on behalf of the borrowers, and advised Sanders as to what information in the applications needed to be falsified to secure bank approval for the loans.

Additionally, it is alleged that for compensation in 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 Garcia as compensation for his assistance in preparing and processing the fraudulent applications.

Perez is alleged to have recruited many borrowers and referred them to Sanders for assistance in applying for the commercial lines of credit. Perez induced many of these individuals to obtain loans in order to invest the proceeds in a separate business venture he controlled.

During this scheme, Garcia, Sanders and Perez conspired to obtain approximately $12 million in lines of credit from Wachovia Bank, which resulted in approximately $10 million in losses to the bank.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew K. Levi and Richard Gregorie.