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Financial Crimes

ICE assists in joint law enforcement mortgage fraud crackdown

7 Miami residents indicted in mortgage fraud scheme

MIAMI - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other state and federal law enforcement agencies announced today their commitment to crack-down on mortgage fraud and cited the indictment of six individuals who were most recently apprehended for their involvement in an illegal mortgage fraud scheme.

This joint Federal-State Mortgage Fraud Initiative is designed to combat the growing mortgage fraud epidemic in South Florida. The Federal-State Mortgage Fraud Initiative brings together federal and state law enforcement to investigate and prosecute federally a myriad of mortgage fraud offenders, from straw purchasers, to mortgage brokers, to complicit bank employees, title agents, and attorneys.

"We at ICE are pleased to have been able to assist in bringing about today's indictment, which highlights some abuses in the real estate industry," said Anthony Mangione, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami. "Mortgage fraud costs lenders and purchasers millions of dollars and undermines the credibility of the real estate industry. The Miami ICE Office of Investigations will continue to work to uncover illicit transactions involving mortgage brokers and together with the law enforcement community is united in our resolve to disrupt criminal organizations that commit crimes against our society and the economy."

On June 17, seven defendants identified as Evelyn Marrero, 37; Jorge Bacallao, 44; Marilyn De La Paz a/k/a Marilyn Martis, 35; Daisy Gonzalez, 47; Aivet Loarca, 36; Elena Garman, 47; and Loaisa Rodriguez, 26, were charged in a 10-count indictment for their participation in a mortgage fraud scheme, which resulted in the issuance of more than $2 million in mortgage loans. According to the indictment, the defendants Evelyn Marrero, Jorge Bacallao and Marilyn De La Paz, a/k/a "Marilyn Martis," operated a title closing company, J&E Universal Title Services, Inc., located in Miami-Dade. To effectuate the scheme, Marrero, Bacallao, and De La Paz conspired with co-defendants, mortgage fraud brokers Aivet Loarca and Daisy Gonzalez, to submit fraudulent applications for mortgage loans. The applications contained materially false information regarding the borrowers' purported employment, income, available funds on deposit, and rent payment history. In this conspiracy, Marrero, Bacallao, De la Paz, Loarca, and Gonzalez recruited defendants Elena Garman and Loaisa Rodriguez to steal personal identifying information for use in a straw transaction and to serve as a straw buyer. Defendant Garman is additionally charged with stealing the personal information of a relative without her consent and using her information to obtain a mortgage loan.

Upon approval of the fraudulent mortgage loan applications, the lending institutions wire-transferred the loan proceeds to the defendants' title company for closing. Marrero, Bacallao, and De La Paz regularly used J&E Universal as the title closing agent. Defendants Marrero, Bacallao, and De La Paz used the loan proceeds to pay creditors, their co-conspirators, and for their personal benefit. Through this scheme, the defendants obtained four fraudulent mortgages.

These defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The defendants face the following possible maximum terms of imprisonment if convicted: conspiracy to commit wire fraud and substantive wire fraud: 20 years' imprisonment; aggravated identity theft: mandatory 2 years' imprisonment; bank fraud: 30 years' imprisonment; false loan application: 30 years' imprisonment; money laundering: 20 years' imprisonment; failure to file tax returns: 1 year imprisonment; tax evasion: 5 years' imprisonment; and filing a false tax return: 3 years' imprisonment.

R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida commended the investigative efforts of the Office of Investigations of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey E. Tsai.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law. Defendants are presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.