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Financial Crimes

Miami accountant pleads guilty in $31 million bank fraud scheme

MIAMI - Certified Public Accountant Berta Sanders, 61, of Miami Lakes, Fla., pleaded guilty on Oct. 29 to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, following an investigation led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

From approximately November 2005 through March 2008, Sanders conspired to submit false loan applications to 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 investigation was conducted by ICE HSI in Miami, U.S. Secret Service and the City of Miami Police Department.

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