A District woman has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for her role in a mortgage fraud scheme that authorities say bilked people in the D.C. region and across the country out of $78 million.
U.S. District Judge Roger Titus sentenced 53-year-old Carole Nelson on Monday in federal court in Greenbelt to two years and five months behind bars and ordered her to pay more than $34 million in restitution.
Nelson and others ran a fake mortgage-payment program called the "Dream Homes Program" beginning in 2005, according to prosecutors and court documents. They promised homeowners that they would pay off their mortgages in exchange for an initial investment of at least $50,000 and administrative fees. But the Dream Homes Program officials never paid the mortgages, leaving the homeowners to fend for themselves.
Prosecutors said more than 1,000 investors lost $78 million through the scheme. The program had offices in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Delaware, Florida, Georgia and California.
Eric Hylton, acting special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigations division at the Washington field office, called mortgage fraud "every bit as corrosive to society as street crime."
The fraud "has far-reaching economic consequences and severely thwarts recovery from the foreclosure crisis, leaving communities with inflated home values and financial institutions with uncollectible loans," he said in a statement.
Nelson began working for Metro Dream Homes in December 2006 and became the business's chief financial officer the next year. She was paid $413,075 during the 20 months she worked for Dream Homes, authorities said.
Nelson pleaded guilty in April 2009. Other Dream Homes officials were convicted at trials, including founder Andrew Hamilton Williams, of Hollywood, Fla., who is now serving a 150-year prison sentence.
Instead of using investors' money to pay off mortgages, Metro Dream Homes officials used it for luxury items and trips for themselves, court records say. The company maintained a fleet of 50 vehicles, including Mercedes-Benzes, Chevrolet Corvettes and Cadillac Escalades. Ten full-time chauffeurs transported senior employees on business trips and personal errands. Employees also went to the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami and the 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas, where they stayed at luxury resorts.