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Watchdog: Follow the Money

Fraudsters get jail time for housing scams

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Watchdog,Watchdog Blog,Housing and Urban Development,Inspectors General,Follow the Money,Logan Porter

A Haitian citizen living in Connecticut has been sentenced to two and a half years for his participation in a grand mortgage scheme defrauding private lenders and the federal government of more than $4 million, according to federal officials.

Marc Jean of Norwich, Conn., pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud for his part in the scheme that involved four properties, which cost the federal government $750,000.

Judge Alvin Thompson of the U.S. District Court in Hartford sentenced Jean last month and ordered him to pay $688,853 in restitution.

Between February 2007 and April 2010, Jean was one of many so-called “straw buyers,” co-conspirators recruited to nominally purchase homes at prices higher than the actual price sellers would pay, according to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development inspector general.

Loans were then taken out against the false value of the homes using the fraudulent appraisals. The loans were guaranteed by the federal government through the Federal Housing Administration.

The conspirators created the fictitious company Sheda Telle Construction, to which they diverted the proceeds of their loan fraud, according to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development inspector general.

They created invoices from the fake company to claim renovations and improvements were made to property that was, in reality, uninhabited.

The straw buyers falsely reported the homes as their primary place of residence, eventually defaulting on the loans and allowing the homes to go into foreclosure. Conspirators then pocketed the money loaned to them.

In other anti-waste and fraud actions, Teresa Towns, a 50-year-old Las Vegas woman, was sentenced to five years in prison for defrauding the unemployment system, the city's public housing authority, and Social Security, according to HUD.

Towns set up fake businesses and created false wage reports for nonexistent employees, then collected their benefit payments. She collected more than $400,000 in benefits altogether.

She used a fake identity to acquire public housing, and also garnered $40,000 in fraudulent benefits from the Social Security Administration.

Towns was previously convicted in California for a similar fraud scheme, according to HUD.

“Stealing from government benefits programs is a serious crime with serious consequences,” U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said in a press statement.

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