A Southern California man was sentenced last week to three years probation for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme after accepting a bribe to assist in a scheme where bogus loan applications and bribery were used to con lenders out of about $4 million.
Freddy Lentz, a former Bank of America employee, pleaded guilty last July to accepting a $1,000 bribe to assist in the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Lentz, 35, was among six Southland financial services workers charged in the case, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. All but one pleaded guilty.
Anthony Lewis, of the San Fernando Valley, Maria Arriaza, a former escrow officer from Palmdale, and Deon Jackson, a mortgage broker from Gardena, were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy.
Jennifer Le, 30, an ex-loan processor from the South Bay, was charged with conspiracy.
Matthew Balsz, a 32-year-old former U.S. Bank employee from the South Bay, was charged, along with Lentz, with accepting bribes to facilitate the scheme, federal prosecutors said.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Lewis and co-conspirators illegally obtained funds from various financial institutions by lying on loan applications used to purchase homes in the names of straw buyers.
Lewis found houses for sale and gave bogus loan applications to Jackson and Le for processing, prosecutors said.
As a mortgage broker, Jackson reviewed the documents and told Lewis what further information was necessary to qualify straw borrowers for loans. Lewis then obtained fake bank statements and other forms, while Jackson and Le submitted the phony loan applications to lenders, according to federal prosecutors.
Once the loans were approved and the funds wired to Arriaza’s Diamond Clear Escrow in Granada Hills, she disbursed money intended for the purported buyers to co-conspirators at Lewis’ orders.
In order to conceal the true nature of the disbursements, Arriaza prepared false settlement statements, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
This was obviously a well-planned and rehearsed scam. Hopefully these penalties are stiff enough that it will discourage others from joining up in a similar conspiracy.
What do you think? Are these penalties harsh enough? Please let RE-Insider know.