McCollum happy with joint mortgage fraud investigation

John O'Brien Aug. 18, 2008, 2:00pm


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Six Floridians have pleaded guilty to charges that they defrauded financial institutions out of more than $17 million with their mortgage fraud scheme.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said the six are among 15 who were arrested in July after a 10-month investigation conducted by the Miami-Dade Police, the U.S. Secret Service and McCollum's Office of Statewide Prosecution.

The six were charged with racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, mortgage fraud, grand theft, identity theft and money laundering.

"As mortgage fraud continues to victimize Florida's homeowners, I am pleased to see a strong commitment by our local, state and federal authorities to investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators," said McCollum, who has remained active in mortgage-related issues in his time in office.

Last month, he praised the signing of a foreclosure rescue bill. He's also one of a handful of attorneys general who have sued Countrywide Financial over alleged deceptive practices.

In May, he announced the conviction of two men who were alleged to be responsible for $34 million in fraudulent home loans.

McCollum says the six who pleaded guilty Monday used a complicated scheme that involved fraudulent HUD-1 statements, a document that informs the lender how disbursements will be made after a loan is funded.

Many of the HUD-1 statements contained inflated sales contract prices, McCollum said, and lenders would fund the loan believing the property sold for that price.

The title agent would transfer the profit into a bank account of a third party of shell company controlled by one of the co-conspirators, McCollum said.

The six who pleaded guilty, all from southern Florida, were Monica Fergusson, Diana Diaz, Mari Matilde Leony Rodriguez-Triana, Raisa Diaz, Mario Lubian and Marlene Norono. Ferguson and Diana Diaz face up to five years in jail, Rodriguez-Triana, Raisa Diaz and Norono face up to three years and Lubian faces up to one year.

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