Jury Convicts Final Defendant in Major Mortgage Fraud Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 07, 2011|
PLANO, TX—A federal jury needed just one hour to convict William Doug Mitchell, 50, of Fort Worth, Texas, for his role in a complex mortgage fraud scheme that targeted homes across North Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales.
According to the indictment, beginning in 2004, 40 individuals—among them, real estate agents, property finders, mortgage brokers and loan officers, title company attorneys, escrow officers, property appraisers, and straw buyers—conspired to defraud lending institutions by convincing them to approve mortgage loans for residential properties for which the property values had been fraudulently inflated. The Indictment identified 114 residential properties located in cities throughout Texas, including Allen, Arlington, Cedar Hill, Coppell, Corinth, Cypress, Dallas, Flower Mound, Fort Worth, Frisco, Granbury, Heath, Highland Village, Houston, Keller, Lantana, Lewisville, Little Elm, Lubbock, Magnolia, McKinney, Plano, Roanoke, Southlake, Spring, The Woodlands, and Willis.
At trial, prosecutors presented the testimony of over 20 witnesses to establish that Mitchell was a licensed and certified residential property appraiser who inflated the values of residential homes, causing lending institutions to lend hundreds of thousands of dollars more than properties were actually worth. Mitchell falsified owner information, property information, and used property values that he had previously inflated as comparables on other properties to inflate their values. Mitchell was convicted on the three counts for which he was charged: specifically, one count of conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
Prior to trial, 39 individuals either pled guilty or were convicted at trial for their part in the mortgage fraud scheme. Scheme architect John Barry, 42, as well as Allyson Barry, age unknown, each pled guilty for their roles in creating or supporting the scheme. Title attorneys Daniel Ayers, 48, and Anthony Flores, 46, and escrow officer Debbie Fernie, 49, each pled guilty for their roles in closing the property transactions. Real estate agents Joy Beckner, 56, Sheri Brower, 49, Julie Hanley, 55, Elaine Powers, 63, and Michelle Strickland, 44, each pled guilty for their roles in concealing true property values in the property transactions. Loan officers Tim Dreslinski, 38, Jared Gowans, 32, Chris Howard, 43, Patty Peery, 57, Allison Ridgeway, 45, and Liz Smittle, 50, each pled guilty for their roles in falsifying loan applications for submission to lending institutions. Appraisers Elizabeth Altizer, 45, Pamela Ford, 49, and Josh Melton, 34, each pled guilty for fraudulently inflating the value of houses in their appraisals. Property flippers Frank Field, 52, Rita Hunter, age unknown, Shannon Jensen, 42, and Andrea Tannahill, 42, each pled guilty for serving as the conduit buyer/seller in property transactions that “flipped” immediately. Straw buyers William Barry, 66, Christopher Feagan, 34, Debbie Friedman, 65, Patrick Johnson, 38, Travis Jones, 39, Delisa Kearney, 50, Francis Kearney, 49, Barbara Muzeni, 49, David Muzeni, 45, Kathleen Muzeni, 45, Brett Relander, 35, David Sacco, 57, Ellen Summers, 63, and Clarence White, 55, each pled guilty for submitting false loan applications to lending institutions. Azza Bassiouny, 44, and Kamilla Kirch, 65, both mortgage brokers, were convicted at trial for their roles in falsifying loan applications.
In assessing the verdict, U.S. Attorney Bales announced, “The United States has brought to justice 40 individuals who were responsible for causing millions of dollars of losses to lending institutions and also ruining whole neighborhoods across north Texas. Today is a triumph of justice over greed.”
Mitchell faces up to 20 years in federal prison on each of the charges. A sentencing date has not been set.
This case was investigated by the FBI and the IRS and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher A. Eason, Richard J, Johnson, and Shamoil T. Shipchandler.