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Living the High Life

Living the High Life

Beverly Ross and Donella Locke liked the finer things in life. They lived in $250,000 homes and drove expensive vehicles. They also supported various family members. However, their lavish lifestyle eventually came crashing down around them.

In 2006, FBI Indianapolis received a tip that Ross was using third-party credit histories to fraudulently purchase high-priced homes in the Indianapolis area. Based on the tip—and working closely with several agencies—the FBI uncovered a fraud scheme involving mortgages valued at more than $23 million.

Ross and Locke, investigators learned, were preying on individuals through their church associations. They talked acquaintances into purchasing homes for other individuals who they described as “cash-rich but credit-poor.” These straw borrowers were led to believe they would hold the homes in their names until the true buyer could qualify for the loan. The straw borrowers were told that they didn't have to make any mortgage payments and that they would receive $10,000 for their trouble. What Ross and Locke were concealing was the fact that they were having the homes appraised at higher purchase prices than their actual value. The two submitted fake invoices for work to be completed from fake companies they controlled to skim the inflated equity from the homes.

Their scam didn't end there. These criminals also purchased several homes in their own names, using false social security numbers and inflated salaries and submitting false documentation on loan applications to obtain mortgages. Their scheme netted them $1.7 million.

FBI Indianapolis was able to put an end to their fraud. Working with multiple agencies, particularly the Indiana Attorney General's Office, agents diligently combed through public records, conducted interviews, and subpoenaed financial documents that clearly showed the extent of their crimes.

In 2008, Ross and Locke were indicted by a grand jury in the Southern District of Indiana on 36 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Ross was also indicted for bankruptcy fraud for submitting Chapter 13 petitions in her family members’ names without their knowledge. Ross pled guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a restitution of $5.6 million. Locke was tried by a jury, which found her guilty of five counts of wire fraud. She received almost six years in prison and was ordered to make restitution of $2.36 million.