New Jersey Attorney and Tax Preparer Admit Roles in $30 Million Mortgage Fraud Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 16, 2013|
NEWARK, NJ—A New Jersey attorney and a tax preparer today admitted their roles in a long-running, large-scale mortgage fraud that caused losses of more than $30 million, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Michael Rumore, 55, of Toms River, New Jersey; and Kenneth Jones, 64, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, both pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark federal court to informations charging them with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Jones also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the filing of false and fraudulent tax returns.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From 2006 to 2010, Rumore, Jones, and numerous others engaged in two related mortgage fraud conspiracies through a company called Premier Mortgage Services (PMS). The conspirators targeted properties in low-income areas of New Jersey. After recruiting “straw buyers,” they used a variety of fraudulent documents, some of them created by Jones, to make it appear as though the straw buyers possessed far more assets and earned far more income than they actually did.
The conspirators then submitted these fraudulent documents as part of mortgage loan applications to financial institutions. Relying on these fraudulent documents, financial institutions provided mortgage loans for the subject properties. The conspirators then split the proceeds from the mortgages among themselves at closing time, including at closings presided over by Rumore. The closings went forward through the use of fraudulent settlement statements (HUD-1s), which hid the true sources and destinations of the mortgage funds provided by financial institutions. The straw buyers had no means of paying the mortgages, and many of the properties entered into foreclosure proceedings. The conspirators defrauded financial institutions out of more than $30 million.
The conspirators each performed different roles in the scheme. Michael Rumore was an attorney licensed in New Jersey and served as the settlement agent on mortgage loans brokered by other conspirators. Rumore used his status as an attorney to further the fraudulent scheme, including by convening closings, receiving funds from lenders, and preparing HUD-1s that purported to reflect the sources and destinations of funds for mortgages on subject properties, when in fact, the HUD-1s were neither true nor accurate. Rumore disbursed mortgage loan proceeds directly to PMS and other conspirators, including amounts not reflected on the HUD-1s. Rumore received a fee for each fraudulent loan in which he participated.
Jones, a tax preparer, created numerous false documents used in the scheme. When contacted by loan officers, Jones would create fraudulent verifications of employment for straw buyers, which claimed falsely that the straw buyers were employed by certain businesses. Jones included his own phone numbers on the verifications of employment, so that when financial institutions called to verify the information, Jones would answer and confirm the false statements. Jones received a fee for each fraudulent document that he created. Jones also engaged in a separate scheme in his capacity as a tax preparer, to which he also pleaded guilty. Jones would inflate the deductible expenses to which his clients were purportedly entitled, obtaining larger tax refunds for his clients than they should have received.
The bank fraud conspiracy count to which Rumore and Jones pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. The aiding and abetting false tax returns to which Jones pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for March 31, 2014.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. Fishman also thanked the Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward Ryan, for its participation in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Agarwal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division and Zach Intrater of the Criminal Division.
This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed nearly 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,900 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov.