U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York
(716) 843-5700
May 29, 2014

Florida Woman Sentenced in $24 Million Mortgage Fraud Case

BUFFALO, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Michelle Vinas, 55, of Florida, who was convicted of financial institution fraud affecting M&T Bank, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution totaling $423,434.98 by U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross, who handled the case, stated that Vinas was an employee of the Federal Guaranty Mortgage Company based in Florida, and was responsible for the underwriting of loans which included complete review of loan applications, including supporting documentation and verification of information placed on loan applications. Once the underwriting was completed by the defendant, the loan files were submitted to financial institutions for funding.

In just one instance which exemplified the fraud, the defendant was provided information to include on a loan application for 1081 SW 156th Avenue in Pembroke Pines, Florida. The information stated that an individual had a monthly income of $21,000 and had in excess of $800,000 on deposit at a financial institution but Vinas that information was false. The defendant nevertheless approved the loan application as the underwriter which allowed the loan to be funded.

As a result of the defendant’s actions, M&T Bank was one of nine financial institutions to suffer a loss and specifically suffered a loss of $4,407,515.48. The parties estimated that the total fraud scheme amounted to approximately $24,000,000.

Frank Garcia, the owner of Federal Guaranty Mortgage Company, has also been convicted in this case and is awaiting sentencing.

This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

The sentencing is the culmination of an investigation on the part of special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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