Former Warren County, New Jersey Title Agent Admits Role in Multi-Million-Dollar Mortgage Fraud Scheme
NEWARK, NJ—A former real estate title agent admitted yesterday to carrying out a mortgage fraud scheme in which she obtained seven loans, totaling more than $3.7 million, on two properties located in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey and Belvidere, New Jersey.
Prior to going to trial, Ania Nowak, 48, of Belvidere, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to Count One of the superseding indictment charging her with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Ania Nowak was the owner and operator of A.N. Title Agency LLC and was an agent for Stewart Title Guaranty Company. Nowak had a duty to review a property’s title to determine ownership and the existence of any prior liens and truthfully disclose them in the title insurance documents. She also had a duty to issue title insurance policies to lenders guaranteeing there were no other liens so that they would be first in line to have the property sold if the borrower stopped making mortgage payments. Nowak also acted as a settlement agent and was required to disburse loan money in accordance with lender instructions, pay off any existing liens and record loan documents in the appropriate county clerk’s office.
Nowak admitted her role in obtaining seven mortgage loans through fraudulent means, including: an April 2005 loan for her sham sale of the Wood-Ridge property to her husband, Zbigniew Cichy, 45, of Belvidere; a November 2005 refinancing loan for the Wood-Ridge property; a 2005 construction loan to build a house on the Belvidere property owned by Cichy; an August 2006 loan on the Belvidere property; May 2007 loans for a sham sale of the Belvidere property to another conspirator in the scheme, Kim Salvemini, 60, of Wallington, New Jersey ; Salvemini’s May 2007 refinancing loan on the Belvidere property; and Cichy’s November 2007 refinancing loan on the Belvidere property. Nowak admitted that, for each of the seven loans, she lied on loan documents, failed to pay off prior mortgages at closing, failed to record the mortgages and any deeds and that most of the loans went into default for non-payment.
The wire fraud conspiracy charge to which Nowak pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for May 5, 2015.
Salvemini previously pleaded guilty to her role in the scheme and awaits sentencing. Charges against Cichy are still pending and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, for the investigation leading to the guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shirley U. Emehelu and Senior Litigation Counsel Leslie F. Schwartz of the Economic Crimes Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.
Today’s guilty plea is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorney’s offices and state and local partners, it’s 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 more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.