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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Defendant in Detroit Mortgage Fraud Conspiracy Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud in Michigan

In July of 2013, seven individuals were indicted for the roles they played in a Detroit mortgage fraud operation. Those who were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District Court of Michigan included Peter Allen, Suhail Hallak, Al Karana, Wasseem Shamoun, Joey Murad, Jeffrey Najor, and Jason Najor. The defendants were alleged to have used fraudulent information for the purpose of obtaining mortgage loans from banks and lending institutions beginning in January of 2006, and continuing until December of 2008. muB6xyw

It was announced by the Department of Justice on August 12, 2014 that Wasseem Shamoun has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Shamoun pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. According to the July 2013 indictment, the scheme resulted in area banks and financial institutions paying out fraudulent mortgage loan funds that totaled approximately $10 million.

Five of the seven defendants were charged with 20 counts of bank fraud each, including Shamoun. Several agencies assisted in the investigation including the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), the IRS – Criminal Investigation, and the FBI. According to the release issued by the Department of Justice, Shamoun was personally responsible for a loss of approximately $394,000 to local financial institutions.

Shamoun and his co-defendants are said to have devised a scheme in which property was purchased in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $40,000 per home. The defendants then recruited straw buyers who would be paid a fee to submit fraudulent home mortgage loan applications. The prices paid to the defendants by straw buyers for single family homes ranged from $90,000 to $120,000 per home, with the defendants paying themselves $10,000 to $50,000 commissions.

Shamoun is scheduled to be sentenced on December 2, and faces a $1 million fine and statutory maximum prison term of 30 years for his role in the conspiracy.

Federal crimes such as conspiracy to defraud financial institutions in schemes such as the one described above are extremely serious. Individuals who are accused of mortgage fraud conspiracy or other federal crimes must consult with an experienced and aggressive Michigan criminal defense attorney in order to obtain the best possible results.

Broken Arrow Woman Sentenced for Bank Fraud and Tax Evasion in Oklahoma

A former manager of a credit union was sentenced on Tuesday to serve 27 months for each count of bank fraud and tax evasion, announced U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams Sr. for the Northern District of Oklahoma and Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe of the Dallas field office for the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

Eva Barroso, 54, of Broken Arrow, was sentenced to serve 27 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Chief Judge Gregory K Frizzell for one count each of bank fraud and tax evasion. At the time of the scheme, Barroso worked as a commercial services manager for Oklahoma Central Credit Union (OCCU) where her duties included marketing and servicing commercial loans. The Court entered a criminal forfeiture money judgment against the defendant in the amount of $238,177.42 representing proceeds obtained as a result of his bank fraud scheme. Barroso was also ordered to make restitution in the amount of $238,177.42 to OCCU and $57,360.50 to the Internal Revenue Service.

According to court documents, from July 2, 2009 to March 19, 2012, as part of the scheme, Barroso fabricated at least three false loans in the name of nominee entities and individuals without the knowledge and authorization of the purported borrower. Barroso admitted that she made various material false representations in obtaining these loans. She used the proceeds of these loans for her own personal benefit, including making ATM withdrawals at various casinos. To further the scheme, Barroso used some of the money to make payments on prior loans.

In addition, during the 2010 calendar year, Barroso willfully evaded a large part of income tax by failing to report to the Internal Revenue Service a total of $152,098.13 which was the money she fraudulently obtained from the scheme.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey Gallant and Catherine Depew on behalf of the United States.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Former Bank Adjuster Pleads Guilty To Stealing More Than $400,000 in Conn.

 A former bank employee has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of embezzlement from a federally-insured bank, admitting she used her position to embezzle more than $400,000 to pay debts.

Maria Rosa Esteves, 40, of Bridgeport waived her right to an indictment with her plea Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

According to court documents, Esteves was employed by People's United Bank from 1993 to 2014. Starting in 2006, she worked primarily in the bank's Adjustments Department, rising to the position of lead adjuster. Her responsibilities included arranging for bank cashiers' checks to be issued to customers whose accounts need to be adjusted, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

Esteves stole more than $400,000 from the bank by using cashiers' checks that she would then use to pay people or organizations to whom she owed money, such as her utility company, homeowner's insurance company and mortgage providers, the documents show.

Esteves also embezzled money by depositing cashiers' checks into bank accounts she controlled, said U.S. Attorney's spokesman Thomas Carson.

In all, Esteves misappropriated more than 300 cashiers' checks, he said.

She faces a maximum prison term of 30 years, a fine of up to $1 million and an order of restitution when she is sentenced in U.S. District Court in Hartford Nov. 7.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Waldbusser sentenced for bank fraud in Iowa

Former Wells Fargo bank manager Nicholas Waldbusser was sentenced Thursday to 21 months in prison for bank fraud.

Judge Sara Darrow said the theater enthusiast's passion for acting likely helped Mr. Waldbusser conceal a $200,000 embezzlement scheme. She described the 26-year-old man as charismatic, well-liked and intelligent -- but also manipulative of people's trust.

"You were able to draw upon your acting skills to deceive other individuals," she told Mr. Waldbusser.

In April, Mr. Waldbusser pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court, Rock Island, to one count of bank fraud in exchange for the dismissal of 14 similar counts. On Thursday he was ordered to repay approximately $197,000 in stolen funds -- the result of 18 months of embezzlement from the Wells Fargo branch at 4218 Avenue of the Cities, Moline, prosecutors said.

As branch supervisor, Mr. Waldbusser kept track of bank funds and was responsible for the audit process, which he manipulated in order to disguise the thefts, prosecutors said.

Calling his actions "a series of almost daily mistakes," Judge Darrow said she felt obliged to use Mr. Waldbusser as an example to deter others from similar crimes. She ordered him to self-report Sept. 22 to start his sentence, adding she would recommend an in-state minimum security men's prison.

Mr. Waldbusser spoke briefly in court to thank family and investigators who worked on the case.

"I have learned my lesson," he said.

At the start of the hearing, prosecuting attorney Don Allegro expressed frustration at what he perceived were excuses -- including depression, anxiety and struggles with self-identity -- given by the defense for Mr. Waldbusser's behavior.

"He lived a lavish lifestyle," Mr. Allegro said, citing drugs, vacations, prostitutes, basement renovations and expensive suits Mr. Waldbusser bought with swindled funds. Mr. Allegro also said authorities found $1,900 in cash under a mattress when they raided Mr. Waldbusser's home.

Mr. Waldbusser may have been a "nice guy" without prior criminal history, Mr. Allegro said. "But how much money do you have to steal before you get sent to prison -- not because you're a bad person, but to send a message?"

Mr. Allegro advocated for a nonspecific amount of prison time. He said he believed that, had Mr. Waldbusser not been caught by Wells Fargo security, the thefts would have continued.

He said Mr. Waldbusser also conspired with a bank teller to help in the scheme, but authorities chose not to prosecute the teller who no longer works at the bank.

Mr. Waldbusser's attorney, Federal Public Defender George Taseff, asked Judge Darrow not to make his client's case about going after "the Enron's and the white-collar guys." That was a fight for lawmakers, he said.

Mr. Taseff said the recent death of Robin Williams renewed a national dialog about depression faced privately by many performers. Mr. Waldbusser had been "living in a way that was destined to crash and burn. It was unstable," he said, adding his client is seeking counseling.

Mr. Taseff scrolled through a slideshow of pictures in the courtroom depicting Mr. Waldbusser in high school and local theater productions. They included a copy of a May 2011 article from The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus in which Mr. Waldbusser was interviewed about his role in a community show.

"I love creating a person that is fictional and that nobody knows," Mr. Waldbusser was quoted as saying. "I love to tell a story; that's what theater is, creating a story and telling it live."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bank officer indicted on federal charges in Oklahoma

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Oklahoma Mark Green announced Wednesday that Richard Paul Geurin has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Muskogee on five charges: bank theft, embezzlement and misapplication, false entry in the books of a federally insured bank, bank fraud and forfeiture.
Geurin, who served as an officer of First Bank and Trust of Duncan’s Ardmore location, is accused of committing the crimes between Feb. 3, 2011, until on or about Feb. 24 of this year. The indictment alleges Geurin “with intent to injure and defraud the said First Bank & Trust of Duncan, Oklahoma, willfully misapplied, embezzled, abstracted, and purloined more than $1,000.00 of the moneys, funds, assets or securities entrusted to the custody or care of First Bank & Trust of Duncan, Oklahoma, in that the defendant withdrew cash from the accounts of certain bank customers and misapplied, embezzled, abstracted and purloined the funds for his own use or benefit with the intent to deceive an officer of First Bank & Trust of Duncan, Oklahoma.” In addition, the indictment accuses the longtime Ardmore resident of knowingly making “false entries in the books, reports, or statements of First Bank & Trust of Duncan, Oklahoma,” and creating “false transaction documents showing customers withdrawing cash from customer accounts, when in truth and in fact, as the defendant well knew, the withdrawals from customer accounts were by and for the benefit of the defendant.”
The charges are based on an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation which began in February. At the time, rumors circulated Geurin had been escorted from his office and was removed from his position.
Multiple attempts Wednesday to speak with Glen Jones, Carter County president of First Bank & Trust of Duncan, concerning the federal indictment against Geurin, were unsuccessful.
If convicted, Geurin faces up to 30 years in a federal prison and/or a fine of up to $1 million.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Woman uses PayPal to embezzle $50k from Dexter business

Deputies from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office are investigating a woman who they believe embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from a Dexter business over the period of 18 months.

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Geoffrey Fox said the bookkeeper from Northern Pizza Equipment Inc., 8020 Grand St., is being investigated for embezzling about $50,000. Fox said the embezzlement was reported on Feb. 12, and went on for between a year and a year and a half.

Embezzlement cases can often take a long time to investigate, due to the amount of records needed from financial institutions, and it appears this case is no different, Fox said.

The case has not been turned over to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office because investigators are still waiting for bank, PayPal and other financial records, he said.

“It looks like they have more work to do,” he said.

Fox said the woman, who is not being identified because she has not been charged, had access to Northern Pizza Equipment’s PayPal account.

She would transfer money from the business’ PayPal account into a different business account, Fox said. The woman was the owner of the unnamed business receiving the funds.

Fox declined to release more identifying information about the woman on Tuesday.

A message was left with Northern Pizza Equipment Inc. on Tuesday afternoon seeking comment for this story.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Manager who wore fake bomb to pull off bank heist gets 9 years in California

A woman who conspired with her boyfriend in 2012 to steal $565,500 from the East L.A. bank where she worked by strapping a fake bomb to herself to simulate a kidnapping was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in federal prison, federal prosecutors said.

Aurora Barrera, 33, and the ex-boyfriend, 36-year-old Reyes "Ray" Vega, were found guilty of multiple bank robbery offenses in March after a weeklong  trial. The jury found the couple guilty of conspiracy to commit bank robbery and bank robbery.

The jury also found that Vega and Barrera committed the robbery by assaulting a bank employee with a dangerous weapon -- the fake explosive.

Vega orchestrated a plan in which Barrera pretended to be kidnapped and forced to rob the Bank of America branch where she worked in September 2012.

As she acted in fear that the fake bomb might explode, Barrera took money from a safe and dumped it outside, where it was picked up by an accomplice, Richard Menchaca. Another accomplice, Bryan Perez, then took the cash, which was split among them at a hotel later that day, according to authorities.

After the heist, a Los Angeles County sheriff's bomb robot was used to pry the fake device off of Berrera.

Later, however, investigators determined she knew her supposed kidnappers and the group was eventually arrested.

Menchaca and Perez pleaded guilty and testified at the trial of Vega and Barrera.

Menchaca was sentenced Monday to five years of probation with 1,500 hours of custody time served on weekends. Perez is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 18.with 1,500 hours of custody time served on weekends.

The group has also been ordered to pay joint restitution in the amount of $557,300.