Four defendants who were found guilty and sentenced in September have finally received a restitution order. A mortgage fraud case involving five defendants yielded a substantial restitution order in the Northern District of Florida this week. Four of the defendants were held jointly responsible for more than $8.5 million in damages stemming from mortgage fraud involving ten properties. The fifth defendant was held jointly responsible for more than $2.4 million in damages attached to three of those properties.
The case involved real estate transactions conducted by the Miami-based Right Choice Housing, LLC. In 2005 and 2006, the company obtained more than $9 million in mortgages in purchasing ten properties in Panama City and Panama City Beach. The group used straw buyers to qualify for loans. The property owners soon defaulted on all the mortgages, forcing lenders to conduct foreclosure proceedings.
The leader of the plan was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison. The remaining defendants cooperated with prosecutors and were sentenced to 4 years, just under 3 years, 2.5 years and 20 months in prison, respectively. Now, in addition to the prison sentences, the defendants have been ordered to pay massive restitution to the financial institutions which loaned the money and the sellers who suffered.
While criminal sentences draw significant attention, restitution orders are an important aspect of criminal prosecutions for most white collar crimes. Penalties for mortgage fraud and other real estate crimes have been pursued aggressively in response to the depressed real estate market.
Source: WMBB.com, “Defendants in Mortgage Fraud Scheme Ordered to Pay $8.5 Million,” by Ken McVay, 29 January 2013