A three-year operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation led to the arrest of four Florida residents last month. The three, Jim Sotolongo, Ramara Garrett, Stephanie Musselwhite and Christopher Mencis were indicted last week in Orlando on charges that they conducted a mortgage fraud scheme over a period of years. Mr. Sotolongo has prior experience with federal prosecutors. In 1995, he entered into a plea agreement on drug charges and money-laundering charges. He was facing up to 33 years in prison. Instead, he cooperated with government officials and received five years of probation.

The most recent charges include allegations of a conspiracy to make false statements to federally insured financial institutions and an attempt to defraud financial institutions to obtain money, assets and property. The alleged actions took place from 2005 to 2012. The FBI referred to the group as the “Sotolongo Mortgage Fraud Ring.” He is accused of participating in roughly 70 fraudulent transactions, including buying and selling several multi-million dollar properties using false information.

After finishing his first probationary period, Mr. Sotolongo again faced charges in 2000. He was charged with defrauding a financial institution in Lee County. He eventually pleaded no contest and was given a two-year probationary period. During the period in which the fraudulent mortgage activities are alleged to have occurred, he was also investigated for participating in an organization that cultivated marijuana. He was no convicted in that case, however.

Source: The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Mortgage fraud suspect cooperated with feds in cocaine case,” by Lyda Longa, 25 April 2013

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