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$40 Million Mortgage Fraud Involving SC Properties Lands 10 People in Jail

Ten people are now facing mortgage fraud charges resulting from $40 million scheme involving properties in South Carolina, Georgia, and the New Jersey Shore. The group relied on phony documents and straw buyers to bilk property lenders for properties in the areas.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the group stands accused of using unqualified buyers to purchase 28 oceanfront condominiums from developers in Wildwood Crest, NJ facing financial distress. The iSouth Carolina Mortgage Fraudndictment, handed down in federal court in Camden, NJ, states the group used similar methods to obtain 21 properties in Georgia and South Carolina, and eight properties undergoing foreclosure in New Jersey.

The Scheme

Those charged in the scheme include, among others:

  • Joseph Witkowski, 66, whose involvement included helping to locate properties to buy;
  • Isatu Tejan-Sie, 54, who worked as a loan representative for Citigroup Inc.;
  • Robert Serao, 46, who worked as a loan officer for Wells Fargo & Co.;

After obtaining the loans, Witkowski and others “took proceeds from the fraudulent mortgage loans by having funds wired or checks deposited into various accounts they controlled,” the indictment states.

The indictment also states that Witkowski told the straw buyers that his group “would maintain the properties, locate renters, collect rent and make mortgage payments.”

“After the first or second monthly mortgage payments, there was no more payments on most of the properties, and on others, only nominal payments when then ceased,” Stephen Stigall, assistant U.S. Attorney states.

Mortgage Fraud, Wire Fraud and Money Laundering

The ten people involved in the scheme now face charges of both mortgage fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  Witkowski also faces an additional charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Five other people have already pleaded guilty to their involvement in the mortgage fraud scheme.

The scheme lasted two years running from September of 2006 to September of 2008. According to the indictment, the group involved in the scheme utilized straw buyers with good credit scores who lacked financial resources to qualify for mortgage loans. The group then created phony documents about the employment, income and assets of the buyers and intended use of the properties.

According to the indictment, the properties involved in the scheme were the Silver Dollar, Ebb Tide, Stockton Beach House and Vista Mar condo developments all a part of the Wildwood Crest properties.

Citigroup and attorneys for Tejan-Sie, Serao and Witkowski have not commented on the case.

Wells Fargo spokesman, Tom Goyda, said Serao is no longer with the company after leaving a few years ago.

South Carolina Mortgage Fraud Lawyer

If you or your company is facing mortgage fraud charges, it is important that you contact a South Carolina mortgage fraud lawyer. The South Carolina business litigation lawyer at the Strom Law Firm will fight mortgage fraud charges on you and your company’s behalf. We understand mortgage fraud charges can be personally, professionally and financially damaging that is why we will fight to clear your name of mortgage fraud and related charges. Call us today for a free consultation to see how we can help you. 803.252.4800.

About Pete Strom

Defending criminal charges including drug crimes, DUI, CDV, mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, computer crimes, money laundering, and juvenile crimes, Pete also handles Federal and State investigations. Representing individuals in Civil Matters including Class Actions, Personal Injury, Qui Tam Actions, Defective Products, Nursing Home Neglect, and Professional Licensing Defense cases. Joseph Preston “Pete” Strom, Jr., the managing partner at Strom Law Firm, L.L.C., has been fighting for justice since 1984.

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