A Verona man was among nine New Jersey residents charged in connection with an alleged mortgage fraud scheme that defrauded financial institutions of $10 million over several years, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced Thursday.
FBI agents arrested the defendants Thursday morning and charged them with one count each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Each defendant faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million if convicted, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office news release.
The defendants allegedly "engaged in multiple mortgage fraud conspiracies" involving more than 15 properties in and around Newark and Elizabeth from March 2008 to July 2012, authorities said.
They are accused of taking control of properties through fraudulent short sale transactions and identity theft, and submitting false mortgage loan documents to obtain loan proceeds for their own financial gain. The defendants also obtained money through sales to straw buyers, authorities allege.
In some instances, the defendants allegedly misrepresented where funds to purchase properties were coming from, submitted inflated appraisal reports to get bigger loans, and formed limited liability companies with names similar to those of licensed title companies in order to perpetrate the alleged frauds, investigators said.
The defendants were identified as
- Jose Luis Salguero Bedoya, also known as Jose Salguero, 36, of Verona and Elizabeth
- Paul Chemidlin, Jr., 41, of Morganville
- Delio Coutinho, 50, of Colonia
- Joseph DiValli, 44, of Jackson
- Christopher Ju, 26, of East Brunswick
- Carmine Fusco, 44, of East Hanover
- Jose Martins, 31, of Newark
- Yazmin Soto-Cruz, also known as Yazmin Soto, 32, of Elizabeth
- Kenneth Sweetman, 32, of Lyndhurst and Nutley
The news release outlines the various roles the defendants allegedly played in the scheme:
Salguero was a real estate investor who, along with his girlfriend, Soto, provided much of the funds used by the defendants to perpetuate their fraudulent schemes. Coutinho was a loan officer at a Northern New Jersey mortgage brokerage company; he submitted false documents in support of the schemes. Chemidlin provided fraudulent real estate appraisals for the defendants although he was not a licensed real estate appraiser. DiValli was a loan officer at a Northern New Jersey mortgage brokerage company who also submitted false documents in support of the schemes. Ju negotiated the fraudulent short sale real estate transactions. Fusco and Sweetman conducted fraudulent real estate closings for the defendants although they were not licensed attorneys or title agents. Martins was a bank employee who facilitated certain financial transactions for the defendants.
They were scheduled for initial appearances and bail hearings Thursday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson in Newark.
Fishman credited law enforcement agents of the FBI Newark Mortgage Fraud Task Force for the investigation leading to the charges, and thanked several agencies for their work on the investigation. He said the case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.