More from the Legal
Texas Business reports: A 29-count indictment, returned recently by a federal grand jury in Dallas and unsealed this week, charges five individuals with various felony offenses related to a mortgage fraud scheme they ran for nearly three years in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, announced U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas (NDTX).
The indictment charges Michael Anthony Baker, 31, presently of Houston, Texas; Monique Untae Stallworth, 37, of Garland, Texas; Sterling Wesley Harris, 29, of Dallas; Koreem Dujuan Baker, 34, of Dallas; and Folami Dayo Baker, 36, of Desoto, Texas; each with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Michael Baker was a Dallas resident at the time of the alleged fraud. Michael and Koreem Bakers are brothers.
Harris appeared earlier this week before U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma C. Ramirez for his initial appearance and was released on personal recognizance bond. Michael Baker, Stallworth, and Folami Baker are expected to surrender within a few days. Koreem Baker is currently in state custody and is expected to be transported to the NDTX within the next few weeks.
The indictment alleges that the defendants operated a mortgage fraud conspiracy from December 2004 until at least October 2007 to defraud and obtain money from lending institutions by, among other things, using straw buyers to purchase homes by submitting false and fraudulent documents and statements to lenders. In total, the indictment alleges that the defendants obtained nearly $22 million in fraudulently obtained loan proceeds.
In addition, all of the defendants are charged with multiple substantive counts of wire fraud. Michael Baker is charged with one count of money laundering, and Koreem Baker is charged with 16 counts of engaging in a monetary transaction with criminally derived property.
The indictment alleges that the defendants profited from loans to purchase residences in the Dallas area; fraudulently obtained mortgages in others’ names; fraudulently obtained mortgages for more than the sales price; fraudulently found individuals with sufficient credit to qualify for the loans; fraudulently made each borrower appear to be a qualified, bona fide purchaser who intended to reside in the property, when the borrower had no intention of doing so; fraudulently created surplus loan proceeds by creating bogus invoices for repairs/upgrades which were never done; fraudulently allowed the residences to go into foreclosure after no, or just a few, payments were made on the loan; and fraudulently shared in the surplus loan proceeds.
This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit: www.stopfraud.gov.
An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury, and a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. If convicted, however, the conspiracy to commit wire fraud count and each of the substantive wire fraud counts carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The money laundering count carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, upon conviction. Each of the counts charging engaging in a monetary transaction with criminally derived property carries a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, upon conviction. The indictment also includes a forfeiture allegation which would require any convicted defendant to forfeit to the U.S. proceeds or property traceable to their offenses.
The case is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Nicholas Bunch is in charge of the prosecution.