Connecticut real estate agent admits to defrauding bank in short sale scheme
Nora R. Dannehy, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that Anna McElaney, a licensed real estate agent residing in Norwalk, Conn., has pleaded guilty before United States Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons in Bridgeport, Conn. to one count of bank fraud stemming from her involvement in a “short sale” mortgage fraud scheme. A short sale transaction involves a mortgage holder or lender entering into an agreement to release its mortgage or lien on real property in exchange for payment of less than the total amount owed on the underlying debt. Many short sale transactions are legitimate. According to court documents and statements made in court, McElaney worked with Sergio Natera, also a real estate agent, to defraud Regions Bank, which held two mortgages on a residential property in Bridgeport. On Dec. 5, 2007, McElaney, who was a listing agent for the property, received an offer to purchase the property for a price of $132,500. However, McElaney and Natera subsequently directed communications to Regions Bank that the highest offer to purchase the property was for $102,375 by BOS Asset Management LLC, an entity that Natera controlled. The bank agreed to a short sale of the property for the lower price, and released its mortgages on the property. On June 9, 2008, Natera, through BOS Asset Management, sold the property for $132,500 to the original bidder on the property, and Natera and McElaney retained the difference in the two sale prices. McElaney is scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge Janet C. Hall on May 10, 2010, at which time she faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years, a fine of up to $1 million, and an order of restitution. Natera pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud on Feb. 11, 2010. He awaits sentencing. In July 2009, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced the formation of the Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud cases and related financial crimes occurring in Connecticut. In addition to investigating past mortgage fraud schemes, the Task Force will focus on emerging crime trends that are associated with the growing tide of foreclosures, including foreclosure rescue schemes, and short sale schemes. The Connecticut Mortgage Fraud Task Force includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation Division; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), Office of Inspector General; Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General, and State of Connecticut Department of Banking. For more information, visit http://newhaven.fbi.gov.