Five Defendants Face 30 Years Behind Bars for Florida-Based Mortgage Fraud Scheme
Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; John V. Gilles, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; Jeff Atwater, Chief Financial Officer, State of Florida’s Department of Financial Services; and Tom Grady, Commissioner, State of Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, have jointly announced the filing of an criminal information charging defendants Jacinto Puentes, Elinor Puentes and Theodore Tarone of West Palm Beach, Fla.; Raul Salabarria of Royal Palm Beach; and Rogelio Ramirez of Port Saint Lucie, Fla. with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud scheme. If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Three of the defendants, Jacinto Puentes, Elinor Puentes and Raul Salabarria made their initial appearances and were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge James M. Hopkins in West Palm Beach, Fla. Defendants Elinor Puentes and Raul Salabarria were released on $250,000 personal surety bonds. Defendant Jacinto Puentes was held on a $50,000 corporate surety bond. According to the information, the defendants engaged in a multi-million dollar scheme to fraudulently obtain mortgages through the use of false documentation. More specifically, from November 2006 through November 2007, Jacinto Puentes and Raul Salabarria found 17 properties in Florida and Tennessee for which they sought financing above the actual sales price quoted by the seller. Defendant Jacinto Puentes prepared and submitted loan applications containing false information and false supporting documentation, including false verifications of bank deposits from Wachovia Bank’s then Assistant Vice President, defendant Rogelio Ramirez. According to the information, defendant Elinor Puentes and others required the sellers to use the services of co-conspirator attorney Theodore Tarone as the settlement agent. Defendant Tarone prepared duplicate HUD-1 Settlement Statements to reflect the two different selling prices. The lender received a HUD-1 with an inflated purchase price, while the seller received a HUD-1 with the actual sales price. Through this scheme, the conspirators received approximately $8 million in loan proceeds for the purchase of those 17 properties. Some of the defendants diverted approximately $500,000 of the loan proceeds for their personal benefit.