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Californian Busted in Referral Fee Kickback Scam
May 24, 2013

Jason Sterlino pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco to paying bribes to a bank official in order to procure residential mortgage loans, United States Attorney Melinda Haag announced. Sterlino was employed as a sales manager for Discovery Sales Inc. from 2006 to 2009. He managed new home sales for two new housing developments in Oakland—the Monte Vista Estates and Monte Vista Villas residential developments. He reported directly to the president of Discovery Sales. In pleading guilty, Sterlino admitted that he facilitated a 2007 agreement between Discovery Sales and a mortgage broker who promised to introduce potential homebuyers to Monte Vista Estates in exchange for a referral fee or commission for each buyer who ultimately purchased a home. Over time, this scheme evolved into an agreement to pay the mortgage broker $30,000 for every loan funded by Bank of America that was processed by a particular Bank of America loan officer. Sterlino admitted that he understood that a portion of the $30,000 referral fee would be paid by the mortgage broker to the Bank of America loan officer as a gift or commission. The purpose of this payment was to procure loans for unqualified buyers through applications that contained false information. Sterlino admitted that he received a portion of the $30,000, typically $5,000 per buyer, as a kickback from the mortgage broker. Approximately 20 loans were funded by Bank of America in 2007 and 2008 as a result of this corrupt scheme, from which Sterlino personally received approximately $100,000 in cash. Sterlino of Hercules, Calif., was charged in an Information that was filed on April 9, 2013. He was charged with one count of bank bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 215(a). Under the plea agreement, Sterlino pleaded guilty to the offense alleged in the information and has agreed to cooperate in the FBI’s continuing investigation. Sterlino is free on bond pending sentencing. The sentencing is scheduled for October 24, 2013, before Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco. The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 215(a) is 30 years in prison and a fine of $1,000,000, plus restitution if ordered by the court. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
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