A dozen criminals netted more than $21 million in fraudulent mortgage loans in an Atlanta real estate scheme.
Now two real estate agents at the center of the years long criminal enterprise have pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy charges, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Eric Hill, 52, of Tyrone, Georgia, was sentenced to 2½ years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. Co-defendant Robert Kelske, 54, of Smyrna, Georgia, also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced April 14.
The two men admitted to hatching an elaborate scheme that led to the criminal indictments of 12 people, prosecutors say, all of whom have been convicted.
“Eric Hill and his co-conspirators defrauded mortgage loan holders out of millions of dollars, with taxpayers being saddled with much of the loss,” U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine said in a statement.
Hill was credited with more than $850,000 in claims paid by the Federal Housing Administration because of defaults on fraudulent loans. He also bilked his employer, a national homebuilder, out of more than $480,000 in real estate commissions.
Hill and Kelske recruited real estate agents, document fabricators and employment verifiers to participate in the Byzantine scam, according to the Justice Department..
As selling agents for the unidentified homebuilder, they helped more than 100 unqualified home buyers purchase homes using falsified documents and fraudulent records.
The agents instructed the home buyers as to what type of assets they needed to claim to have in the bank, and what type of employment and income they needed to submit in their mortgage applications.
The duo worked with document fabricators to change bank statements and create fake records of assets and employment for potential homebuyers. Other participants in the scheme would then take calls and emails from lenders and verify the homebuyers’ employment.
They also worked with two other real estate agents who pretended to represent the homebuyers. The other two agents would collect a buyer’s commission and kick most of it back to Hill and Kelske.
To avoid suspicion, the buyers’ agents would often tell the closing attorneys that they couldn’t attend closings and would send wire instructions for their commissions.
The case was investigated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of the Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General.
[AJC] — Dana Bartholomew