A California man is heading to prison for his role in a mortgage fraud and identity theft scheme in South Florida, a.k.a the mortgage fraud capital of America.
U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola in Miami sentenced George French Jones to 113 months, or more than nine years, in federal prison and ordered him to pay over $1.8 million in restitution. Jones, of Santa Monica, California, submitted fake loan applications for two waterfront residential properties in Broward County that he didn’t own. Jones pleaded guilty to the charges in December.
As part of the scheme, Jones used the homes as collateral to score loans totaling roughly $1.7 million, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
He faked applications with false Canadian passports and email addresses to pull money out of the properties at 41 Nurmi Drive and 1525 Southeast 10th Street in Fort Lauderdale. The houses were owned by companies. Bacon Properties II paid $1.7 million for the Nurmi Drive home in 2015, and V&H Ventures paid just over $1 million for the 10th Street house in 2013. The latter recently sold to Canadian professional hockey player, Nathan Horton, for $3.2 million, records show.
The Fort Lauderdale scam wasn’t the first time Jones was involved in a con. In 2013, during the Miami Heat’s “Big Three” era, he sold fake season tickets to Heat games and New York Yankees games to celebrities like former NFL players Charles Woodson and Jarvis Green and sports agent David Meltzer, according to the Miami Herald. Jones served 16 months in a California state prison, only to end up in South Florida again, pleading not guilty to mortgage fraud in a separate case.
Mortgage fraud is on the rise as more buyers are inflating their incomes in order to qualify for new purchases. States like Florida, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and New Mexico are most at risk, according to data from CoreLogic.
Last year in South Florida, the State Attorney’s office pursued a number of cases. Last year, Marco Laureti, a former mortgage broker, lender and agent who led a $20 million mortgage fraud scheme in South Beach and Fort Lauderdale, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.