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Millions in Mortgage Fraud, Untold Ruin for Victims

Mortgage fraud cases showed few signs of slowing from last week, with defendants either receiving their sentences or pleading guilty in Alabama, California, Minnesota, and New Jersey. The defendants allegedly scammed lenders and homeowners out of tens of millions of dollars overall. Notably, a judge granted the request of a prosecutor to stay judgment for one alleged scammer in favor of a psychiatric evaluation.

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_MReport_ gathered the latest in mortgage fraud from a string of news sources, including the ""_Central Valley Business Times_"":http://www.centralvalleybusinesstimes.com/stories/001/?ID=19283, ""Federal Bureau of Investigation"":http://www.fbi.gov/minneapolis/press-releases/2011/man-charged-in-20-million-mortgage-fraud-scheme (FBI), ""_Naverville Sun Times_"":http://napervillesun.suntimes.com/news/7506001-418/fraud-suspect-held-on-1-million-bond.html, ""_Sacramento Business Journal_"":http://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/news/2011/09/07/sacramento-man-no-contest-mortgage-fraud.html, and the Web blog ""al.com"":http://blog.al.com/live/2011/09/judge_orders_psych_evaluation.html.

Starting in Oakland, California, Ronald Burris Jr. and Nicole Dawson entered guilty pleas Tuesday for their roles in a scheme that ultimately resulted in 28 Central Valley foreclosures and $5 million in associated losses for lenders, according to the _Business Times_.

According to the newspaper, Burris and Dawson received charges last year alongside eight other co-conspirators associated with Liberty Real Estate and Investment Co. and Liberty Mortgage Co., also owned by a defendant.

The two scooped up nearly 30 homes around Sacramento between 2006 and 2007 by submitting loan applications with fraudulent information related to buyers' employment, income, and intentions to live on the properties. Burris and Dawson closed deals by funneling cash from the mortgage proceeds back to sham buyers, the _Business Journal_ reports.

For admitting to their roles in submitting false loan applications and receiving between $64,000 to $75,000, Burris and Dawson received a November court date, where five-year sentences to the slammer are possible for both, according to the newspaper.

Not far from Oakland, Ashik Ahmed Azeez, a Sacramento-based loan modification officer, inked his name to a plea agreement in which he pled no contest to three counts of mortgage fraud, the _Sacramento Business Journal_ quoted Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully as saying Tuesday.

For his part in receiving illegal advance fees from seven clients at his businesses, Turbo Mortgage Modification and Turbo Solutions, a court sentenced Azeez to 90 days in the county jail, a probation period of three years, and an order to restitute $8,250 to the victims, according the _Journal_.

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Meanwhile, thousands of miles across the country, in Illinois, the _Naverville Sun Times_ reported that a woman previously convicted on similar charges in New Jersey would face felony, theft, and other fraud-related charges before a judge in the Land of Lincoln.

According to the newspaper, Yu Chen orchestrated a mortgage and credit card scheme in which she allegedly scammed a number of banks to the tune of millions of dollars. The defrauded institutions included Capital One Bank, National Bank of Kansas City, and Wachovia Bank, among others.

A grand jury followed through with a litany of indictments against Chen back in March, offering up Class X felony charges of theft by deception of up to $1 million, theft by deception of up to half a million dollars, and financial institution loan fraud of up to $100,000, among other related charges, according to the _Journal_. A felony charge conviction could see Chen serving anywhere from six to 30 years in prison.

The _Journal_ quoted a spokesperson for Will County State attorney James Glasgow as ascribing to Chen an alleged $1.148 million in fraudulently secured bank fees.

Farther north, in Minneapolis, the FBI announced charges against Douglas Rex Butler on a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The agency alleged that Butler bilked a whopping $20 million from lenders in a scheme involving nearly 60 properties.

According to the FBI, Butler secured home loan proceeds with fraudulent applications he submitted to lenders, alongside Roger Bill Hanks and Derrick Ivan Lance, after recruiting sham buyers to close properties. The complex scheme involved approving bad loans, transferring funds by wire into other accounts, and deceiving title companies in the process.

The FBI said that Butler snatched close to $600,000 in concealed payments from bad loans. The tradeoff? If convicted, he may serve up to two decades in federal prison.

Rounding up the latest in mortgage fraud cases to make the headlines, al.com reported that a federal judge in Alabama signed off on a request by attorneys to send a defendant to a psychiatrist in Mobile for evaluation and delay her day in court.

The Web blog quoted U.S. Magistrate Judge Sonja Bivins as writing in her order that ""[d]efense counsel voiced no opposition to the Government's request. Having considered the Government's request, the Court finds there is reasonable cause to believe that Defendant may be so mentally incompetent as to not be able to stand trial or not to be held responsible for her alleged criminal conduct at the time the offense was committed.""

According to al.com, the defendant, one Melissa Collins Gulledge, allegedly used her role as a member of the board of her brother's real estate investment company to falsify mortgage loan applications, which she and others used to purchase condominiums between 2006 and 2007.

About Author: Ryan Schuette

Ryan Schuette is a journalist, cartoonist, and social entrepreneur with several years of experience in real-estate news, international reporting, and business management. He currently lives in the Washington, D.C., area, where he freelances for DS News and MReport.
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