Last Update: Thursday, April 17, 2014
|Written by San Fernando Valley Sun|
|Thursday, 21 June 2012 03:14|
LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former tax preparer from Downey was handed a two-year federal prison sentence today for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme that preyed on Latino homeowners by secretly taking title to their properties and draining the equity from their homes. Pablo Araque, 41, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge S. James Otero to pay restitution of $1 million.
Araque pleaded guilty in January to federal identity theft and mail fraud charges stemming from the scam in which homeowners' properties were sold, usually without their knowledge, to third-party straw buyers.
Loans in the straw buyers' names were taken out in connection with the supposed purchases. Falsified employment and income records -- sold to co-conspirators by Araque -- for bogus borrowers were used to ensure that the loans were approved, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Bowman.
Lenders ultimately suffered more than $1 million in losses as a result of loans they funded by relying partly on phony documents provided by Araque, Bowman said.
Since 2008, Los Angeles has had more mortgage fraud reports than any other city in the nation, making it the ``national epicenter of mortgage fraud,'' the prosecutor wrote in court papers.
Co-defendant Juan Rangel, 48, was sentenced last year to 22 years behind bars for running both the foreclosure fraud and a separate Ponzi scheme that took in at least $30 million from over 500 victims.
Javier Juanchi, a third defendant in the mortgage fraud, is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 24.