Fourteen Ventura County residents could face up to hundreds of years in federal prison for their connections to loan applications that generated $35 million in allegedly fraudulent mortgages.
Federal and Ventura County authorities arrested 13 people on June 16 who prosecutors say filled out false loan applications on behalf of largely Spanish-speaking recruits. The applications generated millions of dollars in fees and commissions for the defendants, and caused millions in losses when banks foreclosed on the homes because the buyers couldn’t afford the loans.
“These loans were doomed to failure,” United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. said at a press conference in Ventura. He said the cases reflect a pattern of going after “people who spoke little or no English” and that his office, which covers the Tri-Counties and the Los Angeles area, would be looking for similar patterns.
The last of the 14 people charged in two indictments returned last week by a federal grand jury is believed to be traveling abroad. The 14 were charged with preparing loan applications with false information about borrowers’ income, employment and assets, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a release.
The cases focus on originators who recruited applicants and had to get loans approved by banks. Asked whether any banks themselves might have been involved, Deputy U.S. Attorney Mark Aveis said, “The investigation is ongoing.”
Though the defendants will make their initial court appearances in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the cases started with the work of Ventura County investigators.
“The investigations began with us and included multiple federal agencies,” Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten told the Business Times. “[The suspects] are subject to a federal indictment and are going to be prosecuted in federal court, but they began with our real estate fraud unit.”
The first case names 10 people who worked at Moretech Financial, prosecutors said. Investigators believe banks funded $25 million in mortgages because of the group’s fraudulent applications. The second case, which names four people, is thought to have generated $10 million in mortgages and involved people who worked for Platinum Power Mortgage in Oxnard.
In both cases, the workers are accused of recruiting applicants who lacked the employment, income and assets to qualify for mortgage loans and larding their applications with false information so that banks would approve them.
The Moretech indictment charges:
• Rosa Amelia “Rosie” Fernandez, 34, of Camarillo, who worked at Mortech Financial;
• Raul Rocha, 37, of Camarillo, Fernandez’s brother, who worked at Century 21 Premier Hills and Estates;
• Luis Ramos, 40, of Camarillo;
• Rogelio Vega, 43, of Oxnard;
• Patricia Vega, 43, of Camarillo;
• Leticia Hernandez, 38, of Santa Paula;
• Eduardo Magdaleno, 62, of Ventura;
• Richard Ceniseroz, 57, of Oxnard, who is believed to be traveling abroad;
• Lilibell Meza, 34, of Fillmore; and
• Eduardo Reyes, 33, of Oxnard.
The Moretech defendants face potential sentences of hundreds of years in federal prison if convicted, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. For example, if convicted of all charges, Fernandez would face a statutory maximum penalty of 935 years in prison.
In the Platinum Power Mortgage case, the following people were charged:
• Miriam Sukey Estrada, 32, of Oxnard, who operated Platinum Power, as well as Premier Tax Service in Oxnard;
• Adela Naranjo, 50, of Oxnard, who along with Estrada operated Platinum Power;
• Maria Del Rocio Partida, 45, of Oxnard, who is Naranjo’s sister and was a real estate agent at Century 21 Premier Real Estate in Oxnard; and
• Juan Manuel Banales Venegas, also known as “Chicken Little,” 23, of Oxnard, who obtained loans for some of the properties discussed in the indictment.
The Platinum Power defendants face up to 70 years in federal prison if convicted, officials said.