The co-owner of a mortgage company has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for carrying out a large-scale fraud scheme that involved the use of straw buyers to obtain millions of dollars in loans.
Lester Soto, 59, of Freehold, N.J., had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring to commit bank fraud before being handed a 21 months prison sentence by U.S. District Judge Esther Salas at the federal high court in Newark, N.J.
From September 2006 to May 2008, Soto used Premier Mortgage Services, a company that he co-owned, to engage in two related mortgage fraud conspiracies that targeted properties in low-income areas of New Jersey using straw buyers, prosecutors said.
Soto and his co-conspirators deceived financial institutions by submitting fraudulent documents in mortgage loan applications, which made it seem as if straw buyers had more assets than they actually did. Relying on this false information, the funds were released for the subject properties.
When the funds were released, Soto and his co-conspirators distributed the money and used fraudulent settlement statements to conceal the sources and destinations of the funds. Since the straw buyers had no means of repaying the loans, most of the houses went into foreclosure proceedings.
Apart from being the part owner of Premier, Soto also acted as the loan officer for some mortgage loan applications and took a percentage of its profits. Besides having people create the fraudulent documents, Soto connected these people with Premier mortgage brokers so that more of the fake documents could be created. He went further to instruct Premier employees to provide him with loan files that were suspected to be fraudulent, and he personally worked to see that they received funding.
Those charged as conspirators include Isaac DePaula, 36, of Brazil; Adilson Silva, 50, of Union, N.J.; Rodrigo Costa, 35, of Brazil; Michael Rumore, 57, of Toms River, N.J.; Antonio Pimenta, 48, of Neshanic Station, N.J.; Klary Arcentales, 47 of Lyndhurst, N.J.; and Linda Cohen, 58, of Orange, N.J.
Arcentales, one of the loan officers who provided fraudulent documents to financial institutions on behalf of straw buyers, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on March 28. Cohen, a paralegal who served as the settlement agent on mortgage loans brokered by Arcentales for various properties, was sentenced to six months in prison on March 30.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Salas ordered Soto to serve five years of supervised release and pay restitution of $3.7 million.
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