A Freehold resident pleaded guilty on Monday to charges relating to a mortgage fraud scheme that cost customers and financial institutions more than $30 million.
US Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced that Lester Soto, 57, entered the plea in response to two counts of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Fishman said from September of 2006 until May of 2008 Soto worked with a group of people including ones who made fake documents, a lawyer, a paralegal and other loan officers in the scheme.
Under the guise of a company called Premier Mortgage Services (PMS) Soto and the others were alleged to have targeted low-income sections of the state. Using “straw buyers,” they used fraudulent documents to make it appear as though the buyers had more income and assets than they did.
Attorney Fishman said the company would then submit the documents as part of the regular applications to financial institutions which would then provide the mortgage loans for the properties. Soto and the others would then divide the proceeds among themselves and others through what the attorney called “fraudulent settlement statements.” The owners could not pay the mortgages resulting in many of the properties going into foreclosure.
Soto also served as a loan officer on some of the applications and took a percentage of the company’s profits according to the attorney’s office. Other PMS employees believed to be part of the scheme included Isaac DePaula, Adilson Silva and Klary Arcentales, who were employed as loan officers. The loan officers then profited from the scheme by getting commission from the company for mortgages they closed and “by diverting portions of the fraudulently obtained mortgage proceeds for themselves,” the press release added. That was often done through shell corporations or other bank accounts.
The person identified as one of the people making the false or fraudulent documents was Rodrigo Costa, who made forms including Verifications of Deposit and Verifications of Rent for the company. Those documents would then be submitted and for his work Costa allegedly received a portion of the proceeds from the mortgages.
Also identified for his participation was attorney Michael Rumore, who worked as a settlement agent on many of the loans. He was reported to be involved in closings, getting money from the lenders and preparing some of the documents knowing they were incorrect. He then distributed the funds to PMS and various other employees. He also received a fee for the loans he took part in.
The US Attorney’s Office press release also said Antonio Pimenta was involved as the owner and manager of Kelmar Construction Company. It was Kelmar that reportedly built properties that were then sold to the buyers with the fraudulent mortgages.
The press release also identified several people and groups who were involved in the investigation. The group included the FBI under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford and the IRS- Criminal Investigation unit under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen. He also credited the Social Security Administration- Office of Inspector General and Special Agent in Charge Edward Ryan for their participation in the investigation.
Each charge against Soto carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million. He is scheduled to be sentenced on February 10, 2014.
The government was represented in the case by Assistant US Attorneys Rahul Agrawal and Zach Intrater of the US Attorney’s Office Criminal Division. Soto was represented by Jeff Smith Esq. of Teaneck.