Cop pleads guilty in mortgage scheme

by Justin da Rosa30 Nov 2015
A former Pittsburgh police officer admitted in federal court that he played a role in a mortgage fraud scheme.

Santino Achille resigned from the force on November 5 pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose last week to charges of bank and wire fraud and conspiracy in submitting loan applications containing falsified information, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Achille’s lawyer had not responded to requests for comment by press time, according to the publication.

The plot allegedly involved Century III Home Equity. Its owner, James Nassida, was charged last year with bank and wire fraud; its number 1 loan officer, Robert Denne, was also charge.

Denne and other employees pleaded guilty in a deal with the U.S. attorney’s office in the case against Nassida.

Achille had been an officer since 2009.

Last year he, along with two other officers, was honored at the annual Amen Corner Senator John Heinz Law Enforcement Luncheon Awards. He was given the “Not on My Watch” award for his work fighting violent crime in his district.

“We know the area very well and we try to use that to our advantage,” he said at the time, according to the Post-Gazette. “We protect people that can’t protect themselves.”

COMMENTS

  • by Tom s. | 10/5/2016 7:57:15 PM

    http://www.post-gazette.com/local/south/2016/10/05/Federal-trial-opens-for-South-Hills-man-charged-in-massive-mortgage-fraud-scheme/stories/201610050215

  • by Martin f. | 10/5/2016 8:00:57 PM


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    v.2.5

    Federal trial opens for South Hills man charged in massive mortgage fraud
    October 5, 2016 12:17 PM
    By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    A federal prosecutor today told a jury that the government will show that James Nassida orchestrated a massive mortgage fraud scheme at his company, Century III Home Equity, in the years before the housing-bubble collapse of 2008 and used the money to finance his fancy lifestyle.

    Mr. Nassida and his sister, Janna Nassida, the former No. 2 at the defunct South Hills firm, will be on trial before U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose for the next two weeks in a case that features some 40 witnesses and boxes of financial documents so voluminous that Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Conway prepared a PowerPoint presentation for his opening argument to keep it as streamlined as possible.

    "They are guilty as charged," Mr. Conway said of the Nassidas, as federal agents in the back of the courtroom looked on. "And we're going to prove it."

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    The case against Mr. Nassida has been building for two years as his underlings have pleaded guilty one after another in deals to testify against their old boss.

    Agents with the mortgage fraud task force say Mr. Nassida, who started Century III in 1994 and at one point employed 30 people processing 700 mortgages a year, headed a conspiracy that used fake appraisals and other documents to fool lenders into making millions of dollars in fraudulent mortgages. Janna Nassida was his right-hand woman in the fraud.

    Mr. Conway said the motive was greed.

    He said Mr. Nassida owned a $1.3 million house, a vacation home in Seven Springs and drove high-end cars, including an Aston Martin.

    "I didn't even know what an Aston Martin was," Mr. Conway told jurors, "but apparently it's the car that James Bond drives."

    They can fetch over $200,000.

    Mr. Conway said the Nassida motto was simple: "We do what it takes to get the mortgage closed."

    But whatever it takes included breaking the law, according to the government.

    While Mr. Conway detailed complex mortgage deals in a presentation that lasted more than an hour, Mr. Nassida's lawyer, Stan Levenson, focused on Mr. Nassida's personal life and character, saying his client is an expert in his field who ran a successful company before it went belly-up in 2008.

    He promised that Mr. Nassida will put up a fight against Mr. Conway, whom he called one of the best mortgage fraud prosecutors in the United States.

    "He's prepared to face Mr. Conway," said Mr. Levenson. "Jim will be answering every question that the government has for him."

    He also said the government's witnesses, many of them former Century III mortgage officers who have pleaded guilty in the last two years, cannot be trusted because they cut deals with U.S. attorney's office.

    "They all have an overwhelming reason to lie," he said.

    Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com.


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