The owner of a mortgage company at the center of a long-running $30m fraud scheme has pleaded guilty.
Lester Soto, owner of Premier Mortgage Services, has pleaded guilty in a New Jersey court to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. According to the U.S. District Attorney, Soto, along with a complicit lawyer and paralegal, numerous loan officers and document forgers targeted properties in low-income areas of New Jersey.
"After recruiting 'straw buyers,' Soto and his conspirators used a variety of fraudulent documents to make it appear as though the straw buyers possessed far more assets and earned far more income than they actually did," the District Attorney's office said.
Soto would then submit fraudulent documents as part of mortgage loan applications, and split the proceeds among his co-conspirators, the District Attorney claimed.
"The straw buyers had no means of paying the mortgages, and many of the properties entered into foreclosure proceedings. Soto and his conspirators defrauded financial institutions out of more than $30 million."
Besides being a part-owner of Premier Mortgage Services, Soto also acted as loan officer on certain loan applications. The District Attorney said Soto instructed the company's employees to provide him with loan files they believed contained suspicious information, and then "personally shepherded" the loans through to funding.
Soto is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, each carrying a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1m.