NJ man heads to prison over mortgage fraud scheme

by Francis Monfort16 Aug 2017
A New Jersey man has been sentenced to a 10-year state prison term for leading an identity theft and mortgage fraud scheme that stole about $1 million from various lenders.

Artis Hunter previously pleaded guilty to a first-degree money laundering charge. His co-defendants, Laquan Jones and Melissa Phillip, have also pleaded guilty to related charges and are awaiting sentencing. The scheme dates back to at least 2010.

Along with other co-conspirators who remain unidentified, the defendants used stolen identities to enter into at least eight loan transactions. Four of the loans were mortgage loans, three were home equity lines of credit, and one was a car loan. Under the scheme, stolen or fictitious identities were used for borrowers as well as the other roles in a loan transaction such as seller, attorneys, settlement agent, title agent, homeowner’s insurance company, notary and other parties. The various lenders disbursed loan proceeds ranging from $196,000 to $230,000.

The three were arrested following an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, ICE Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of the Inspector General.

“As illustrated by these prolific con artists, mortgage fraud is an expensive drain on the lending industry which ultimately raises the cost of borrowing for all consumers,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “I commend the state and federal investigators who handled this complex case and ensured that this ringleader will serve a lengthy prison sentence.”

“Identity theft schemes, such as the one perpetrated by the defendants, are a dangerous, often unknown threat to taxpayers and corporate entities such as Fannie Mae,” said Steven Perez, special agent in charge at the Federal Housing Finance Agency OIG Northeast Region. “This complex scheme was uncovered due to the hard work and commitment of the law enforcement agencies who partnered to investigate this crime.”

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Long-running mortgage fraud scheme lands ex-attorney in jail