LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, Un…

LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Eileen J. O’Connor, Assistant Attorney General, Tax Division, United States Department of Justice, Kleve J. Danielsm, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, William T. Sims, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service; and Broward County Sheriff Kenneth C. Jenne, announced today that Mary Jo Bellavia-Sabag, of Parkland, Florida, Sheila Henry, and Howard Henry, husband and wife, both of Miramar, Florida, Lindsay Jacobs, of Clearwater. Florida, and Christe M. Eker, of Coconut Creek, Florida, were sentenced Friday, January 19, 2007, following their guilty pleas to a wide-ranging identity theft, mortgage fraud and real property theft scheme.

The defendants had previously pled guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra to the following charges: Mary Jo Bellavia-Sabag pled guilty to money laundering and filing a false income tax return; Sheila Henry pled guilty to money laundering conspiracy; Howard Henry pled guilty to mail fraud; Lindsay Jacobs pled guilty to money laundering; and Christa M. Eker pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and filing a false income tax return.

According to the charges and the defendants’ in-court statements during their pleas, the defendants and others orchestrated a scheme in which they created and used false deeds and other documents to fraudulently obtain title to various residential properties in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. They then used the properties as collateral for mortgages, bank loans and personal lines of credit, obtaining more than $2.5 million in ill-gotten gains. On occasion, the defendants would re-sell the properties to unsuspecting buyers. Additionally, several of the defendants failed to report their illegally derived proceeds to the Internal Revenue Service.

Mary Jo Bellavia-Sabag was sentenced to 50 months’ imprisonment; Sheila Henry was sentenced to 42 months’ imprisonment; Howard Henry was sentenced to 32 months’ imprisonment; Lindsay Jacobs was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment; and Christe M. Eker was sentenced to 5 months’ imprisonment. All of the defendants who pled guilty to tax charges were ordered to pay all income taxes due and owing.

Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Secret Service, and the Broward County Sheriff’’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas P. Lanigan.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov/ .

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