LawFuel – Legal Jobs & Newswire – TALLAHASSEE, FL Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that a former vice president for one of the nations largest subprime lenders has been convicted by a Polk County jury for operating a mortgage fraud scheme that spanned more than two years and involved loans in Hillsborough, Lee, Pinellas and Polk counties. Orson Benn, former vice president of Argent Mortgage Company, was part of an elaborate mortgage fraud scheme that involved co-defendant Scott Almeida. Benn and his co-defendants were prosecuted by the Attorney Generals Office of Statewide Prosecution.
This is an excellent resolution to a case that exemplifies just how destructive mortgage fraud can be, said Attorney General McCollum. We will continue aggressively prosecuting individuals like Benn, Almeida, and others who attempt to victimize Floridas homeowners and the mortgage industry.
The three-year investigation began when victims filed complaints about incomplete or substandard construction work being performed by construction companies affiliated with Almeida. Almeida and his associates secured mortgages for homeowners to finance the home repair projects by submitting fraudulent documents to Argent Mortgage Company. Benn, as vice president of Argent, approved or oversaw the approval of the fraudulent loan applications. Investigators followed the trail of fraudulent applications back to the organized criminal operation which submitted nearly 130 loans to Argent that were funded for approximately $13 million.
Argent Mortgage has cooperated with investigators and provided information and documents to support the investigation. The joint investigation was conducted by the Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency, the Tampa Police Department and the Pinellas County Department of Justice.
This is the second mortgage fraud case involving Benn and investigators believe there may be numerous mortgage brokerage companies in Florida with whom Benn perpetrated similar schemes. After the initial investigation of Benns activities, the investigation was expanded to include additional targets that were actively engaged in fraud with Benn, who was charged with racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, mortgage fraud, and grand theft. Benn faces up to 105 years in prison when sentenced at a later date.
Co-defendants Frank Giffone, Samuel Green, Adrienne White and Bradford Peck have all pleaded guilty to similar charges and will be sentenced at a later date. Almeida pleaded guilty in October and will serve 10 years in prison for the crimes he committed.