LAWFUEL- The Legal Newswire – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and John Large, Acting Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, announced today that defendants Hugo Rodriguez, 52, Ronald Gordan Lichte, 65, Connie Marie Cullifer, 58, and John C. Kelly, 67 were charged in for their alleged participation in a multi-million dollar mortgage fraud conspiracy. Defendant Rodriguez resides in Miami; Lichte, Cullifer, and Kelly all reside in Tampa. Rodriguez is a Miami real estate investor, Lichte is a licensed mortgage broker from Tampa, and Cullifer was Lichte’s loan processor. If convicted, the defendants face up to twenty years’ imprisonment, restitution and fines of up to $250,000.
According to the charges, the defendants were involved in a scheme in which Rodriguez would locate luxury condominiums and residential properties that were available for purchase. Rodriguez and Lichte would then recruit and pay straw buyers, including defendant Kelly, to use their names, credit histories, and signatures on mortgage loan documents to obtain financing to purchase the properties. Rodriguez, Lichte and Cullifer would then prepare fraudulent mortgage loan applications for the straw buyers. The mortgage applications included fraudulent Verification of Employment forms, false income and asset statements, and a false accounting of funds on deposit. The applications also included HUD-1 settlement statements that falsely stated the straw buyers were using their own money to cover the closings. In fact, however, the straw buyers were not using their own funds to cover the closing.
To execute the scheme, after a property was purchased by a straw buyer, Rodriguez would sometimes recruit another straw buyer to purchase the property from the initial straw buyer at an inflated price. This allowed the defendants to divert a substantial portion of the fraudulently obtained loan proceeds for their personal use and benefit, and to further the fraud scheme. The properties eventually went into foreclosure when Rodriguez and the straw buyers failed to make payments on the loans.
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the United States Secret Service. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly A. Selmore.
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