Former Real Estate Professionals Sentenced for Mortgage Fraud Scheme in Vallejo
SACRAMENTO, CA-United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that United States District Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. sentenced Ralondria Stafford, 37, of San Francisco, and Necole Ward, 32, of Las Vegas, (both formerly of Vallejo, Calif.) for their roles in a mortgage fraud scheme carried out in Vallejo between 2005 and 2006. Judge England sentenced Stafford to 21 months in prison and Ward to 12 months and a day in prison. The prison sentences are to be followed by three years of supervised release and both defendants were ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution. Stafford and Ward pleaded guilty on June 10, 2010.
This case was the product of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Kyle Reardon prosecuted the case.
According to court documents, Stafford and Ward, who are sisters, operated RN Realtors in Vallejo. Between July 2005 and August 2006, they used two straw buyers to purchase properties that they owned in Vallejo. They offered the buyers $5,000 for the use of their names and financial information, and told the buyers that the purchase would be in name only and that Stafford would purchase the properties back in six to 12 months.
In the course of the conspiracy, Stafford and Ward prepared "Uniform Residential Loan Application" forms in the straw buyers' names containing false statements that included overstating of the straw buyer's income, claiming false employment at employers, and misidentifying properties as a primary residence.
At sentencing, Judge England said that the sentences were driven by several justifications, including the need to punish the defendants for their acts of greed and to deter others who might be considering similar conduct. He also cited the fact that both defendants had real estate licenses at the time of their crimes and were therefore aware of the illegal nature of their fraud.
Judge England dismissed Stafford's argument that she should be given a sentence of home confinement so as not to be separated from her 7-year-old son. Judge England told Stafford that had her child been her number one priority at the time she was considering breaking the law, she would not have gotten into trouble. "You made your choice," said Judge England, "now I have to deal with it."
In addressing Ward, Judge England noted that she was highly educated, with degrees from Swarthmore and the University of San Francisco, and her conduct in this case was extremely serious given that she knew that her conduct was illegal and her education made her more culpable than someone who could not appreciate fully the wrongfulness of her acts.
This law enforcement action is part of the work being done by President Barack Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. One component of the FFETF is the national Mortgage Fraud Working Group, co-chaired by U.S. Attorney Wagner, which is tasked with combating mortgage fraud schemes. For more information on the task force, visit StopFraud.gov.