Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Birmingham Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Mail Fraud Associated with Mortgage Fraud Scheme

February 23, 2010 - BIRMINGHAM—A 32-year-old Birmingham man pleaded guilty today in federal court to mail fraud charges connected to a mortgage fraud scheme that totaled more than $1 million, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance in conjunction with FBI and Housing and Urban Development officials.

AL CARSON ROCKETT, JR., was charged in a five-count information filed in U.S. District Court in Birmingham and pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor to all charges. He agreed to forfeit $1,090,046 to the government as proceeds of illegal activity.

The four mail fraud counts involve parcels containing mortgage-application documents sent by a private postal carrier from Birmingham to mortgage companies in June, July and August 2005. The mortgage fraud ring operated between 2004 and 2006, according to court documents. Count Five of the information sought the forfeiture from Rockett.

According to Rockett’s plea agreement, he conducted the mortgage fraud as follows:

Rockett convinced people they could buy houses from him without any down payment or closing costs and without the need for documents to support a loan application. Buyers were told the houses were ready to be used as government-subsidized rental properties, that tenants were available to move in immediately and rent payments would exceed the mortgage payments. In many instances, however, there were no tenants, the buyers couldn’t make the mortgage payments, and the properties quickly fell into foreclosure.

On other loans, Rockett stated on loan documents that buyers were making down payments when, in fact, Rockett was making the payment.

Finally, none of the loan documents disclosed Rockett was paying each buyer between $3,000 and $10,000 as an inducement to buy his properties. The mortgage loan documents involved required that all cash payments between a buyer and seller associated with a real estate transaction be disclosed.

“This case is a clear example of the dangerous fraud that has permeated our real estate markets,” Vance said. “This prosecution should send a clear signal to anyone who has, or might consider falsifying any type of loan documents that it is our goal to investigate every case and bring the perpetrators to justice. This is not just a question of addressing losses to our financial community,” she said. “We have seen the value of our homes plummet and our communities put at risk by individuals who steal, lie and abuse the system. When a person lies on loan documents and then goes into foreclosure, we all suffer.”

HUD Inspector General Kenneth Donohue said Rockett’s case is an example of how his office, working with law enforcement agencies and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, will pursue individuals who are participating in mortgage fraud schemes, which are eating away at the economic heart of this country. “We will use whatever means necessary—both civil and criminal—to isolate and punish mortgage companies' leadership and personnel who are corroding the soundness of HUD programs,” Donohue said.

“Mortgage fraud tears at our economy and threatens the American dream,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Patrick Maley. “As the mortgage fraud problem continues to grow, the people of North Alabama can be assured that the FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, will be there to aggressively investigate and bring to justice those who would work to defraud financial institutions through lies and deceit,” he said.

The maximum sentence for each mail fraud count is 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Special agents of the FBI and HUD’s Office of Inspector General investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Carney prosecuted it on behalf of the United States.

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