Four New Jersey housing industry professionals were arrested in New Jersey last week for perpetrating a $5 million mortgage scam.
Real estate investor Victor Santos, builder Arsenio Santos, real estate settlement attorney Fausto Simoes, and mortgage loan officer Raquel Casalinho were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. According to the Department of Justice, between September of 2007 and November of 2008, the four co-conspirators and others fraudulently obtained mortgage loans with a total value of more than $5 million.
Prosecutors say that Victor Santos, Arsenio Santos and the others recruited straw buyers to purchase properties in Newark, N.J. The conspirators allegedly agreed to pay each straw buyer a fee of around $5,000 for the use of the straw buyer’s identity and credit history. They also provided the down payments and closing fees for the purchases.
The straw buyers’ information was then provided to Casalinho, who was Victor Santos’s niece, so she could prepare fraudulent mortgage applications, the DOJ said. Simoes, meanwhile, served as closing attorney on about 10 of the fraudulent transactions. He signed and certified as true the final settlement statements, according to authorities.
The straw buyers allegedly agreed to nominally purchase the properties for far more than the sellers’ prices. The conspirators kept the difference, the DOJ alleged.
If convicted, the alleged conspirators could each face up to 30 years in prison.