Mortgage Fraud Task Force Investigation Leads to Indictment

Published: Sep. 22, 2011 at 10:26 PM EDT
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County Prosecutor Bill Mason and the Cuyahoga County Mortgage Fraud Task Force operating under authorization of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's Office and the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission announced an indictment against 32 defendants for fraudulently obtaining 5.1 million dollars in loans to purchase 44 houses in Cuyahoga County.

John Lattimore, Greg Tatum and John Kleem were key in this criminal enterprise. They and twenty nine (29) other defendants were indicted by a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury for engaging in a large criminal enterprise that involved buyers, sellers, mortgage brokers, loan officers, title agents and processors, private investors, and appraisers. Most of those involved in the scheme were employed by others or established their own corporations, either for legitimate purposes or as shell companies to receive and distribute money from the illegal transactions.

The essence of the scheme, involved houses being purchased at Sheriff's sale or other sources for meager amounts and mortgages being taken out on those properties simultaneously with an open-end loan allowing their values to be artificially inflated. Several other properties were owned by relatives of conspirators and the purchases were financed with hard money loans-many of which had fraudulent seller's second mortgages associated with them. Still others were purchased from legitimate sellers not involved in the scheme, orchestrated by parties outside the transaction.

Most of the properties were purchased without any of the buyers' personal money being put forth. Third-party down payment checks were present and can be traced back to sellers involved in the scheme. Many of the title company files contain invoices for rehabilitation work done by one company in particular, when in fact no work had been done to the property to justify the payment. In addition, the appraiser was submitting addendums listing the rehab work that was done after his original appraisal, in order to justify the price for which the property was eventually re-sold.

In addition to the payments made based on fraudulent invoices, most of the buyers were paid for lending their names and credit to the transactions. A few of the houses are still owned by the buyers, but most were abandoned, went into a further state of disrepair and eventually into foreclosure, some selling for less than $10,000.00 after foreclosure. Some buyers were duped into participating in the scheme on the pretense that they would become investors and reap the benefits when they sold the houses after owning them for a few years. Others knowingly participated by buying the properties, never intending to occupy, lease or maintain them. Most of those buyers received payments of several thousand dollars after the properties sold.

The following nine (9) defendants along with the four (4) companies involved were indicted on one count of engaging in a criminal enterprise, a first degree felony, punishable up to 10 years in prison. Many of the defendants were also charged with separate theft-related offenses as well.

1. Ronald Collins, Jr., 26, of Warren

2. Ronald Collins, Sr., 52, of Warren

3. John Kleem, 49, of Parma

4. John Lattimore, 40, of Cleveland

5. Kevin Smith, 44, of Twinsburg

6. Rodney Stevenson, 54, of Bedford

7. Gregory Tatum, 50, of Cleveland

8. Chelli Tye, 39, of Bedford

9. Edward Wielgus, 50, of Euclid

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The remaining twenty-three (23) defendants were indicted only on theft-related offenses.

1. James Abrams, 36, of Warrensville Heights

2. Louis Amir, 40, of Gates Mills

3. Lisa Aramouni, 46, North Royalton

4. Marcus Bankston, Jr., 39, of Solon

5. Lamonta Betts, 40, of University Heights

6. Michelle Betts, 40, of University Heights

7. Leslie Bizzelle, 54, of Cleveland

8. Tatiti Chandler, 42, of Bedford Heights

9. Byron Curry, 35, of Kent

10. Ebony Curry, 31, of Kent

11. Kevin Drake, 48, of Streetsboro

12. Robert Dunn, 44, of Charlotte, NC

13. Deirdre Ferguson, 47, of Beachwood

14. Jimmy Gates, 54, of Cleveland

15. Cynthia Grant, 51, of Cleveland

16. Raymond Grant, 49, of Cleveland

17. John Herman, 50, of North Royalton

18. Angela Jones, 46, of Warrensville Heights

19. Fred Lattimore, 69, of Cleveland

20. Rochelle Lattimore, 44, of North Randall

21. Lavon Ruderson, 41, of Chagrin Falls

22. Vincent Schuttenberg, 41, of North Randall

23. Daphne Stokes, 46, of Cleveland

With funding from the Ohio Attorney General's Office and the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, the Task Force was formed in December 2007. The Task Force is comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The director of the Task Force is a Sergeant of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office.

The investigation was led by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, Ohio Attorney General's Office, Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office, Beachwood Police Department, Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI), and the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC).


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