Another big mortgage scam alleged with Wildwood connections

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WILDWOOD CREST- More Crest condominiums have been linked to another multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud case, according to the New Jersey office of the U.S. Attorney General.

According to an indictment that was handed up this morning (Aug. 9), The Silver Dollar, Ebb Tide, Stockton Beach House, and Vista Mar condominiums in Wildwood Crest were at the center of a $40 million wire fraud case that resulted in the indictment of nine New Jersey residents, none of whom were from Cape May County.

 According to the U.S. Attorney General’s office, those charged were Joseph Witkowski, 66, of Flemington, Robert Serao, 46, of Bayville, Catherine Pearson, 53, of West Orange, Isatu Tejan-Sie, 54, of Long Branch, Crystal Brame, 42, of Irvington, Karen Yokely, 59, of Plainfield, George Lachenmayr Jr., 79, of Irvington, Aku I. Muhammad, 42, of Newark, Mark Kreischer, 33, of Elmwood Park, and Marc Jacobs, 47, of Hackettstown. Crystal Brame is the only conspirator not in custody. All others were arrested this morning.

Details of the case are similar to $15 million case which came to light last month, with included 11 arrests in five states. Two people connected to the Wildwoods were charged in that investigation.

According to a press release from the U.S. attorney general, conspirators charged today allegedly located oceanfront condos for purchase that were overbuilt by financially distressed developers. They then recruited straw buyers to purchase those properties. According to the release, the straw buyers had good credit scores but lacked the financial resources to qualify for mortgage loans. The conspirators then created false documents, like fake W-2 forms, income tax returns, and investment statements to make the straw buyers appear more creditworthy.

To prepare the straw buyers false loan applications, the conspirators sent these documents and the fraudulent loan applications to mortgage brokers, who knew the documents were false. Once loans were approved, according to the release, the conspirators banked a portion of the proceeds from the mortgage through wired funds or checks deposited into their accounts. Other members of the conspiracy were then compensated for their roles.

The wire conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, if those charged are convicted. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In July, federal prosecutors announced another alleged mortgage scam, which indicted Wildwood Crest resident Seth Fuscellero, an attorney who was serving as a Lower Township public defender. Also charged was Angela Celli, who was a Realtor based in North Wildwood.

The federal government alleged that Fuscellero and his conspirators also committed wire fraud with overbuilt condominiums in the Wildwoods in a similar fashion to what Witkoski and his alleged conspirators are accused of doing.

 

Related: 

Lower defender arrested in court 

Update: Charges against attorney tied to condo price inflation 

Lower asks Fuscellaro to resign 

Township asks Fuscarello to resign, but no response yet 


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