Guilty plea in mortgage scam with Wildwoods connection

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An Alabama man pleaded guilty to a series of federal charges Thursday, including attempted murder, in a sweeping fraud case with connections to the Wildwoods.

Charges were originally filed against 11 people in the case, which alleged wire fraud and money laundering.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced that Kinard Henson, 41, of Ventress, Ala., admitted to the attempted murder of a straw buyer who was a witness to the mortgage fraud scheme. He also admitted to conspiring to defraud financial institutions and launder stolen funds as part of a $15 million mortgage fraud scam that used phony documents and “straw buyers” to make illegal profits on overbuilt condos in the Wildwoods, according to Fishman.

Henson pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden federal court to a second superseding indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of attempted murder of a witness in a federal case.

Henson was among 11 charged in July 2012 with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Seth Fuscellero, a Wildwood lawyer, was originally among those charged in this scam. In September of 2013, all federal charges against Fuscellero were dropped.

Two additional defendants, Nicholas Tarsia, 65, of Totowa, and Mashon Onque, 43, of East Orange, were charged in November 2013 with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  Tarsia was also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Henson’s conspirators, including Timothy Ricks, 46, of East Orange, who pleaded guilty before Simandle on Feb. 27, 2013, located oceanfront condominiums overbuilt by financially distressed developers and negotiated a buyout price with the sellers. They then caused the sales prices for the properties – located in Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood, other locations in New Jersey and in Naples, Fla. – to be much higher than the buyout price to ensure large proceeds.

Other defendants helped conceal the true sales prices of certain properties through inflated sales contracts and sale and finder’s fee agreements, the office said.

The attorney general’s office said Henson recruited one of the straw buyers to purchase certain properties at the inflated rates. The straw buyers had good credit scores but lacked the financial resources to qualify for mortgage loans. According to the attorney general’s office, the conspirators created false documents, such as fake W-2 forms, pay stubs, bank statements and investment statements, to make the straw buyers appear more creditworthy than they actually were in order to induce the lenders to make the loans.

Henson and his conspirators caused fraudulent mortgage loan applications in the name of the straw buyers, including the supporting documents, to be submitted to mortgage brokers that the brokers knew were false. Once the loans were approved and the mortgage lenders sent the loan proceeds in connection with real estate closings, Henson received a portion of the proceeds from his conspirators, after his conspirators had funds wired or checks deposited into various accounts they controlled. Henson’s conspirators also distributed a portion of the proceeds to other members of the conspiracy for their respective roles.

The office said Henson learned of a subpoena seeking documents in connection with a straw buyer’s purchases of real estate properties shortly after it was served by federal law enforcement agents on a mortgage brokerage firm. Henson, who had recruited the straw buyer, contacted another individual to kill the straw buyer. They then lured the straw buyer to a wooded area in Mobile, Ala. At Henson’s direction and using Henson’s firearm, the other individual shot the straw buyer multiple times.

The wire fraud conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The money laundering conspiracy charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The attempted murder of a witness charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Henson’s is scheduled to be sentenced July 11.

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